Vavi talked down to Cosatu – Mantashe

2015-04-13 16:09

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Irreparable damage has been done to Cosatu, says ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe.

“I’m not sure if we can fix it,” he told News24.

“In my own view the role of the task team should be different now. It would [have to] move beyond trying to pull people together, where we were putting unions into groups under one roof and making them talk to each other... that will not work anymore.”

He said the ANC task team, which was established to help the embattled trade union federation sort out its internal strife, had to now speak to the unions who were not attending central executive committee meetings.

Seven unions who were supporting expelled general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) had been boycotting Cosatu’s central executive committee meetings, the trade union federation’s highest decision-making body.

Mantashe said the ANC needed to talk to these unions and ask them to rescue what is left of Cosatu.

Vavi was expelled from Cosatu last month, which he said was unfair and illegal.

Before his expulsion Vavi held a media briefing where he could have been seen to have forced Cosatu’s hand by insisting that he would not attend CEC meetings even if it meant he would be fired.

Mantashe said that briefing was “what broke the back of the camel”.

“He talked down to the federation. As he was continuing there, I was saying ‘what is this comrade doing now?’ If it was in the ANC, I would not be here either,” he said.

Vavi had complicated the work the ANC task team had done at the time.

“I think that was the biggest miscalculation on his part and it made our work as the task team quite complicated because comrades in Cosatu were saying to us ‘you have been nudging us to work and find a solution... but how far can he go?’ I think that media briefing complicated that space,” said Mantashe.

Since his expulsion Vavi and Numsa have been speaking to workers around the country. There is speculation that they could be trying to establish a new trade union federation.

Mantashe said what Vavi was doing was not helping the situation.

“Basically he is investing a lot of time now into actually breaking the federation and it’s up to the work of the federation, the work it will do if it [wants to] rescue itself. But there’s a lot damage which has been done, that damage is irreparable,” he said.

Asked if a new federation would have a negative impact on Cosatu, Mantashe said it would depend on whether Cosatu can rescue itself.

As things stand, Cosatu was becoming what was called ideologically a “yellow federation”.

This was because the industrial component had become very weak and the public sector component was too strong.

“Therefore it becomes a federation, not of the proletariat [wage earners], but a federation that is mainly dominated by the middle-class and classically becomes what is called a yellow federation,” he said.

“The challenge facing Cosatu is to go back to the factory, organise workers, industrial workers and instil that component of the federation. If they do that the federation can recover and become what it should be.”

Right now Cosatu had to be bigger than Vavi and the current leadership. Its trade unions have to talk to each other and decide how to save the federation.

“If they decide to split it will be very unfortunate,” said Mantashe.

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