For and against: who’s who in Vavi’s zoo

2013-08-14 16:11

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Beleaguered labour federation Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has about as much support in the unions as he has enemies.

Carien du Plessis and Sabelo Ndlangisa look at the cast of characters and how it could affect today’s special central executive meeting where Vavi’s fate could be decided.

The meeting comes after Vavi had admitted an affair with a woman he appointed to work for Cosatu.

Want to see Vavi stay:

Numsa – the metalworkers’ union with its populist boss Irvin Jim is one of Vavi’s biggest allies. Earlier this week it was reported that the union would consider breaking away from Cosatu should today’s meeting go ahead. The meeting was called by Vavi’s deputy, Bheki Ntshalintshali, but according to them Vavi is the only one who could call such a meeting. The threat to break away might indicate that Numsa isn’t as confident that Vavi will politically survive the meeting as they’d like to be.

Samwu – the municipal workers are a powerful and noisy force in Cosatu. They are the ones with the power to organise crippling and embarrassing public sector strikes (think overturned rubbish bins) which can cripple the ANC in an election year. Samwu in the Eastern Cape this week defended Vavi, saying the attacks against him are factional.

Fawu – the smaller food and allied workers’ union is squarely behind Vavi. When his family complained that politics was getting too much for him, they bizarrely proclaimed he should stand for another three-year term in his current position at Cosatu’s next congress in 2015.

Want to see Vavi go:

NUM – the National Union of Mineworkers is one of Cosatu’s biggest affiliates but has been struggling with problems of its own. It has been losing members and credibility following the deadly protests at Marikana a year ago. Its general secretary, Frans Baleni, is seen to be close to Zuma. He hasn’t publicly stated his union’s position on Vavi, but he is known not to be a sympathiser.

Sadtu – the teachers’ union yesterday suspended its president, Thobile Ntola. Although the union had not yet issued a statement over his suspension, Ntola said it was because he allowed Vavi a platform in the Eastern Cape on Women’s Day, and for the pro-Vavi comments he had made in the media. Even if Ntola had attended today’s meeting, he would have been forced to stick to Sadtu’s official position, which isn’t favourable to Vavi.

Nehawu – Cosatu’s largest in the public sector, the education, health and allied workers’ union hasn’t pronounced on Vavi’s sex scandal, but it previously said Vavi’s views were too critical of the ANC.

Popcru – police union Popcru hasn’t been a fan of Vavi and although it hasn’t pronounced its position on today’s meeting, it previously provided evidence of Vavi’s alleged involvement in the “improper” sale and purchase of Cosatu buildings.

Satawu – the transport union is another that believes Vavi’s criticism of government and the ANC is unfair, and he should go. It made submissions to the hearing over Vavi’s handling of the sale of the old Cosatu House.

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