Vavi trying to capture alliance - Zille
Cape Town - Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi is building a power base from which he will attempt to capture the tripartite alliance at the ANC's 2017 conference, Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille told students at the University of Stellenbosch on Tuesday.
Zille said in a speech that it was time South Africans saw through the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu), which wanted to "keep unemployed people excluded from jobs and economic opportunities, to protect its power base".
"As the internal battle in the ANC heats up, and Cosatu jockeys for more of the power, it has cleverly tried to paint itself as the 'internal opposition' inside the tripartite alliance," Zille said.
Interests of the poor
"It is clear that Zwelinzima Vavi is engaged in a campaign to construct for himself a power base, from which he will attempt to capture the alliance at the ANC's 2017 conference."
Zille said that if Vavi wanted to run the country, he should "put his name on the ballot and stand for election".
"We already have an electoral mandate from three million South Africans - something Mr Vavi does not.
"If he wants to run this country, then he should put his name on the ballot and stand for election, but I'm not holding my breath." Zille said.
Cosatu was the main blockage in the road to job creation and redress for millions of South Africans.
"I say it may seem irrational to many because Cosatu has built up a brand over the years as being the defender of the poor, supposedly acting with their interests at heart. But is this brand accurate? It is not."
Zille said it was clear that President Jacob Zuma's government was in office, but was not in power.
Zille comments absurd - Cosatu
Cosatu later described Zille's comments as "ludicrous and defamatory".
Spokesperson Patrick Craven said her outburst was motivated by envy at the union federation's ability to mobilise millions of South Africans of all races in its campaigns.
"Something she knows she can never do," he said.
Craven said Vavi was a popular and respected, democratically elected workers' representative who was mandated by members.
"Comrade Vavi has repeatedly denied that he has any ambitions other than to be a workers' representative and a spokesperson of the exploited and poor majority of South Africans," Craven said.
Vavi had resisted pressure to stand for the African National Congress's national executive committee, thinking it would undermine his position as the voice of the workers.
"There is not a word of truth in Zille's absurd allegation against him," Craven said.
The suggestion that Zuma's government was in office, but not in power was "ridiculous", he said.