Saftu crisis: 13 unions object to move to suspend Zwelinzima Vavi

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Zwelinzima Vavi. Picture: Jabu Kumalo
Zwelinzima Vavi. Picture: Jabu Kumalo
Jabu Kumalo
  • Thirteen unions which are part of the South African Federation of Trade Union affiliates have protested a move to suspend its secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi.
  • Detawu's Vusi Ntshangase said Vavi reported for duty on Friday and that he urged the secretary-general to disregard his pre-suspension letter.
  • But Saftu president Mac Chavalala said the unions protesting the suspension did not represent the federation. 

Unions affiliated with the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) said the federation's president Mac Chavalala did not have the power to suspend its secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi, and that any attempt to do so was a violation of Saftu's constitution.

Earlier this week, a letter from Chavalala to Vavi was leaked to the media. In the letter, Vavi was asked for reasons why he should not be placed on precautionary suspension over alleged constitutional and administrative violations by close of business on Thursday.

Vavi founded Saftu in 2017 after he was ousted from Cosatu in 2015. The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) was among the founder members of Saftu.

Thirteen Saftu affiliate unions briefed reporters on Friday, including the Democratic Transport Logistics and Allied Workers Union (Detawu), the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu), the Information Communication and Technology Union (ICTU), and the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (Nupsaw).

READ | Saftu on the cusp of suspending Zwelinzima Vavi

Detawu secretary-general Vusi Ntshangase said only Saftu's national executive committee (NEC) has the power to suspend a national official and the NEC, which he is a member of, was not consulted about the letter to Vavi or plans to place him on precautionary suspension.

"We reject, with the contempt it deserves, the attempt by some officials of Saftu to usurp the powers of the NEC. The Saftu secretary-general cannot be suspended by his own colleges," said Ntshangase.

Ntshangase said he had spoken to Vavi on Friday morning and that the secretary-general was "in good spirits" and continuing with his work at the offices of the federation. He claims Vavi did not respond to the request in Chavalala's letter. Vavi did not respond to Fin24's questions.

"We have directed the SG to disregard the letter of the intention to place him on precautionary suspension. We have encouraged him to continue with his duties as if nothing has happened," Ntshangase said.

He said the letter Chavalala sent to Vavi had hallmarks of the "same practices of disregarding the Constitution" that were seen at Cosatu just before Vavi was fired from that federation.

The Saftu NEC is scheduled to meet next week in Boksburg.

READ | ANALYSIS | Cosatu stay-away a crapshoot that could expose its deficiencies

"As we sit here, being NEC members, we have not been taken into confidence by the president or his colleagues as to what Vavi would have done, constitutionally, administratively, or otherwise. We have not been briefed; not from a letter, not a meeting, and not a WhatsApp," Ntshangase said.

Chavalala said the unions had a right to convene the briefing, but that they did not represent the federation as a whole or all of the unions affiliated with Saftu.

"You don't convene press conferences to make threats and threaten officials on that platform and accuse unions who are not there to answer for themselves. We heard their views and that is how they feel," said Chavalala.

Chavalala said maladministration should be of chief concern to the affiliates protesting against the process and that there was no political conspiracy at hand. He said evidence of financial mismanagement could not be disregarded.

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