Cyril Ramaphosa’s rescue plan for Cosatu

2013-12-01 10:00

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ANC deputy president has to find a way to prevent a Cosatu split and advocating a softer approach to Vavi is one of them.

ANC leaders are appealing to Cosatu to soften its “punitive” stance towards its general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, to stave off a split in the labour federation and the tripartite alliance.

ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, a former unionist who heads the ANC’s eight-member team tasked with Cosatu’s rescue, told City Press the labour federation should look at a “positive” outcome for Vavi’s disciplinary action, rather than pursuing punishment.

“We want to protect the integrity of Cosatu’s unity and we don’t believe that unity should be sacrificed at the altar of personal and individual interests,” he said yesterday.

“What should be done is to find a way to preserve that unity.

“People should put aside their personal individual conflicts and interests and look at the broader picture: the unity of Cosatu and the alliance.”

Ramaphosa said this did not mean dropping charges against Vavi, but “everything should be looked at from a positive rather than a punitive view”.

“Vavi is a leader and we should accept it, but he has a set of responsibilities and obligations and we need to look at it in that way.”

He said the ANC team was still involved in discussions with the various unions.

It would then table a report at the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) meeting next weekend.

Ramaphosa said ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe’s warning to transport and allied workers’ union Satawu this week was the party’s official position.

What Mantashe said

Mantashe told the anti-Vavi Satawu at a meeting on Wednesday that splitting the federation was not an option.

“You can pursue Vavi but if it is too expensive, try something else,” he said.

He made the call soon after Numsa president Cedric Gina resigned amid talk of the pro-Vavi union withdrawing from Cosatu at a special congress in two weeks’ time.

Nine of the union’s 11 regions support a breakaway. At best, Numsa will not support the ANC during next year’s general elections campaign.

ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu confirmed that Cosatu was on the NEC agenda. He hinted that President Jacob Zuma might also raise it in his overview report.

“The NEC might need to know where we are with regard to the team we put together, how far we got,” Mthembu said.

Cosatu’s other alliance partner, the SACP, also discussed the labour federation’s troubles at its central committee meeting this weekend.

Stemming the revolt

Meanwhile, Cosatu leaders will be attempting to quell the Numsa-led revolt against Vavi’s suspension.

Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini, who has led the charge against Vavi, will head to KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape this week. But officials in the provinces vowed to resist reconciliation.

Said a senior Numsa official: “They are coming down to reinforce here [in KwaZulu-Natal]. This will be their launching platform for the next offensive against Numsa and Vavi. “We will be under attack. Gloves are off. Things will be tough.’’

A trade union leader said Dlamini would meet affiliate heads on Friday to urge them to discipline dissidents in their ranks.

“In the Eastern Cape, each affiliate has been asked to account for the behaviour of its constituency. [The meeting] will result in affiliates taking action against their own structures,” he said.

Vavi’s disciplinary process has been dragging on since he was suspended in August after admitting to having sex with a junior colleague in his office.

He has also been investigated for alleged wrongdoing in the sale of Cosatu House.

Nine unions have called for a special Cosatu congress to decide Vavi’s future. But Cosatu has been slow to heed this, saying it will be too expensive.

Mantashe’s call to soften the stance towards Vavi seems to have some support in the unions although most said the ANC had not formally spoken about it to them.

Dlamini said Mantashe was “warning all the sides [in Cosatu] that whatever they are doing in their pursuance in matters relating to [Vavi], they must not forget that the unity of Cosatu is sacrosanct”.

“I don’t think he was arguing for Cosatu to drop anything they were doing internally.

“There was a clear agreement that the internal processes should be allowed to proceed because they are constitutional positions.”

He said Mantashe’s call was also for those who made public pronouncements to take care not to split the federation.

What the unions say

General secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, Frans Baleni, said Mantashe meant that unions should “be open to persuasion”.

Satawu spokesperson Vincent Masoga said the union had no problem with political intervention, but there was a concern that it would lead to impunity and strong-arm tactics by disgruntled unions.

“The organisation has to take action. If there is a political solution, let the political solution happen with internal processes being adhered to.”

Mantashe’s call was received with some suspicion by pro-Vavi unions although many said they would welcome a political solution.

Two Numsa sources said they were suspicious of the call because they believed Mantashe was behind the move to oust Vavi.

Walter Theledi of the SA Municipal Workers’ Union also distrusted Mantashe’s motives.

Mantashe has lambasted Vavi in the past saying that he was not bigger than Cosatu.

General secretary of the Food and Allied Workers’ Union, Katishi Masemola, said: “If there is a political solution, it will be much better.

“All we are saying is that the way this whole thing was handled was meant to destroy the man. It will be good to meet the (Ramaphosa) team.”

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