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Johannesburg - Cosatu must remain an independent organisation whose leaders should not serve on the national executive committee (NEC) of the ANC, Zwelinzima Vavi said on Tuesday.
“That is why I have been refusing to stand at previous (ANC) conferences, when I was asked to stand, from Stellenbosch, to Polokwane, and to Mangaung,” the trade union federation's suspended general secretary said.
“That is why I refused to stand in the (SA Communist Party's) central committee for the same reasons.”
Vavi was speaking at the National Union of Metalworkers of SA's (Numsa) political school in Benoni, titled the Mbuyiselo Ngwenda Brigade. Ngwenda was Numsa's former general secretary.
Vavi said he was speaking as a friend and neighbour of the late Ngwenda.
He said in the first years of democracy, Ngwenda fought against letting national office bearers in the Congress of SA Trade Unions serve on the African National Congress's NEC.
He initially disagreed with Ngwenda, but later changed his mind.
“(This is) not because I am a counter-revolutionary, or oppositionist, as everyone is saying, but because I felt that you have to at least spare the office of the general secretary or president,” he said.
“Those two should continue to speak only wearing the face and hat of the mandate they have received from the union.”
Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini was voted in as an NEC member at the ANC's last conference in Mangaung.
Vavi said not standing for an NEC position was not a new decision for him.
“It is about a principle guaranteeing the independence of the trade movement; it is also about eliminating any confusion,” he said.
“My detractors now say that this man, because he does not want to stand, is because he has ambitions to be the leader of his own political party... or maybe (wants to be ) in (Mamphela Ramphele's party) Agang... and he is in the Americans' pocket. That is the politics of today.”
Vavi said Numsa had returned to the way it was when Ngwenda was general secretary.
“(It is) defending the principle of a militant, independent, and fighting federation,” he said.
“This is against attempts to blackmail us to agree to be a conveyer belt whose main responsibility will be to explain to workers why they remain workers after 20 years of democracy... without decent work, (and are) exploited.”
He said unity in Cosatu was “sacrosanct”.
“We must fight and die, for the unity of the federation,” Vavi said.
“But unity is on the basis of achieving an independent... Cosatu and nothing else.”
He said the tripartite alliance between Cosatu, the SACP, and the ANC was not maintained for “sentimental reasons”.
“We are maintaining it as a weapon in the hands of the working class to help transform our society so that we realise all the goals of the national democratic revolution.”
A Cosatu central executive committee meeting is being held this week, at which Vavi's fate in the federation will reportedly be finalised.
On Friday, Vavi said he was joining Numsa's court bid to have the last central executive meeting, which decided on his suspension, declared “unconstitutional”.
He also wanted final relief to review and set aside the decision to suspend him and institute disciplinary proceedings.
Last month, Cosatu announced that Vavi had been put on special leave pending the outcome of a disciplinary hearing relating to an affair he had with a junior employee.
In July, the employee accused him of rape. He said he had a consensual affair with her. The woman subsequently withdrew a sexual harassment complaint against him.