Vavi told to tone down

2012-09-22 16:20

Mining union warns criticism of Zuma must stop or secretary general could face chop

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi faced an ultimatum from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) ahead of the labour federation’s congress: tone down criticism of President Jacob Zuma or face a contender for your job.

A senior NUM leader told City Press that Vavi was called to a meeting by the union’s leaders before the congress and was warned that he had to stop criticising Zuma and mend relations with his rival, Cosatu President Sdumo Dlamini, if he wanted to keep his position as union boss.

Vavi duly obliged at the congress.

Although he remained critical of some ANC practices in his political report, he steered clear of focusing directly on Zuma. In fact, he said Zuma alone should not be held responsible for government’s failures.

“Reliance on the president, or any other leader, to resolve this contestation in the state in favour of the working class ends up in unfairly and unwisely placing too much responsibility and too much faith in one individual who is himself subject to all types of contradictory pulls,” Vavi’s report said.

A complex set of horse-trading took place before the congress, which in the end led to the leadership being reinstated.

Cosatu leaders, delegates and observers said Zuma is now almost certain to be re-elected as ANC president in Mangaung.

Some anti-Zuma die-hards insist that Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe still has a fighting chance but they had no evidence to back this up.

On the Thursday before the congress began in Midrand, the NUM leaders were still adamant about  nominating a candidate to contest Vavi for his position, but the NUM delegates rejected this.

Initially, the leaders wanted to nominate National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union general secretary Fikile “Slovo” Majola; and later they suggested KZN Cosatu secretary Zet Luzipho, who also had the support of the South African Communist Party.

But an Eastern Cape delegate said the NUM had been weakened by the Marikana crisis and would have found it difficult to rally other unions behind its view if it clearly could not deliver to its own constituency.

But, according to a NUM leader, they would have been forced into action if the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) put up a candidate to contest Dlamini, as they were threatening to do.

In the end, Numsa went as far as pronouncing Zuma their preferred candidate for Mangaung because, according to a Numsa delegate, the NUM threatened to isolate the metal workers’ union at the congress.

Numsa realised it would not have enough support for Vavi if the contest went to a vote, a pro-Zuma union official said.

“Numsa knew they were in a minority, and they knew people were angry about them campaigning against Zuma. That is why they were forced to say they favoured a second term for Zuma a week before the congress, because they knew the only way Vavi could be kept was to compromise,” he said.

Numsa originally wanted to see Dlamini, first deputy president Tyotyo James and second deputy president Zingiswa Losi replaced because they were seen as strong Zuma supporters.

It did try to nominate Nomvula Hadi to contest James, but she did not have the support of of the union’s president Cedric Gina.

Still, Numsa “wanted to test the water at the congress to see how much support they would get,” the official said.

A senior ANC leader, who attended Cosatu’s congress this week and had insight into the horse-trading, said: “Cosatu looked at the numbers and two-thirds were pro-Zuma, so they decided to start uniting.”




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