Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has warned that the labour federation risks irrelevance if it doesn’t stop infighting and get its house in order.
Speaking at the national congress of nursing union Denosa, at the Birchwood conference centre in Boksburg today, Vavi admitted that the federation was paralysed by infighting and that this would start alienating members.
“Workers follow unions on the basis of the victory it scores today not tomorrow. Time is running out for us in the leadership of the federation to fix our house and avoid reducing it to irrelevance,” he said.
He said younger workers who are joining Cosatu unions did not have sentimental attachment to its history but wanted strong unions that would fight for their labour rights.
“Young workers don’t remember the Cosatu of old. They judge it for its performance of today,” he said.
Vavi was in a boisterous mood after receiving a hero’s welcome from a union that is part of the eight Cosatu-affiliated unions, along with Numsa, that support him.
Earlier, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe and South African Communist Party leader Blade Nzimande had received a muted welcome from the delegates.
He warned that Cosatu affiliates should avoid being turned into sweetheart unions, saying they should defend their independence and that of important institutions of state, such as the Public Protector, that are battling corruption.
Nzimande had earlier warned delegates to be vigilant at all times and ask questions about the investments made by their unions. He said some unions’ leaders were using the millions garnered through investment vehicles to fight personal battles, a tacit reference to metalworkers union Numsa and its leaders who wanted out of Cosatu and the alliance.
“Union leaders are corruptible and co-optable. As union members you are big business,” said Nzimande.
The SACP boss also denied that his party was behind the infighting in Cosatu and said it worked very hard to support workers and get Cosatu to where it is today.
Mantashe rubbished assertions that the ANC wanted to weaken Cosatu and turn into a labour desk reporting to Luthuli House. He said if the ANC wanted a labour desk it would form one itself and not weaken Cosatu in that manner.
“The ANC doesn’t want Cosatu to be a labour desk. We will never draft resolutions for Cosatu,” he said.