Hands off Vavi – Jim

2013-03-03 10:00

One of the leaders of South Africa’s second-biggest trade union, Irvin Jim, has told fellow union leaders to keep their hands off Cosatu ­general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.

Jim, who is the general secretary of metal workers’ union Numsa, said “very strange reactionary individuals” were attacking Vavi during the Cosatu’s central executive committee meeting in ­Joburg this week.

City Press spoke to six sources who were in the meeting, and all denied that a decision was taken to investigate Vavi.

But the general secretary of the National ­Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Frans Baleni, admitted that the apparent reluctance of labour federation leaders to put their foot down on unions encroaching on the space of others was a concern.

NUM has long been unhappy about Numsa organising in the manufacturing and mining industries, sectors the union has traditionally regarded as its own.

Jim said: “Originally, the issue was only in Eskom, but it has now spread. They are now the enemy from within.”

He questioned whether this was permitted by Cosatu leaders ­because some unions were close to certain leaders.

Numsa is close to Vavi and ­regularly defends him.

It was reported this week that unionists were also alleging corruption on Vavi’s part in the sale of Cosatu’s old headquarters and the purchase of a new building.

It is also felt by some that his­ ­anti-corruption crusade is an ­attack on alliance leaders.

Jim, however, said those who attacked Vavi “want to make Cosatu a conveyor belt and an extension of government and business”.

Jim warned “workers will crush them” and their “primitive methods of trying to make Vavi a lame duck leader of the federation”.

NGO leader Zackie Achmat, who works closely with Cosatu, said a few people who attended the meeting told him that attacks like those on Vavi this week “haven’t been seen (in Cosatu) since the attacks on (former federation president Willie) Madisha”.

Madisha was ousted from ­Cosatu in 2007, just before the ANC’s Polokwane conference.

Achmat described the attacks as “political witch-hunting” fuelled by supporters of President Jacob Zuma.

He claimed the sharpest attack came from Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini.

However, during a press conference on Thursday, Dlamini denied there was an investigation against Vavi but refused to comment in detail.

Leaders in public sector unions such as Nehawu, teachers’ union Sadtu and police union Popcru are also said to be unhappy about Vavi’s leadership.

A pro-Vavi source, however, said this unhappiness did not extend to the unions’ ordinary members.

Popcru general secretary ­Nkosinathi Theledi said there was no charge against Vavi, despite the union being the only one that actively objected to his re-election at Cosatu’s conference last year.

Theledi said: “We were robust and vibrant on all the issues presented, and we intend to engage on all the issues, be it organisational, political or socioeconomic.”

ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa said the governing party was concerned.

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