Vavi: Cosatu must be unified – but not at any cost

2014-11-22 09:14

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Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi says the best way forward for the embattled congress was to remain unified – but not at any cost.

“The first prize then has got to be maintaining the unity of Cosatu,” said Vavi yesterday in a speech prepared for delivery at an anniversary event for the SA Labour Bulletin in central Joburg.

However, he cautioned: “Unity ... is not something that must be at any cost. If we are wedded to unity for its own sake we will run the risk of sliding rapidly into a state of yellow unionism.”

Yellow unions are those usually considered more closely aligned with specific companies – and even governments. They are often criticised for allowing the company’s interest to dominate those of the employees – thus compromising independence.

Vavi said that if this occurred, it would cause the congress to be less accountable to workers and “tamer” in its economic and political demands.”

“We will become a shadow of our former selves.”

He said there was currently a “small window of opportunity” to return to a “united militant, and hopefully bigger and broader Cosatu.”

Vavi said that the first step towards this was to have Numsa reinstated in the federation and the second was to hold a special national congress “sooner rather than later to honestly debate and resolve on the areas of difference.”

Vavi said he knew that, for some, the idea to “simply walk away from it all by announcing a split and the formation of a new federation ... sounds like a good option”.

However, he warned that if the choice was made for Cosatu not to remain united in the future: “We will all have to do everything in our power to prevent a slide into multiple conflicts”.

Earlier this week, Cosatu’s central executive committee held a meeting at which it decided that all outstanding issues, which included Vavi’s disciplinary process and a call for Cosatu to hold a special national congress, would be dealt with by a political approach.

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