Vavi leaving Cosatu would be logical: analyst

By Drum Digital
08 November 2014

It would be a logical step for Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi to leave Cosatu, political analyst Richard Pithouse said on Saturday.

Before his suspension last year after having an affair with a junior employee, Vavi was a primary critic of President Jacob Zuma, while Congress of SA Trade Unions president Sdumo Dlamini was known for being pro-Zuma, he said.

"...So I don't think it could be possible for them to work together. It would make sense for Vavi to throw his weight behind Numsa."

Asked about the likelihood of Vavi leaving Cosatu, Pithouse said: "It is a logical step".

Earlier, Vavi tweeted "Guillotine of +350 000 workers is a game changer & will have profound political and organisational implications - what is to be done?"

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA had about 350,000 members, representing almost 16 percent of Cosatu's membership of 2,2 million.

Pithouse said Vavi was clearly aligning himself with Numsa in the tweet.

The union's expulsion during a special central executive committee (CEC) sitting on Friday signified a real change in South African politics, Pithouse said.

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim confirmed the expulsion on Saturday.

"Yes, Numsa has been expelled," he said in an sms.

Pithouse said the expulsion was part of a steady breakdown of the African National Congress's power.

"No one saw what the consequences would be. The ANC's power is being reduced, it is fracturing in Parliament, in the communities and with political parties."

This was reflected in the number of service delivery protests happening across the country and the formation of the Economic Freedom Fighters.

The ANC set up a task team, led by party deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, in April to help the trade union federation overcome infighting.

It met 19 Cosatu affiliates to canvass their views on tensions within the federation, and to get input on whether the tripartite alliance between the ANC, Cosatu, and the SA Communist Party, should continue.

The ANC had urged Cosatu to address infighting, amidst rumours of an imminent split.

At its special congress in December, Numsa decided not to support the ANC in the May general elections, which went against Cosatu's policy.

Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven said on Saturday CEC members voted on whether Numsa should stay, with 33 votes for expulsion and 24 against it.

On Friday, Jim gave a presentation defending the union against possible expulsion from the Cosatu. Numsa went to court on Thursday to try and prevent its expulsion.

The case was postponed and the CEC meeting went ahead.

Pithouse said Numsa would manage outside the African National Congress coalition.

"Numsa is a very big union with a lot of members and a lot of resources. It will definitely be able to stand on its own."

He said unions such as the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), which broke away from the Cosatu-affiliated National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) had also managed to do well, outside the ANC and Cosatu.

The real question was whether Numsa's decision to launch the United Front in December this year would be a success.

Jim announced at a press briefing last month that the union's decision to form the United Front was first announced in December 2013 during a special Numsa national congress.

At the time, Jim said the move was not a sign that the union was leaving Cosatu and venturing out on its own. He said Numsa would defend the trade union federation at all costs.

The launch of the United Front had been a subject of discussion at Cosatu for many years, he told reporters.

Whether or not the United Front would succeed, depended on whether the union could make a real connection with different struggles of the people in South Africa, Pithouse said.

"If they connect with people on the ground it could work, not with NGOs."

He said there was a concern that Numsa only talked about the interests of the working class when so many South Africans were unemployed.

"Numsa will have to broaden its conception."

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