Vavi on being an ANC MP: I would be compromising myself

Suspended Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. (Clarissa Sosin, M&G)

Suspended Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. (Clarissa Sosin, M&G)

Suspended Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi says he declined nominations to become an ANC MP because he did not want to abandon the struggle to improve the lives of the working class in South Africa for personal glory. This was after ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe reportedly urged Vavi to consider leaving his top position in Cosatu to join Parliament on an ANC ticket.

Speaking to the Mail & Guardian from his home province of the Eastern Cape on Tuesday, Vavi said the biggest strategic issue for him was to engineer radical economic transformation through his union position, not to serve in Parliament.

"Poverty and the level of unemployment are getting worse. A lot of people are still going to bed without a meal.
That is, to me, the immediate challenge.

"If I were to accept nomination to serve as member of Parliament, I would be compromised big time. It would be like trying to save my skin. I don't want to find myself in that situation," said Vavi, who was suspended from Cosatu last year after he admitted to having sex with a junior employee at the federation's Braamfontein offices in Johannesburg. The woman accused Vavi of rape, but has since dropped the case against him.

Vavi's supporters insist his suspension was politically motivated and that it was orchestrated by those who were unhappy with his critical views against the ANC and the government under the leadership of President Jacob Zuma.

Other offers
This is not the first time Vavi declined nomination to serve as a public representative on behalf of the ANC. He also declined nomination in 2009. In 2007 and 2012, he turned down the offer to serve as ANC national executive committee member.

"For me, going to Parliament and disappearing in some portfolio committee will be a huge disservice to workers. I am not going to abandon my post for personal glory. I know there will be consequences [for declining]. But is better to decline and suffer than do something that compromises you. That way, you can see exactly why you are being persecuted. I know the balls will be set rolling [on me]. But I don't care," said Vavi.

He said Cosatu was currently paralysed because it was failing to implement its radical resolutions taken during the last congress.

"We have defocused our energy on fighting palace politics."

Vavi said a vibrant democracy in South Africa would only be achieved when leaders were held accountable.

"When members say you are wrong, you must be able to listen. That must be the priority. If we don't achieve that, there won't be democracy. We need a progressive civil society, including the trade union movement, based on developmental needs of South Africa. You can't have any working democracy if you don't have that. You must have independent media and an independent judiciary for any democracy to function properly," said Vavi. 

Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini has also declined nomination to serve as ANC MP.



Matuma Letsoalo is a senior politics reporter at the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003, focussing on politics and labour, and collaborated with the M&G's centre for investigations, amaBhungane, from time to time.In 2011, Matuma won the South African Journalist of the Year Award and was also the winner in the investigative journalism category in the same year.In 2004, he won the CNN African Journalist of the Year prize – the MKO Abiola Print Journalism Award. Matuma was also a joint category winner of the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the year Award in 2008. In 2013, he was a finalist for Wits University's Taco Kuiper Award. Read more from ML

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