/ 27 May 2015

Cosatu affiliates boycott labour federation’s CEC meeting

Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini.
Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini.

Food and Allied Workers Union [Fawu] general secretary Katishi Masemola has accused Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini and his supporters of trying to use the federation’s central executive committee [CEC] meeting – currently underway in Johannesburg – to impose the agenda of its special national congress on July 13.

Fawu is one of the three Cosatu affiliates which boycotted the CEC meeting – which was expected to finalise details of the special national congress. The others are the South African State and Allied Workers Union [Sasawu] and the South African Professional Footballers Union [Sapfu]. Masemola told the Mail & Guardian on Tuesday his union was not prepared to attend a meeting which was going to rubber stamp decisions of a powerful clique within Cosatu to exclude the issues of elections and expulsions of former Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and that of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa [Numsa] from the agenda of the special national congress.

“We don’t want to be ambushed by the CEC. The agenda that was distributed [by Cosatu] tells us that they [Dlamini supporters] want to do that [exclude elections, Vavi and Numsa from the special congress agenda]. They say Numsa’s appeal won’t feature on the agenda. We cannot go and legitimise a decision which says a special nation congress will deal with certain issues and not others. We don’t see any value in attending such a meeting,” said Masemola.

He said rational engagements within Cosatu’s CEC have been replaced by voting [on decisions]. Fawu would write a letter to Dlamini requesting him to put the issue of elections, Vavi and Numsa on the agenda of the special national congress – failing which the union would approach the courts to force the federation to include the issues on the agenda.

“We may approach the court to say the agenda of the special national congress should be determined by those affiliates which have asked for it. We will not accept any resolution that does not include any of those issues. We won’t be part of a special congress which excludes aspirations of the seven [rebel] unions which called the special national conference,” said Masemola. 

He said he was not worried about some of the rebel unions who decided to attended the CEC meeting this week because they still supported the principle to reinstate Numsa and Vavi. The rebel unions, which attended the meeting include the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa, the Communications Workers Union and the Public and Allied Workers of South Africa.

Sapfu general secretary Thulaganyo Gaoshubelwe and Sasawu national treasurer Sbusiso Kekana said their decisions to boycott Cosatu meetings until the reinstatement of Numsa and Vavi remained. 

“If comrades want us back, let them call Numsa back. The federation accepted Limusa [Liberated Metalworkers Union of South Africa] into Cosatu without following due processes. We can’t go back to the CEC when we do not have confidence that it will address our concerns. 

“When the e-tolls were approved, we were in there [CEC]. When Numsa was expelled, we were there. When Vavi was fired, we were there. I don’t remember at any given time where we were listened to. What has changed? Why would they want to listen to us now? We have written letters to them, but we were never taken serious. We are dealing with a clique, which has made up its mind,” said Gaoshubelwe

Vital attendance
Gaoshubelwe said his union supported Numsa’s court application to force Cosatu to include it as part of the national special congress.

“We hoping sanity will prevail and Numsa will be allowed to attend and make its views known during the special national congress,” he said.

Dlamini told the M&G in an interview this month that the special national congress would neither elect new leaders nor consider appeals regarding its decision to expel Vavi and Numsa.

Cosatu spokesman Norman Mampane said in a statement on Tuesday that it was important for all Cosatu affiliates to attend the constitutional meetings of the federation to build a vibrant, strong and revolutionary workers’ formation. He said all affiliates, including rebel unions had a major role to play in Cosatu.

“The strength of Cosatu is the sum of all the strength of all affiliates across all sectors of the economy, including metalworkers.”