Cosatu: Time is up

2014-10-19 15:00

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A split is imminent as the ruling ANC gives up on mediation

ANC heavyweights will tell Cosatu this week that they have failed to resolve their dispute with the federation’s biggest union – paving the way for a split.

But they will then do their best to convince Cosatu not to suspend the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and its more than 349?000 members.

Well-placed sources in the federation told City Press it was inevitable that Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, who sides with Numsa, will this week again be suspended for his extramarital affair with a junior employee as well as other alleged transgressions.

The ANC task team set up to mend fences between Cosatu and Numsa will submit its report to Cosatu’s central executive committee on Tuesday.

City Press has learnt that the task team – Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa; secretary-general Gwede Mantashe; his deputy, Jessie Duarte; treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize; and Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel – has had two meetings with Numsa since it was established in April to stave off a pre-election split.

Alliance insiders with knowledge of the process said Numsa stuck to its guns at both meetings.

It believes the ANC is no longer promoting the national democratic revolution; that the alliance between the ANC and Cosatu must end; that Cosatu must hold a special congress to elect new leaders; and that Numsa will expand its scope to recruit workers in industries where other Cosatu unions’ services to workers are poor.

Numsa is steaming ahead with the formation of a broad national front meant to lead to the establishment of a new political party by March or April next year.

At the weekend, it announced six local structures for the United Front in Buffalo City in East London, in Diepkloof and Emdeni in Soweto, in Witbank and in the Makause squatter camp in Germiston.

Numsa says it is establishing its United Front to “join shop floor/trade union and community struggles”.

It will be very difficult to ward off a split because two unions, Ceppwawu in the chemical industry and Satawu in the transport industry, have lodged complaints against Numsa in the past two weeks over its aggressive recruitment of members in these two sectors.

The complaints were being handled jointly by Duarte and Cosatu deputy general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali, Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini told City Press on Friday.

Ceppwawu has been hit by allegations of corruption over the past two years.

Satawu, which has always been very strong in Transnet and among truck drivers and private security services, split a year ago when its president resigned and formed an alternative union, the National Transport Movement.

Both these unions are therefore already severely weakened.

A source in the anti-Numsa camp, led by Dlamini, said: “There has always been poaching of members from one another, but this is something completely different. It violates the scope of the unions that was agreed upon when Cosatu was established.”

Dlamini admitted in an interview with City Press on Friday that divisions and disunity have “impacted on the functioning of the federation”.

He said Cosatu’s campaign against e-toll legislation has suffered, along with resolutions from a 2012 collective bargaining conference to close the wage gap, strengthen centralised bargaining and legislate a national minimum wage.

He said the issues were still there, “but it’s not up to where we would have loved to go”.

Talks about a super union have also stalled. This was an idea contained in a resolution from Cosatu’s 2011 conference.

Dlamini said although the issue was still on the table, no work has been done in that regard.

This issue would have to be reported on at Cosatu’s conference next year, he said.

“Cosatu has been grappling so much with its problems that it hasn’t had a chance to do its work,” he said.

He added that Cosatu wasn’t as strong in the governing alliance as it should be.

“We could have been stronger. We could have done better to ensure that some of the legislation couldn’t be passed. The fact that we were facing these challenges, they went through without our wish, we cannot deny that.”

He would not be drawn into commenting on Vavi’s future. The general secretary was suspended in August last year, but a court in April ruled that the suspension was invalid on technical grounds.

Ramaphosa then agreed with Cosatu’s other office bearers that Vavi should remain in office as part of a “cease-fire”.

“Our team believes they can prevent a split. Numsa is only staying in Cosatu because it is trying to hijack the name Cosatu. However, there are concerns that Vavi is in a position to prepare the ground for the split as long as he stays there. That’s why it is better to get rid of him,” an ANC source said.

Ramaphosa declined to comment.

– Additional reporting by Carien du Plessis

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