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Johannesburg - Embattled Cosatu boss Zwelinzima Vavi has slammed the federation’s president, Sdumo Dlamini, accusing him of delaying the special congress meant to save the suspended general secretary’s political life.
Vavi’s criticism of Dlamini’s actions after calls by nine Cosatu affiliates for a special elective congress is contained in his court papers filed late on Friday.
In his affidavit, responding to Cosatu and seven other affiliates of the federation supporting his suspension, Vavi says Dlamini misconstrued his powers when it came to the issue of convening the special meeting.
“While the president states that he has no interest in delaying the meeting, the factors that he lists are all logistical reasons which might be held to mitigate against holding the meeting at all.
Absent is an unequivocal commitment to holding the meeting as soon as it can reasonably be arranged,” he said.
In late September, nine Cosatu affiliates called for a special congress to resolve the crisis plaguing the federation.
Led by the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, Cosatu’s biggest affiliate, the unions are planning to use the congress to remove Dlamini and reinstate Vavi.
Dlamini wrote a letter to affiliates last month in which he said he had started processes to convene the congress and denied allegations that he was delaying it.
“More importantly, I want to stress and assure all that as the president of Cosatu, I have no intention or interest to delay convening the special national congress,” he wrote.
Dlamini said he would give a report on the special congress when the federation’s central executive committee – its highest decision-making body between conferences – sat from November 18.
But Vavi believes Dlamini is not well-meaning and has misconstrued his powers.
“The president’s letter to affiliates on October 8 does not contain a clear and unequivocal acknowledgement of what the constitution requires him to do.
The president must convene the meeting when requisitioned to do so, and he requires no mandate or input from the central executive committee,” he said. He added that: “I persist in my view regarding an intentional delay of the special national congress.”
Dlamini said the Cosatu constitution did not say a special congress could be held for an official to appeal.
“I am not going to comment much about matters that are in court.
“But the constitution (of Cosatu) does not say that a special congress can be convened for an office-bearer to appeal,” he said.
Dlamini could not be reached for comment.
The two leaders have been embroiled in a protracted battle for the control of Cosatu and how it should relate to the ruling ANC and its other alliance partner, the SACP.
Their fight has threatened to split Cosatu and weaken it in key battles, such as Gauteng e-tolls, labour brokers and the youth employment incentive scheme.
Vavi reiterated his call for a special congress in his court papers, arguing that there was a political campaign to remove him from his position.
“My internal remedy is to appeal to the national congress. No reasonable person can expect me to go back to the CEC (central executive committee), which has not only unlawfully decided to suspend me, but still persists even under oath in attempting to defend its unlawful actions,” he said.
The campaign to reinstate Vavi has reached boiling point, with some of his supporters now resorting to strong-arm tactics.
Last week, this newspaper reported that leaders of teacher union Sadtu stated in a report tabled at their national general council that they received threatening messages for suspending the union’s president, Thobile Ntola, a Vavi sympathiser.
Sadtu, one of Cosatu’s largest affiliates, suspended Ntola in August for giving Vavi a platform to address teachers in the Eastern Cape and publicly saying that some teachers had forgiven Vavi for sleeping with a junior staffer.
In September, Numsa gave Dlamini an ultimatum to convene the special congress, or they would declare a motion of no confidence in him. Vavi says in the court papers that he has lost confidence in the federation’s CEC.
“It is, with respect, far-fetched to submit that I should return to the CEC on the question of my suspension when the very same body has ridden roughshod, not only over my contractual rights, but also over the requirements and provisions of the constitution,” he said.
“No reasonable person can expect me to return to this body and get any justice in that regard,” he added.
In its papers, Cosatu accuses Vavi of failing to “submit himself” to the ongoing probe into him, engaging in divisive conduct, and violating his suspension conditions – all of which he denies.
Cosatu’s court case is backed by seven of its affiliates which oppose Vavi, including the National Union of Mineworkers, Sadtu and the National, Education, Health and Allied Workers Union. Police union Popcru is also one of the unions supporting Cosatu in defending itself against Vavi in court.
Vavi is backed in his court action by Numsa and the Food and Allied Workers Union, among others.
Vavi says the action of the seven unions “made it clear that the provisions of the constitution mean nothing to these respondents”.
“I am accountable to Cosatu and its national structures, and especially to the national congress which elected me. I am not accountable to any single affiliate or group of affiliates, except through the constitutional structures,” he charged. - Sunday Independent