/ 1 April 2015

Support Vavi and you will suffer the consequences

Sdumo Dlamini and Zwelinzima Vavi in happier times.
Sdumo Dlamini and Zwelinzima Vavi in happier times.

Fear has gripped trade union federation Cosatu after its employees and provincial leaders were warned: support Zwelinzima Vavi and you will suffer his fate.

The Mail & Guardian has reliably learned through Cosatu sources that leaders loyal to Vavi have been advised that any show of support for the expelled general secretary could cost them their jobs.

It is this fear that resulted in national spokesperson Patrick Craven resigning from the federation after serving Cosatu for 15 years. Craven announced his decision alongside Vavi at a press conference on Wednesday.

Asked whether he was jumping ship because he didn’t want to be fired, Craven told the M&G: “You could say so.”

He said he found himself in a difficult position because “I could not defend the illegal dismissal of Zwelinzima Vavi, the total rejection of [the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa] and the refusal to convene a special national congress.”

Two senior Cosatu sources claimed that the federation’s Eastern Cape secretary, Macvicar Dyasopu, Western Cape secretary Tony Ehrenreich, Solly Phetoe of North West and Gauteng’s Dumisani Dakile were warned that being sympathetic to Vavi and failing to toe the Cosatu line could result in them being disciplined or even fired. Cosatu leaders called some provincial secretaries – seen to be aligned with Vavi – and instructed them that things would be different now that the general secretary had been expelled.

Told to completely disassociate themselves
“We were told not to give him a platform or support him publicly,” a provincial leader said. The leader said they were told to completely disassociate themselves from Vavi’s activities.

Dyasopu said, although he respected the organisation’s decision, he would still take counsel from his “comrade”. “We are comrades. We were in the struggle together. We are brothers. We will talk,” Dyasopu said.

Both Ehrenreich and Phetoe said they would continue serving workers and were not concerned about being purged because they had done nothing wrong. Dakile said he would continue supporting the organisation as he had always done.

Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini denied that the dominant faction in Cosatu was planning to purge Vavi’s loyalists, but said “anyone who does not respect the decision of the federation will face disciplinary action”. He said Cosatu expected staff members to implement the federation’s decisions.

“There is no witch-hunt,” he said.

Acting Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said no staff member should take instructions from Vavi. “All staff members, particularly provincial secretaries of the federation and of our unions, are instructed to desist from participating in comrade Zwelinzima Vavi-led activities,” he said.

In his press conference on Sunday, Vavi bemoaned the alleged purging of “hundreds” of Cosatu members for supporting him. – Additional reporting by Matuma Letsoalo