Zwelinzima Vavi: Will Zuma divide Cosatu?

2012-04-01 07:45

Labour federation Cosatu’s general-secretary Zwelinzima Vavi says perceptions that he is against President Jacob Zuma’s bid for a second term are wrong.

“This thing that I am supposed to be anti-Zuma and am opposed to the second term, and that Cosatu president (Sdumo) Dlamini is for the second term is unhelpful. The media has been driving that, and I’m sure many people believe that should be the truth,” he said.

However, he wouldn’t say whether Cosatu would support Zuma’s retention or will push for a change of leadership in Mangaung in December.

Vavi said opening the leadership succession debate too soon would distract the government’s focus from its key electoral promises and priorities.

However, he admitted that lobby groups were “criss-crossing” the country supporting leaders, which he said was wrong.

“If we were to allow that discussion, all it will do is to divide everybody from everybody. Once we get divided by leadership debates the grass will suffer. In this case, the grass unfortunately will be the poor and the workers,” he said.

Divisions among leaders of Cosatu and its affiliated unions manifested over Zuma last year, but Vavi said the federation’s leadership was more united now.

But the federation continues to differ with the ANC on issues such as e-tolling and the ban on labour brokers.

Monday’s meeting between Cosatu and the ANC to discuss the disagreement on the two issues is understood to have ended in a stalemate, with the two allies issuing a terse joint statement promising to meet again.

Vavi said Cosatu would stick to its public mobilisation against e-tolling, while its negotiations with the ANC continue.

He said the next meeting of Cosatu’s central executive committee would “hopefully endorse a decision for a massive strike” if the talks did not yield fruit.

Vavi also confirmed that he would stand for re-election as Cosatu general-secretary if affiliated unions nominated him before the federation’s elective congress in September.

A few months ago, he signalled that he wanted to move on, and that he might consider positions in the ANC or SACP.

Things changed, he said, when the Cosatu central committee said all nominated members should be available for election. The nominations process opens in July and is expected to close by mid-August.

Vavi defended his personal decision not to accept election to the ANC’s national executive committee, but said he supports Cosatu’s view that its members should “swell” all levels of the ANC to ensure that the organisation is sympathetic to working class issues.

“It goes back to the point that ideally the balance in the NEC and all structures of the ANC must be that we have sufficient numbers of people there, not because they hope to be appointed or want to use that as a route towards cabinet posts but because they are just there to ensure that the ANC remains true to its policies, as well as its principles and values,” he said.

He said they had done well in Polokwane in 2007 but their candidates were subsequently appointed to cabinet.

“This means the NEC gets completely dominated by comrades who are in the cabinet. When that happens then we’ve got comrades in cabinet assessing themselves in terms of delivery, which is a huge problem.”


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