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The decision to suspend Zwelinzima Vavi has once more sent political pundits into a frenzy of speculation about the possible split in Cosatu, says Mbazima Shilowa.
Johannesburg - The decision by the Cosatu Central Executive Committee to suspend Zwelinzima Vavi has once more sent political pundits into a frenzy of speculation about a possible split in Cosatu.
The talk is of a formal split and formation of a rival federation.
I hold the view that Cosatu split into two distinct factions when it went to its 11th national congress.
This was in part because there were people who already wanted Vavi out. He remained the general secretary only because his detractors could not find an alternative candidate to challenge him.
The National Union of Mineworkers of SA’s strategy to also field a challenger to S’dumo Dlamini should Vavi be contested led to the false truce that resulted in Vavi and Dlamini being re-elected unopposed.
Contrary to those who think Vavi’s suspension will lead to a split, I do not believe it will, notwithstanding the revelations by Vavi that there had been a plot to oust him long before his sexual encounter with a Cosatu employee, whom he employed apparently for her looks and without following proper procedure.
Cosatu may well split on issues of ideology, strategy and tactics to take forward workers’ issues, as well as the route currently being followed by the ANC, be it its tolerance of corruption, attempt to turn Cosatu into a labour desk, or attempts by some in its leadership to tone down its militancy on e-tolls, labour brokers and opposition to the National Development Plan.
The reason why Cosatu won’t split on the current situation is that, while workers may agree that he handed his detractors his head on a platter, he’s being persecuted for standing firm in defence of the independence of Cosatu, even as it may remain in alliance with the ANC.
They know that it will be difficult to justify breaking away because the general secretary allegedly hired an employee unprocedurally and rewarded himself for his efforts.
This is not to say that unions such as the Food and Allied Workers Union and Numsa will never break away.
I think they may, but on the rest of the issues that are currently the subject of mediation by Charles Nupen and Petrus Mashishi.
The rest of the issues can easily be challenged in court. Was the meeting properly convened?
In the presence of the general secretary and without him having declined to carry the decision of the national office bearers, could the deputy general secretary convene such a meeting? Was the agenda of the special meeting properly set out?
Were the unions that participated in good standing or not, more so regarding payment of subscriptions and were they party to the decision taken by vote?
The revelations by Vavi that Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini has circulated a dossier purportedly from intelligence has further muddied the waters.
A few years back the country read what was known as “hoax e-mails and Browse Mole” reports.
We all accepted these e-mails and reports as fabrications, except those who wanted to believe in such conspiracies. The truth will not matter any more, even as Vavi has accepted that he acted inappropriately and apologised publicly.
What will take centre stage is the fact that a scheme had been hatched even before Mangaung, alleging that he is working with the opposition and others who were opposed to President Jacob Zuma’s re-election. The suspension of Thobile Ntola, the president of the SA Democratic Teachers Union, for inviting Vavi to their meeting is further proof of truth being the casualty. His suspension seems to have been aimed at silencing the opposition.
I hold the view that Cosatu lost its coherence when in 2007 it decided to engage in open lobbying inside the ANC, something which was unheard of.
Also that it expelled its former president, Willie Madisha, for something unrelated to Cosatu soon after he was re-elected.
Compelling as the argument may be by Numsa for a special Cosatu congress to discuss the issues around Vavi, it rings hollow, as the central executive committee replaced Madisha without a special congress.
* Shilowa is the former general secretary of Cosatu.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.