To campaign for the ANC or not? Pressure mounts for Vavi

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. (Gallo)

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. (Gallo)

Reinstated Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi is facing increased pressure to toe the ANC line come May Day.

"On May Day we will be sharing platforms with Cosatu and communicating the same message," said ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa at a breakfast briefing with journalists on Tuesday in Johannesburg.

"We will be present all over; there is no place where we will not be putting our message through, and making sure our message is put through as effectively and consistently as possible."

Vavi, who was suspended by Cosatu but reinstated by the Johannesburg high court, has managed to stay away from ANC events, but May 1 will be his test, the Mail & Guardian has previously reported

Cosatu has resorted to forcing Vavi to read from prepared notes and tell the ANC's "good story" in what is left of the election campaign.

Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini told the M&G that Vavi, who has yet to publicly announce his support for the ANC following his previous disapproval of the party's direction, will be forced to convince workers to vote ANC during a May Day rally in Port Elizabeth on Thursday.

Vavi's profile and support among the workers, one of the ANC's key constituencies, is crucial to the ruling party facing its toughest poll since 1994.

However, a person known to be Vavi's closest ally was resolute about the fact that the embattled general secretary had vowed not to campaign for the ANC, as he believed that doing so would compromise his credibility.

Job creation
Vavi has said previously that he would find it difficult to campaign for the ANC as it had failed to create decent jobs.

He has also publicly criticised the spending of R246-million to upgrade President Jacob Zuma's private home in Nkandla, the ANC's decision to adopt the national development plan, the party's refusal to ban labour brokers and the introduction of e-tolls in Gauteng.

"How does [Vavi] campaign for the ANC with all [its] anti-worker policy without compromising his credibility? It would be like committing class suicide," said Vavi's ally, who chose to remain anonymous.

But Dlamini is adamant that Vavi will carry forward the mandate of Cosatu and campaign for the ANC.

"We are in full swing, campaigning for the ANC," said Dlamini.

"Vavi is deployed in Port Elizabeth for the May Day [rally]. Everyone [including Vavi] is expected to speak to the script."

It's a case of damned if he does, and damned if he doesn't for Vavi ahead of the rally.

Vavi faces the dilemma of either continuing his harsh tone against the ruling party and risking isolation after the elections, or betraying his angry supporters in the metalworkers' union who want him to renounce the ANC.

Irvin Jim of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has already warned Vavi that the knives are still out for him and for the union.

"It does not matter if he campaigns or not. No amount of good or bad things will change the views of his enemies," Jim has said.

On the other hand, Cosatu's transport union warned Vavi that failure to campaign for the ANC would amount to him being the metalworkers' puppet.

Pressed on whether he would campaign for the ANC, Vavi has been evasive.
He wanted to see Cosatu united and would respect the ANC's intervention process.

"I want to give it my best shot. I don't want anyone to say I didn't try hard [to resolve divisions in Cosatu]. But this unity is not unconditional. It can't come at any price. We will strive for unity so that we can be a trade union which has workers' interests at heart, not an extension of any political party," he has said.

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