More uncertainty as Cosatu decides to dismiss beleaguered Vavi

2015-03-31 00:00

COSATU decided by 31 votes to one yesterday to dismiss its popular but beleaguered secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi.

The alternative the 32-member central executive committee (CEC) voted on was to suspend him pending a disciplinary hearing.

Vavi boycotted the previous meeting of the CEC because eight of the federation’s 18 member unions stayed away in protest at the suspension of the largest union, Numsa, last November.

In an emotional media conference on Sunday, he said he would not attend yesterday’s meeting where he was expected to explain his actions.

“If they fire me, so be it. I will not give them the pleasure of resigning,” he said.

The CEC spent all day locked in debate before starting to vote at 5.30 pm.

Cosatu’s step is a severe setback to the ANC, which has been trying hard for the past year to prevent a schism in the federation.

Party secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, who was a Cosatu leader for years in his role at the helm of the National Union of Mineworkers, said yesterday it would be easy to get rid of Vavi, but the question remained what would follow.

“The problems in Cosatu are not different from those it had in the 1980s,” he told reporters in Johannesburg.

“The problem is limited experience by leaders to manage a federal organisation with different views. What Numsa is doing is not different from what it did in the 1980s.”

He said Cosatu’s leaders were hellbent on destroying each other and would collapse the federation in the process.

“You can’t slaughter the beast and hope that you will get more. You don’t collapse an organisation with the intention of growing it … it will disappear instead.

“You don’t facilitate a walk-away. I don’t remember Numsa in its life winning an ideological debate.”

Mantashe also criticised Vavi’s airing on Sunday of Cosatu’s financial problems.

He said its monthly income had fallen by R11 million when Numsa, with 365 000 members, was suspended.

Cosatu apparently had to dip into its political fund in February and March to pay staff.

“It is very dangerous to air an organisation’s financial affairs because you have problems with it, particularly if you are the CEO. I imagine they couldn’t have taken money from the political fund without Vavi’s knowledge.”

The ANC received a report at its quarterly national executive committee meeting from a task team set up to try to mend Cosatu’s rifts. The team, led by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, was advised to continue its efforts.

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