Vavi snubs Cosatu in favour of rebel unions

Cosatu boss Zwelinzima Vavi could find himself in hot water again after he snubbed the union federation’s central executive committee (CEC) meeting on Monday in solidarity with eight rebel unions in Cosatu. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Cosatu boss Zwelinzima Vavi could find himself in hot water again after he snubbed the union federation’s central executive committee (CEC) meeting on Monday in solidarity with eight rebel unions in Cosatu. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Cosatu boss Zwelinzima Vavi could find himself in hot water again after he snubbed the union federation’s central executive committee (CEC) meeting on Monday in solidarity with eight rebel unions in Cosatu. 

The rebels, which include the Food and Allied Workers Union, the Communications Workers’ Union, the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa), the South African Football Players Union, the Public and Allied Workers Union of South Africa and the South African State and Allied Workers Union, have decided to boycott all Cosatu CEC meetings until the reinstatement of the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (Numsa), which was expelled.

In what appears to be defiance against a Cosatu faction led by its president, Sdumo Dlamini, Vavi on Monday tweeted: “I will not join the Cosatu CEC [in Johannesburg]. I don’t believe going ahead with half of the unions refusing to participate is the best way to unify. Instead, I will join the court proceedings in Pretoria in solidarity with mineworkers abandoned by Aurora bosses years ago.” 

He added: “I twice attended the CEC with 340 000 dismissed and with half not present – that did not help [the] unity project.
When 340 000 [Numsa members] were dismissed I did not walk out in protest. I felt a bigger price must still be to fight for their return and unity.”

His tweet was the second incident in which Vavi openly defied the Cosatu leadership. He wrote a scathing letter to Dlamini and other senior Cosatu leaders in November, saying he would not defend the federation’s decision to expel Numsa, as that would undermine and contradict working class unity.

Emergence of Limusa
A senior Cosatu leader told the Mail & Guardian on Monday that Vavi’s twitter remarks would form part of the discussions during the central executive committee meeting this week. “The CEC is likely to decide on Vavi’s future. How can he make such irresponsible statements on twitter when he had all the chance to raise his concerns within the CEC? 

“It is his responsibility to go and lead the CEC. He is not a general secretary of individual unions. He was supposed to attend the CEC and help the federation find solutions with regard to the eight [rebel] unions. You can’t convene a CEC and the general secretary decides not to go there. He is out of order,” said the senior Cosatu leader, who asked not to be named.

Vavi was not available for comment as his cellphone was switched off for the better part of Monday afternoon.

Other key issues expected to be discussed during the CEC includes the final report by SizweNtsalubaGobodo auditing firm into an investigation of maladministration against Vavi. It is expected that the CEC will accept the newly formed metal workers union, Liberated Metalworkers Union of South Africa (Limusa), as Cosatu’s new affiliate to replace Numsa.

Limusa is headed by former Numsa president Cedric Gina. An affiliate leader sympathetic to Dlamini told the M&G the CEC would welcome Limusa as the new affiliate. “There is no reason why we can’t accept Limusa. We [Cosatu] have accepted other unions organising in the same sector before. 

We accepted Denosa and Sama [the South African Medical Association] while there was Nehawu [National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union]. Nehawu never complained. Who knows, maybe in future we can merge Limusa with Numsa, if we reinstate them. We can’t have Cosatu without a strong metalworkers union,” said the affiliate leader.

Rolling mass action ahead
Although the ANC continues to try to woo Numsa back into Cosatu’s fold, the union’s spokesperson, Castro Ngobese, on Monday said Numsa had no intention to reverse some of its controversial resolutions. These include a call not to campaign for the ANC during elections and the decision to form the United Front, which is seen as a platform to start a new labour party that will contest the ANC in elections.

“Our resolutions are clear ... we are forging ahead. If anyone has a problem with those resolutions, they must come to our national congress next year and express their concerns,” said Ngobese.

Meanwhile, the rebel unions announced their plans to embark on a rolling mass action in the coming weeks to demand, among other things, the transformation of the economy to benefit the working class and the poor, not “global capital and its local parasites”. 

Other demands will include land redistribution, nationalisation of mines, banks and the reserve bank and major construction companies. The unions will also demand the scrapping of the e-tolls, the transformation of the judiciary and equal access to justice for the working class. 

They want Eskom to stop load-shedding and the government to manage interest rates to boost a job-led socialist growth path.

ML

ML

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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