Beleaguered union boss Zwelinzima Vavi will come face to face with his rape accuser when an internal Cosatu hearing into his conduct starts. File photo: Neil Baynes

Johannesburg - Cosatu appears to have a mountain to climb amid some of its affiliates’ faltering memberships and allegations of strife within its leadership.

The trade union federation will start its four-day collective bargaining, organising and campaigns conference in Boksburg amid reports that its general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, is being investigated for alleged financial impropriety relating to the sale of the old Cosatu House in Joburg and the purchase of the union’s new R50 million headquarters.

Cosatu said it had decided “to continue the discussion and to bring in independent persons to facilitate further discussions that are necessary to address all issues raised in the meeting”.

At the conference, the federation will scrutinise its weaknesses and strengths regarding recruitment, organising, servicing, collective bargaining and campaigning.

This will be done in an effort to address huge challenges faced by some of its affiliates who are losing members to splinter groups and new rival unions.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Cosatu’s biggest affiliate, which had more than 270 000 members at the middle of last year, is fighting to retain many members who’re reportedly leaving.

NUM’s woes started at Rustenburg platinum mines where members accused it of being in bed with employers during wage strikes.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) of former NUM leader Joseph Mathunjwa has benefited from NUM’s loss.

Amcu has been declared a majority union, unseating NUM. NUM is contesting this and has called for membership verification.

It remains to be seen whether NUM will remain Cosatu’s leading affiliate in terms of membership numbers if it can be proved that the union has lost many members at the platinum mines.

Also suffering a blow is the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union, another Cosatu affiliate whose numbers dwindled due to a splinter group that formed the National Transport and Allied Workers Union amid factional strife among its leadership.

In his secretarial report to Cosatu’s 11th national congress last year, Vavi said “disgruntled leaders who have fallen foul of organisational discipline are mobilising support, using populist tactics and exploiting our organisational weaknesses.

“We have seen the potentially devastating impact of opportunistic splinter groups on the unity of workers, most graphically seen recently with the activities of Amcu set up by a former NUM leader in opposition to NUM,” he said.

The Star