/ 27 November 2013

Mantashe urges Dlamini supporters to go easy on Vavi

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe.
ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe has appealed to Cosatu leaders, including the federation’s president Sdumo Dlamini, to find political solutions to their differences with suspended Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.

He also urged the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) not to split from Cosatu. Instead, he said the union must try to find solutions to ideological differences that have emerged between the two factions in Cosatu, led by Vavi and Dlamini.

Addressing South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) delegates attending the union's central executive committee meeting in Johannesburg on Wednesday, Mantashe said: "You can pursue Vavi if you want to. But if the price you must pay for pursuing Vavi is to split Cosatu, it is not worth the price … try something else."

"Don’t exchange Vavi for splitting the federation. Do anything and everything else, but splitting the federation that was built … is not worth the price of hitting someone. It does not work in real life," said Mantashe.

It is not clear whether or not Mantashe wants Cosatu to drop the pending disciplinary hearing against Vavi, who has been accused of having sex with a junior employee at the office. The hearing is currently on hold pending forensic investigations.

'Do not split'
Asked by the Mail & Guardian to clarify his statement, Mantashe said: "What I am saying is that you don’t have to pursue an individual at the expense of the federation. That must not split the federation. No one is bigger than the federation – including Vavi by the way," said Mantashe.

So far the deep divisions in Cosatu have claimed three senior leaders, including Vavi, South African Democratic Teachers Union president Thobile Ntola and Numsa president Cedric Gina, who resigned this week.

Numsa is holding a special congress in two weeks time to decide, among other things, whether to pull out of Cosatu and whether the union should campaign for the ANC ahead of next year’s general elections. Mantashe also criticised Gina’s decision to resign as Numsa president, saying he should have respected the union’s principle of democratic centralism.

Mantashe suggested there was a third force behind the divisions in Cosatu and the broader tripartite alliance.

'Remain vigilant'
He urged union leaders to remain vigilant against the interest of international forces in the conflict between the federation and the conflict in the alliance.

"They [the international forces] want to weaken and collapse the federation first. They will sponsor it [the conflict] every day because there is a pre-occupation throughout the globe about weakening the liberation movements, particularly in southern Africa and defeat them because the view is that the liberation movements are too strong and are governing southern Africa. They [the international forces] are using us," said Mantashe.

Earlier, Dlamini told delegates Cosatu was under attack from both internal and external sources.

"They want to take Cosatu on their own direction. I refuse [to allow them hijack Cosatu]. We found Cosatu intact and we shall leave it like that. There is no amount of lies that will make us leave this democratic organisation," said Dlamini. Dlamini also took a swipe at Vavi who suggested in an interview last weekend that Cosatu’s national executive committee needs an overhaul.

"Anybody who takes [a] public platform and says we need an overhaul is lying. When you say there is no leadership in Cosatu, when did this begin? Is it when the organisation started to take action against you? If you have decided to leave Cosatu, why waste your time inside? This thing of having a cake, eating it, and having it again, is not going to work," said Dlamini.

Meanwhile, Mantashe's attempt to convince the Satawu delegates to accept the South African National Roads Agency Limited's controversial e-tolls, arguing that it exempted the working class, was met with resistance, forcing him to drop the subject halfway.