Vavi: Battle for soul of Cosatu

Cape Town - “Political and ideological differences are merely the camouflage that hides the real reasons for the current turmoil in Cosatu - the real reasons are corruption and money — lots of money," according to Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.

In an interview after his speech to the UNI Global Union world congress in Cape Town Tuesday morning, he elaborated on some of the off-the-cuff comments he delivered from that podium.

He maintained that corruption had created cliques where nepotism and abuse of power proliferated.

Significantly, the remarks were made on International Anti-corruption Day.

READ: Vavi: Union leaders need a wake up call

Not that Vavi made reference to this. Instead, he pointed out that attempts to divide and split the trade union movement "amounted to the crime of treason against the working class".

He claimed that various forces were involved in these attempts, including “rogue elements in the intelligence services” who were "guilty of trying to destabilise the labour movement".

Misinformation had been spread and Cosatu is effectively paralysed, according to Vavi. This was a tragedy in a country where 36% of workers were unemployed and half the population lived in poverty, in his view.

He said a situation where “a small elite is spoiling the dream of Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo” now existed.

READ: Vavi: Cosatu no political conveyor belt

Yet the resolutions of Cosatu at its last congress were for the federation to “rebuild Cosatu and engineer our own ‘Lula Moment’”. (This is referring to Brazil’s poverty alleviation programme.)

What had instead happened was a situation that had reinforced the reality of a small elite making decisions on behalf of 53 million citizens, in his view.

Vavi also shot down allegations that there were moves afoot to found a rival federation to Cosatu.

The battle, he said, was “for the soul of the federation”. Even the now much criticised move by metalworkers’ union Numsa to establish a “united front” with kindred organisations in wider society was a Cosatu resolution, he said.

However, he conceded that divisions were already evident, with disgruntled members of Cosatu unions leaving to join other unions or falling by the wayside. Cosatu was now "paralysed" when it “should be out on the streets campaigning”.  

These necessary campaigns ranged from the spending on Nkandla to e-tolls and labour broking, in his view.

“Cosatu should be united in opposing all of this on the basis of principle and democracy,” he said.

ALSO READ: Upbeat start to union congress

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