281 Businessman Cyril Ramaphosa. 160107. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Johannesburg - Cyril Ramaphosa, the deputy president of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress, has offered to mediate to try and prevent the country’s biggest labour federation from splitting, a person familiar with the talks said.

Ramaphosa attended a meeting by the central executive committee of the Johannesburg-based Congress of South African Trade Unions yesterday, said the person, who was at the meeting and asked not to be identified because the outcome of the talks hasn’t been made public.

A team will be set up to help resolve internal divisions within the labour federation over a one-month period, the person said.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, the nation’s biggest labour union, has been in a dispute with the leadership of Cosatu after the federation suspended its General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, a critic of the ANC’s economic policies.

Numsa threatened to withdraw its membership from Cosatu and said it won’t support the ANC in next month’s election.

Last week a court overturned Vavi’s suspension.

He was investigated by Cosatu for alleged irregularities in the sale of the federation’s headquarters in Johannesburg and having an affair with an employee he hired.

ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu declined to comment when called on his mobile phone.

Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven said the federation will publish a statement later today, declining to comment further.

Johannesburg-based Business Day newspaper reported the mediation earlier, citing unidentified people who attended the meeting. - Bloomberg News