Cosatu is having a tough time, says Dlamini

Cosatu president S'dumo Dlamini. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Cosatu president S'dumo Dlamini. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Cosatu is going through a difficult and painful period, trade union federation Cosatu president S'dumo Dlamini said on Tuesday.

"As the president of Cosatu [this is] something I would never wish on my worst enemy," he told National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) members at a Gauteng shop stewards council in Johannesburg.

"If you want this position come and take it, I will give it to you."

Dlamini said it was no luxury to be president of Cosatu.

"This is the most painful period the federation is going through."

Cosatu has been at loggerheads with its biggest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers South Africa (Numsa), over the suspension of the trade union federation's general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.

Numsa and Vavi have taken Cosatu to court in a bid to have the suspension set aside. A judgment in the case is expected soon.

Vavi is also facing an internal disciplinary hearing, expected to be held next month.

Special leave
In August last year, Cosatu said Vavi had been put on special leave pending the outcome of a disciplinary hearing relating to his affair with a junior employee. In July, the employee accused him of rape. He said they had an affair.
The woman subsequently withdrew a sexual harassment complaint against him. 

In the aftermath of the suspension, Numsa and nine other Cosatu affiliates called on Cosatu to hold a special national congress where new leadership would be elected.

Numsa accused Dlamini and other national office bearers of manipulating processes that were used to suspend Vavi. The union resolved, after holding its own special congress, not to support the ANC in this year's elections.

Dlamini said Vavi's suspension had divided workers for two reasons. "There are those who have decided they will respect the internal Cosatu process and said they will not speak publicly about what is happening. This is the right thing to do," he said.

"Then there is a second set of people who do not care how much damage it does Cosatu to talk publicly."

Dlamini dismissed those who said they were neutral in the situation. "In a class battle there is no neutrality," he said.

Majority rule
He explained to National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union members how the decision to suspend Vavi in the central executive committee meeting was taken through a majority rule and not an actual vote, as required in Cosatu's constitution. 

This was a long-standing practice in the trade union federation. "People who have been leading over so many years have been implementing decisions in the same way [by majority rule]," Dlamini said.

"That has changed now. You must now vote for everything."

Turning to the debate over the cost of security upgrades to President Jacob Zuma's private home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal, Dlamini said Zuma had not stolen public funds.

"[Public protector] Thuli Madonsela does not say Zuma stole the R246-million people are talking about. [She] confirms that the president was not giving instructions to anyone doing work there."

Dlamini said despite this people still blamed Zuma. "People of South Africa pretend that Thuli Madonsela said the opposite." – Sapa

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