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Durban - The battle to oust Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has claimed fresh casualties, with the eThekwini North leadership of the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) being disbanded, seemingly without warning.
A court battle now looms, with eight former Sadtu office-bearers seeking a court order barring the would-be leadership from interfering in the branch or calling any further meetings.
The move coincided with the suspension of Sadtu’s Eastern Cape president, Thobile Ntola - also a strong Vavi ally.
Ntola was suspended last week Tuesday by Sadtu for allowing Vavi to address the union’s gathering in the Eastern Cape.
Vavi was suspended on Thursday for bringing the union into disrepute for having sex with a junior Cosatu employee at the organisation’s headquarters.
The eight said they had been stripped of their leadership positions without warning earlier this month. They claim they had been labelled “Vavi’s project” for questioning the process of electing their replacements and the alleged “flouting” of the union’s constitution by the provincial leadership.
“Sadtu (provincial) leadership has a foreign tendency. If you stand out for what you believe in, they label you. They say we are Vavi’s project. Some members of the province say we are a project of Vavi, Irvin Jim (National Union of Metalworkers of SA general secretary) and Ntola. That means we are anti-Zuma,” said Mzamo Manzi, a Sadtu member in the eThekwini North region.
Axed branch secretary Dumsani Gumbi said that there was “smear campaign” against them for speaking out against the “unconstitutional activities” in the union.
“We are accused of allying ourselves with certain people. They are creating enemies for us once they say we are anti-Zuma,” he said.
Gumbi said they were still awaiting a response from Sadtu’s provincial leadership over the various claims.
“We need an independent body to hear our side of the story. We cannot be axed because of rumours that we are allied with Ntola.”
KZN Sadtu general secretary Mbuyiseni Mathonsi told the Daily News last week that any Vavi ally in the union would be suspended.
“We suspended the president (Ntola). We suspend hooligans or people if they say they are a Vavi project,” he said.
Mathonsi would not comment on allegations of violation of the union’s constitution by the provincial structures.
Manzi said some of the branches had a problem with the provincial leadership.
“We strongly feel that this branch of Sadtu is not being run by the constitution. It is (now) run by ignorant people who want to serve their own interests,” Manzi said.
Gumbi said they were not informed about the decision to disband them.
He said the decision to disband them was an “illegitimate motion” raised by the new chairman in the eThekwini North region, Simphiwe Mpungose, at a meeting they were not informed about.
“There are no legitimate reasons (for our disbandment). Even that decision was never communicated with us.
“There were no investigations, written formalities or a letter to say that we are no longer leaders in the region. They didn’t tell us because they know it was illegitimate. They just want office politics to be national,” said Gumbi.
Gumbi said his interests were not with Vavi or Jacob Zuma. He joined Sadtu as a teacher who wanted his rights to be protected by the union.
Manzi called for national intervention.
“The national leadership must come down and address this issue. We are going to fight for justice,” said Manzi.
Police and private security escorted the new leadership of the eThekwini North region from its inaugural meeting on Tuesday in the face of an angry protest by the axed leadership and their supporters.
The interim court order, granted last week, has interdicted and restrained Mpungose, Sesi Cindi and Mthokozisi Mpunzana from convening any further meeting of the branch.
It has also interdicted and restrained them from interfering with the eight who brought the application in exercising their duties as office-bearers.
The court has given the trio until Tuesday to respond.