Where to for Vavi?

2014-11-09 15:00

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Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi spent most of yesterday locked in meetings to decide on his future in the labour federation after it expelled metalworkers’ union Numsa.

City Press understands Vavi has been taking advice on whether to resign, thereby preserving his credibility, or to stay on and fight his case and that of Numsa, which has been one of his most powerful allies.

In an interview with Power FM yesterday, Vavi said the expulsion of Numsa was a “game-changer” and would have “profound, huge implications to the unity, cohesion and future of the South African trade union movement”.

“I’m in shock and extremely devastated and distraught,” he said, adding that he had a “fundamental objection to” Numsa’s expulsion.

“It requires that all of us sit back, remove ourselves from the emotions of the decision, of this moment, and decide what is in the best interests of the South African workers at this particular moment.”

On Twitter he said: “Guillotine of +350?000 workers is a game changer and will have profound political and organisational implications – what is to be done?”

At lunch time yesterday, Vavi went to Cosatu House to meet representatives of the eight remaining affiliates sympathetic to him to plot the way forward.

One of the options on the table was his resignation, because staying on for too long would “damage his credibility”, said a source close to Vavi.

Another source, who spoke to Vavi yesterday about his options, said if he resigned, Numsa would not have anyone left inside Cosatu to fight its case.

City Press understands that Numsa is planning to consult its national executive committee about whether or not to appeal the decision or to take their case to court.

If Numsa appeals, it will have to consult the other eight unions that publicly supported it at a press conference this week.

These include the Food and Allied Workers’ Union; the Commercial Catering and Allied Workers’ Union; nursing union Denosa; the SA State and Allied Workers’ Union; football union Safpu; the Communication Workers’ Union; and the Public and Allied Workers’ Union of SA.

Vavi will then have to decide his future. A highly placed source said Vavi was concerned about a possible dent in his credibility should he remain in Cosatu – which will become more polarised following Numsa’s expulsion yesterday morning.

“He was concerned about his credibility even before the [previous CEC] meeting of October 23,” the source said.

Vavi is also said to be uneasy about the costs of the defamation suit against him by Jacqueline Phooko – the woman with whom he had an affair in his office – which ended in his public humiliation and suspension.

His disciplinary hearing – disciplinary charges against him are likely to be reinstated – may also require high-level legal representation, which would be expensive. If he remained in Cosatu, it is likely the federation would pick up some of his bill.

Should Numsa’s expulsion not be overturned, it would take with it a large war chest of assets. The Numsa Investment Company is worth roughly R6?billion on paper, said a source with close knowledge of Cosatu’s finances.

Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini, when approached for comment or confirmation of the expulsion, said simply: “Not today.”

Frans Baleni, general secretary of mineworkers’ union NUM, who supported Numsa’s expulsion, yesterday addressed a regional congress at which he told delegates: “It is very painful to see what Cosatu is going through.”

He was reported on the NUM twitter account as saying: “We built Cosatu through hardship, many lost their lives?...?nowadays we sit for long hours discussing a mere agenda”.

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