Vavi takes fight to Cosatu, guns blazing

2015-04-01 15:53

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Ousted Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi is considering going to court to challenge his dismissal from the trade union federation and has blamed the demise of Cosatu on rogue elements hellbent on creating a weaker federation.

Vavi was responding to his dismissal by the federation’s highest decision-making body, the central executive committee, yesterday.

He has blamed political games for the disunity and collapse of Cosatu and said that the reasons the central executive committee expelled the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa were political.

He mentioned Numsa’s refusal to campaign for the ANC at last year’s general elections as the main cause for the expulsion.

Vavi, who was supported by leaders of the seven Cosatu affiliates – Communication Workers Union, Numsa, the Food and Allied Workers’ Union, the South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union, nurses’ union Denosa and South African Football Players Union – who boycotted the central executive committee, told the media in Morningside, Joburg today that he was not deterred by the dismissal.

“We have tried to avoid this scenario at all costs, but those pursuing the agenda of the elite capture of Cosatu, inside and outside the federation, will stop at nothing. They have been absolutely ruthless and determined to purge any individual and any organisation that stands in their way. They are seemingly oblivious to the disastrous impact this will have on the working class,” said Vavi.

He said the collapse would create a wider crisis in a society where democratic formations and constitutional institutions were being weakened and slowly targeted by outside forces.

Vavi’s ouster also led to the resignation of Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven yesterday. Craven, who has been Cosatu spin doctor since 2000, told the media today that his decision was based on the “outrageous” decisions by the Cosatu executive.

“As spokesperson I could not defend the indefensible,” said Craven on Cosatu’s decision to dismiss Vavi.

Vavi said his dismissal was illegal and unfair because the Cosatu executive had not given him a fair chance to defend himself.

“This is grossly unfair because I was never charged and the decision was taken at a meeting and not by an independent body [that had investigated the allegations]. I will consult on my way forward because we have a contractual agreement as an employee,” said Vavi.

He vehemently refuted claims that he and the seven unions intended forming a breakaway federation or a political party to challenge Cosatu and the ANC.

“While workers thought they were fighting for the soul of the ANC, a hidden agenda was being hatched by forces hostile to workers,” said Vavi.

Vavi said they would begin a campaign to lobby like-minded workers within Cosatu to restore the federation into an independent and militant force for the working class. He added that the current Cosatu leadership did not have the interests of working class people at heart.

“We are asking all workers in South Africa ... where are we going ... because corruption, unemployment and inequality have worsened. We haven’t been building an alternative. Not even Numsa has said we are signing off from Cosatu.

“I have no doubt that the plan to put Cosatu where it is today was hatched in dark corners, to collapse Cosatu and build a new federation.

“I call on all workers to discuss the implications of our many years of attempts to win back Cosatu as an independent and militant union.

“I know when a decision is unfair. You can’t dismiss anyone without an independent hearing because you’re acting like the judge and the executioner,” said Vavi.

He added that he would continue to engage with the ANC, which has been trying to avoid a split through an intervention team lead by its deputy Cyril Ramaphosa, in order to find a solution to the impasse.

“We are dealing with a political crisis in this country as a whole, not just Cosatu. It’s a tragedy unfolding, a political problem. We are reaching out to everyone and our work starts now and we will be busy throughout the weekend,” said Vavi, adding that a special executive committee meetings, made up of workers and leaders of unions, will be held on April 25.

He hit out at Cosatu’s central executive committee for allowing the Liberated Metalworkers Union of South Africa to join Cosatu as an affiliate, even though this was a “shelf union”, without any work done.

Vavi slammed the central executive committee’s use of the SizweNtsalubaGobodo audit report to dismiss him on the sale of Cosatu house, and which contained various allegations of impropriety against him, saying those who relied on the report had been “baying for my blood” since he was re-elected in 2012.

“I am in consultations on whether I should challenge my extremely irregular, illegal and unjustified expulsion. If we don’t combat this abuse of power it will take us irreversibly towards a failed state and a society without leaders who are accountable,” added Vavi.

The seven union leaders said they were not concerned about the central executive committee’s threat of action against those who continued to associate with Vavi after his dismissal.

Khatishi Masemola, general secretary for the Food and Allied Workers Union said they would not be threatened by Cosatu because they were free to associate with anyone, including Vavi, as they were democratically and independently elected by their union members.

Despite Cosatu’s warning that unions entertaining “Vavi-led activities” would face disciplinary action, the group said that they would be joining Vavi in a countrywide mass mobilisation programme.

“We are going to urgently consult all our members, including holding special national executive committee meetings and a joint executive committee meeting of as many unions as possible to unfold a programme of mass mobilisation of workers to combat and reverse the situation we are facing,” Vavi said.

He added that he was also in consultation with the ANC.

In terms of what action should be taken, he said that the ball was now in the court of the members of the federation.

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