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Durban - The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa has given Cosatu bosses until this afternoon to lift the suspension of Zwelinzima Vavi or to release the minutes of a meeting at which the decision to suspend the popular politician was taken.
Vavi, the Cosatu general secretary, was suspended on August 14 after it emerged that earlier this year he had sex with a junior staff member at the labour federation’s headquarters.
The decision to suspend Vavi was taken at a special Cosatu meeting that was challenged by his supporters, including Numsa, which felt the meeting was unconstitutional.
Numsa and other affiliates supporting Vavi challenged the credentials of the meeting and the way in which it was convened, arguing, among other things, that it was Vavi as general secretary, and not his deputy, who had the power to call such a meeting.
The letter calling for the meeting had been signed by Vavi’s deputy, Bheki Ntshalintshali.
Numsa deputy general secretary Karl Cloete said on Sunday that his union had - after the August 14 meeting - sent a letter of demand to Cosatu.
Numsa wanted Vavi to be reinstated or else provided with the minutes of the meeting, which it hopes to use in a court challenge against Cosatu.
Initially, Cosatu had until Friday to accede to this demand.
“But yesterday (Saturday) we received a request for an extension on the date. This extension was sent through their lawyers, and so we have given them an extension until Monday 2pm,” Cloete said.
Numsa wants the meeting to be declared unlawful, and any decision taken at it nullified.
He said if Cosatu did not meet Numsa’s demands, the affiliate would have no choice but to go to court.
“It is clear to us that internally we cannot get a fair deal on this issue,” Cloete said.
Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini has previously indicated that he would be willing to defend any Cosatu decision.
Cloete said Numsa wanted Cosatu to hold a special conference at which the general membership could decide on whether Vavi stayed or not.
“If the workers feel that they want him to go, then that is fine, that would be democracy at work, not what is happening,” he said.
At least three other Cosatu affiliates are in support of Cosatu convening a special conference. They include the SA Municipal Workers Union, the Food Allied Workers Union, and the less powerful Football Players Union.
Numsa also lashed out at the secretary-general of the ANC, Gwede Mantashe, and Blade Nzimande, the SACP general secretary, for comments directed at Numsa.
Cloete said the union would not take these lying down and would reply comprehensively this week.
The union also said it would consider whether or not to have a meeting with the SACP.
“Our central committee is not averse to such a meeting, but we wish to prepare properly for such an engagement, including assessing why we would be attacked by the SACP general secretary, but on the same platform requesting an engagement with Numsa.”
Cloete described the situation at Cosatu as heading for a political rupture.
“The differences are on whether Cosatu should remain a militant and radical organisation, or whether it should be made a lap-dog organisation.”