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Johannesburg - Leaders of the South African Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) fear a palace revolt after receiving threats from some of their own members who are angry at the suspension of the union’s president Thobile Ntola for supporting embattled Cosatu boss Zwelinzima Vavi.
Some of the teachers are planning to storm the organisation’s head office in Joburg.
The details of the union’s internal wrangling and the fallout over Vavi are contained in the organisation’s secretariat report, presented by its general secretary Mugwena Maluleke to its national general council ending today in Kempton Park.
Maluleke, one of President Jacob Zuma’s supporters in the federation, also attacked Ntola for supporting Vavi.
Ntola was suspended in August for allowing Vavi to address workers at a rally in the Eastern Cape and saying that workers had forgiven the Cosatu leader for his sex scandal. Vavi’s supporters believe that Ntola was being purged for swaying some sections of Sadtu in Vavi’s favour.
“We can report that we have been receiving threatening text messages from certain disgruntled individuals who claim to be from within the union. The national office has also received some correspondence from some structures in the Eastern Cape demanding that the national executive committee reverses its decision on the president (Ntola),” he said.
“It also came to our attention that marches targeting the leadership had been planned to the national office. These enemies of the working class as characterised by those that are against the supremacy of the constitution were even spreading fallacies about the national collective leadership,” he said.
As expected, Vavi came under fire from Sadtu leaders, who expressed unhappiness with how he has behaved since he was put on suspension for sleeping with a junior staff member in the office.
Sadtu was not impressed by Vavi’s public statements after his suspension. Vavi has maintained his innocence and claimed that he was a victim of a political conspiracy by those who want to turn Cosatu into a “labour desk” of the ANC.
“Since the decision of the special central executive committee (CEC) to put the general secretary of the federation (Vavi) on special leave we have seen him go public and declare his intentions to challenge the decision of the collective. We have also seen other fellow affiliates and their surrogates equally take an antagonistic posture to the decision of the special CEC,” Maluleke said.
“We are not going to apologise for having the desire to see a federation that is devoid of personality cults, we firmly believe that there is no individual that is bigger than the whole. We know that even within our very own ranks we have those that have positioned themselves as co-co-ordinators championing a campaign allegedly in defence of the general secretary of the federation (Vavi),” he added.
Maluleke said the union was aware that some of its members wanted to protest against the decision to suspend Ntola.
The offensive against Ntola and Vavi was started by Sadtu’s deputy president Magope Maphila at the start of the council on Friday.
Maphila said that it was not the first time Sadtu suspends and investigates a leader.
He said former Sadtu and Cosatu president Willie Madisha was suspended by the party’s national executive committee in 2007.
Madisha was expelled from Cosatu and it was believed that Zuma supporters in Sadtu wanted to do the same to Ntola.
Without mentioning names, Maphila accused Ntola of using members to fight his battles.
“It is just not acceptable for us now to be confronted with leaders who are proactively working against the constitution and the union itself.”
Also on Friday, Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini said the federation would not split as it was entering a new phase of maturity.
“The challenges we are going through are a sign that we are now ascending to the next higher level of maturity where the organisation will not be centred on individuals but on its own principles, traditions and policies,” he said.
Dlamini and Vavi are embroiled in a vicious fight for the control of the federation and how it should relate to the ruling ANC.
Dlamini, Zuma’s most trusted man in Cosatu, admonished those who are critical of Cosatu leaders serving in the leadership structures of the ANC and the SACP.
“The fact of the matter is that the very same people who say these things were also on the list to Mangaung and some of them, we now know have allowed their ANC membership to lapse and are not renewing their SACP membership in order to give themselves a licence to insult from outside,” he said.
Also in the report, Maluleke notes that the union would support the ANC’s drive to get the youth vote at next year’s general elections because “as teachers we are uniquely positioned to influence these minds”.
Sadtu is in the top four of Cosatu’s largest affiliates.