Johannesburg - Reinstated Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi warned against a split of the trade union federation on his first day back at work on Monday.
His comments come amid a call by the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), his fiercest ally, for a breakaway union by exploring the formation of a workers’ party outside the tripartite alliance.
Numsa has been wooing unions outside Cosatu and other labour federations, such as the National Council of Trade Unions and the Federation of Unions of South Africa.
Vavi took a dim view of splitting the federation.
“Those who declare themselves to be haters… those who are recklessly saying they are prepared to start afresh as if they don’t know what led to the formation (of Cosatu), I say we can’t undo what our forefathers put together, the 25 000 shop stewards who built (Cosatu),” Vavi told a small number of workers and journalists outside Cosatu’s Joburg headquarters.
“Only those who don’t know that history would be so reckless.”
Political analyst Professor Steven Friedman said Vavi’s comments could be interpreted either way, depending on what he thinks his prospects are in Cosatu.
Vavi’s return to the federation did not guarantee uncontested tenure of his position.
His detractors in the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union appeared determined to continue their campaign against him, and warned last week it was time to “split the splitters”.
Vavi’s warning against “unity at all costs” in the federation could set him on a collision course with those unions who campaigned for him to be removed.
“There will be no unity with people who condone corruption. There will be no unity with people who defy the decisions of the federation, who refuse to take up the struggle against e-tolls,” Vavi said.
A special central executive committee meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, according to Cosatu officials, despite earlier rumours that the gathering could be cancelled.
The gathering could determine Vavi’s future within Cosatu.
The ANC declined to comment and the SACP said it had full confidence in Cosatu’s ability to address any challenges it faced.