Cracks in Cosatu down to divided leadership, says ANC

At loggerheads: Cosatu president S'dumo Dlamini and general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

At loggerheads: Cosatu president S'dumo Dlamini and general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

A task team led by the ANC, which mediated attempts to heal the divisions in trade union federation Cosatu, has found that there are “marked differences of opinion and clear divisions” among the top six leaders of Cosatu.

It concluded that the divisions in the federation could not be resolved through a mere election of leadership or by the removal of general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and president S’dumo Dlamini.

A number of affiliates told the task team, led by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, that Cosatu would be better off without Vavi and Dlamini. Other affiliates wanted the removal of the entire top six.   

The ANC says in the 19-page report leaked to the Mail & Guardian that a number of affiliates felt strongly that Vavi had led the organisation for too long and was a divisive force. These affiliates said it would be in the best interests of Cosatu if he was deployed elsewhere.

But the report says there were some affiliates who blamed Dlamini for the divisions.
“Some affiliates felt that the Cosatu president, and those aligned to him, were exacerbating divisions by ‘driving charges against the [general secretary] and flouting internal Cosatu processes’.”   

Lack of trust
The ANC concluded that there was a notable lack of trust among the national office bearers. “These expressed themselves in the form of seemingly elevating personal and political differences to organisational differences,” the report says.

It refers to a “series of accusations and counteraccusations” between Dlamini and Vavi. “The task team observed, after four of these meetings [with the national office bearers], that to move the process forward, the national office bearers should hold frank and open discussions among themselves to air their issues and explore solutions.” 

The factional feud between Vavi and Dlamini centred on the loyalty split regarding succession battles in the ANC, with Dlamini’s faction supporting President Jacob Zuma’s second term as ANC president. Vavi and his supporters, including the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, were opposed to Zuma returning as party president when the ANC held its elective conference in Mangaung in 2012.

The ANC disagreed with those who called for the removal of Cosatu’s top leaders. Instead, it urged Cosatu’s national office bearers to step back from supporting specific affiliates and lead the organisation in its entirety.

“This requires the national office bearers to play a key role as unifiers of the federation.”

The ANC did not delve deeply into the fate of Vavi following his affair with a subordinate. Cosatu laid 13 charges against him in the matter that first led to his suspension, but these were later overturned.

“The affiliates were virtually unanimous in saying that there should be equity and fairness in the sanctions meted out to both parties involved in the ‘sexual misconduct’.” But it said the affiliates perceived “equity and fairness” differently.

The ANC further recommended that Vavi’s disciplinary action be concluded “rapidly in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution, that is fair and that assists the process of building unity”.   

Special congress won’t resolve shenanigans
At the heart of the divisions was bias by some staff members in support of certain leaders. The ANC recommended that a code of conduct include guidelines on the role of staff in uniting the organisation.

“The task team noted that as differences developed between affiliates and between national office bearers, staff of the federation were drawn into the division and in some cases their actions were the subject of complaints and concerns raised,” says the report.

The ANC said it did not believe that a special national congress would resolve the shenanigans plaguing the organisation. “A mature political and organisation process is required to address the divisions,” says the report.

“In light of the nature of the federation, with autonomous affiliates, unlike a unitary political party, an election of national office bearers at a congress will not resolve differences between affiliates.”

The ANC also said it was Cosatu’s prerogative to hold such a congress.

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