Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi says the trade union federation’s leadership is wasting most of its energy on internal battles instead of advancing pertinent workers’ and societal issues.
Addressing the graduation ceremony of the Cosatu Chris Hani Brigade in Polokwane, Limpopo today, Vavi expressed doubts on whether there would be much to report on in terms of progress made by Cosatu in implementing its 2012 congress resolutions.
“We are at our weakest organisationally. How dare instead of us implementing the congress resolutions do we then turn around to circulate rumours, scandals and character assassinate each other when the enemy is celebrating elsewhere and completely unscathed by what we’re supposed to be – a leading organ of the organised workers?” he asked.
“How dare do we engage in this mindless battle to kill and to assassinate each others’ characters without discussions when our home is burning? Where do we get the luxury from?”
Vavi said only 29% of workers were unionised while the other 71% of was unorganised and continued to ask “where do we get the time to focus our energy against one another instead of recruiting those 71% of unorganised workers into our unions?”
He said 14 million South Africans were starving while 26 million were living below the poverty line. Vavi then asked where “do we then get the energy to turn against one another” when the people (unions) are responsible for continue to suffer.
On his attack on the Cosatu top leadership, Vavi said – with him included – none of them were “angels”.
“There are no angels (and) not one member of the Cosatu leadership collective who sits in the central executive committee remains neutral. Everyone of us has taken a position in factional battles in the federation informed by their personal circumstances, their material circumstances and considerations, their political and ideological circumstances,” he said.
Vavi said the first victim that goes through the window when there is division is the truth, adding that it was “being told in a convenient manner by factionalists”.
“In most of the time in the organisation, we get divided and people don’t say what the real reasons we are divided are. They want to have a right to eat and (will say instead) there are political and ideological divisions. Nonsense! In many cases those divisions are about leaders wanting the right to eat at the expense of the most marginalised in society,” he said.
He also spoke strongly against character assassination. “Let’s not pigeon-hole one another. Let’s not sentence one another to death even before we know what the verdict is,” said Vavi.
He said he had previously been accused of stealing millions from the sale and purchase of Cosatu House in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.
“I said (at the time) bring it on, let’s investigate. Forensic auditors were brought in and there were no findings in my direction; I don’t shout what I am not practising,” he said.
He further warned against the dangers of divisions in an organisation.
“When there are divisions there is no political discussion... there are no ideologies. There are sticks; there are bricks; bullets, funerals, massacres and gangsterism in the organisation. There are all those things that we have seen in the past,” said Vavi.