/ 25 September 2014

ANC can’t heal Cosatu divide

Anc Can't Heal Cosatu Divide

The ANC’s intervention task team charged with healing the troubled trade union federation Cosatu apparently considered offering its president Sdumo Dlamini and its general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi ambassadorial positions.

The Mail & Guardian understands this was one of the options the task team considered in an attempt to bring peace to Cosatu because Dlamini and Vavi are seen as the main figures behind the divisions in the federation.

The team, led by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, was expected to submit its final report to Cosatu’s top six officials on Thursday.

But Dlamini’s supporters have apparently told the task team that expelling Cosatu’s largest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), is the only way to unite the federation.

Numsa staunchly supports Vavi, pitting itself against the Dlamini camp, which is closely aligned to President Jacob Zuma.

Little faith
Numsa seems to have little faith in the potential success of an ANC-brokered peace deal. This week the union’s general secretary, Irvin Jim, said: “It is impossible for the ANC facilitation to secure any kind of unity in Cosatu, other than one which would be in the interest of the ANC itself and its current political, ideological and economic orientation and trajectory – neoliberal capitalism.”

Relations between Vavi and Dlamini started souring last year because of Vavi’s criticism of the ANC, while Dlamini is seen as being too close to Zuma and is ignoring the ruling party’s faults. These tensions were exacerbated by attempts in August last year to oust Vavi following allegations of financial mismanagement and his controversial sexual relationship with a junior employee.

In a development that is likely to further damage peace efforts, Dlamini’s supporters plan to boycott the federation’s central committee meeting in November.

The planned boycott is the result of accusations by Dlamini’s supporters that Vavi defied an instruction by fellow national office bearers (NOBs) to convene a special central executive committee (CEC) meeting before the scheduled central committee (CC) meeting. The latter meeting is a bigger gathering and the highest decision-making body between the federation’s conferences.

A Cosatu leader sympathetic to Dlamini told the M&G their faction was also concerned about Vavi’s organisational report, which he prepared for the central committee meeting. The report, which the M&G has seen, partly blames the central executive committee, which is dominated by Dlamini’s supporters, for Cosatu’s woes.

‘Political paralysis’
“The political paralysis and organisational divisions in the federation have had major internal, as well as external, impacts,” Vavi’s report reads. “It has meant that we have been so consumed by internal battles that we have been unable to mobilise our organisational structures, or our membership, which have always been the basis of our power. Our organisational engines have been unable to fire on all cylinders.”

Dlamini’s supporters claim Vavi’s report was aimed at agitating workers against the ANC.

“The [Cosatu] NOBs have rejected the report, but Vavi has told them he did not need permission from them to write a report for the central committee,” said a Cosatu leader sympathetic to Dlamini.

“When they want to sit with him to discuss the report, he is always busy.”

Vavi told the M&G that the planned boycott of the central committee meeting was news to him. “I was also not aware that people wanted the special CEC to expel Numsa. It’s shocking. In this particular case there was no reason to hold a special CEC because the report of the ANC was not yet available.”

Hellbent on destruction
Vavi said those who were planning to boycott the central committee meeting were hellbent on destroying the federation.

“What are they fearing? They don’t fear Numsa, but their own members. Why worry about the participation of one union in the CC? Dismissing Numsa will be seen by many, including me, as the last straw,” said Vavi.

He said he was aware of the rumour of offering both him and Dlamini ambassadorial posts in a bid to unite Cosatu. “I will never accept it. It would be wrong to put the blame on two people. Even if you remove us, I don’t believe that will resolve divisions in Cosatu.”