Is Vavi out in the cold?

2011-07-02 17:50

The outcome of the Cosatu central committee meeting is likely to force its boss Zwelinzima Vavi to tone down his criticism of the ANC as he battles to influence the ruling party’s direction ahead of its elective conference next year.

The labour federation’s four-day mid-term conference, which ended on Thursday in Midrand, failed to formulate clear policy positions on the ANC succession debate and President Jacob Zuma’s New Growth Path economic strategy.

Vavi told the conference the ­resolutions on these issues would be discussed and refined by the labour federation’s leadership when it met some time next month.

Some delegates saw the failure to reach consensus on these issues as a sign of divisions among Cosatu unions, especially the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA which are among the biggest and strongest unions.

There were widespread expectations that the meeting would take a decision on Cosatu’s approach to the ANC succession debate – an issue which the ruling party’s leadership has said is off-limits for discussion.

Cosatu has also been critical of Zuma’s “zigzagging” on issues such as corruption in government, suggesting it would back his bid for a second term if he cracked down on graft.

An ANC delegate – who as part of the tripartite alliance has representation at Cosatu central committee meetings and takes part in the commissions said the outcome of the conference showed that some of the views Vavi articulated were his rather than those broadly shared by the federation.

“I don’t think Vavi went to the central committee with good intentions. The conference was good because the controversial things he wanted to push were not considered,” he said.

“He is either fighting personal battles to enhance his own profile or he is genuinely raising issues that he feels need to be raised.

“It shows some issues require hard work and common purpose and you need the alliance’s leadership collective to resolve them,” said the ANC delegate.

Another ANC delegate said while the ruling party accepted the leadership of Cosatu was unlikely to agree with every aspect of the New Growth Path, the ANC had expected the federation to suggest improvements rather than deliver an outright rejection.

The delegate said his reading of the disagreement over the path was that it meant the labour federation was “likely to depersonalise economic issues” in future and that “over time we are likely to see more engagement on economic ­issues” between the two allies.

A Cosatu insider, who is ­sympathetic to Vavi, said the SA Clothing and Textile Workers ­Union and NUM “vacillated” on economic issues because of the ­influence of former leaders ­Ebrahim Patel and Gwede ­Mantashe to whom they deferred.

However, the source said there was common ground on muzzling the succession debate in all the three organisations.

“On leadership, all of us agree it is very premature to open the succession debate. We don’t want what happened in the run-up to Polokwane where directors­general ran around lobbying for Thabo Mbeki. It’ll be extremely destructive,” he said.

At the closing of the meeting on Thursday, Vavi was adamant ­Cosatu would still go ahead with its anti-graft campaign, including setting up its watchdog Corruption Watch. He denied there were divisions in Cosatu over policy ­issues, saying the resolutions had been badly crafted.

“Are we divided? No. We insist we are united as an organisation. But we are not an organisation that doesn’t have debates. There will always be discussions among individuals within each union, or between the unions,” Vavi said.

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