Cosatu faces massive split

2014-01-28 00:00

COSATU may finally tear in two tomorrow when the nine rebel unions that support suspended general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi announce they will hold a joint congress to reappoint Vavi and elect new leaders in place of Cosatu’s five national officials.

Plans by Cosatu to suspend the membership of Numsa, Vavi’s main supporter and the largest union in Cosatu, as well as to hold a disciplinary hearing with Vavi — which will probably end in his dismissal — all contributed to the rebel unions taking the drastic step.

The rebel unions now number 12 of the 20 unions in the congress after another three recently joined them, sister paper Beeld learned yesterday. One of the new unions is allegedly the textile workers’ union Sactwu, which had to date been one of Cosatu’s stalwart supporters alongside the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

The rebels represent just under a million of the more than two million workers who are members of Cosatu.

If all these unions break away from Cosatu, the congress will be left dominated by workers who are state-employed.

The initial nine rebel unions had been demanding since Vavi’s suspension in August last year that Cosatu must hold a special congress to discuss his suspension and elect new leaders.

Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini had however not arranged the congress, but had instead unsuccessfully lobbied Numsa to return to the Cosatu fold.

Dlamini has since January been lobbying other unions in Cosatu to suspend Numsa at the next executive committee meeting of the congress.

Andrew Chirwa, president of Numsa, said on Sunday at a “political school” for Numsa invigilators in Kempton Park that the time had come to hold a special congress for the rebel unions.

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim added shortly after Chirwa spoke that if Numsa was suspended, the union would “act accordingly”.

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