NUM general secretary David Sipunzi defended Dlamini’s attendance of President Jacob Zuma’s recent birthday bash despite Cosatu’s call for the president to step down.
“If there is such a call it is absurd. Cosatu doesn’t have a decision that says any of its leadership cannot attend the birthday of President Zuma. The only decision by Cosatu is that president Zuma should step down,” he said.
“We don’t have such a thought as a union nor have we debated why he was there,” he added.
His comments came after the National Education Health Education and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) and the South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (Saccawu) expressed unhappiness over Dlamini’s attendance of Zuma’s party.
There were also moves by some Cosatu affiliates to pass a motion of no confidence in Dlamini when the federation holds a meeting of its central executive committee next month.
But there appeared to be insufficient appetite to remove Dlamini.
Leaders of the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) and the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) avoided speaking about Dlamini’s conduct at the bash in Soweto, where he urged Zuma to remain strong “in these hard, trying times”.
Popcru secretary general Nathi Theledi would not be drawn into the debate over Dlamini, saying they were only concerned about the upcoming May Day march on May 1.
Popcru and Sadtu are part of the trio, together with Nehawu, of public sector unions that have become power brokers in Cosatu.
They together pushed Cosatu to take the decision to back Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to succeed Zuma as ANC president, and were also instrumental in the federation’s decision on calling for Zuma to leave office.
Dlamini, who led the campaign to remove former Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi from the federation, told The Sunday Independent that he was unfazed by moves to boot him out.
“I am produced by the congress movement and throughout my life, for the past 29 years, I have always been guided by those values through Cosatu, the ANC and SACP. I really don’t get stressed when these organisations make certain decisions about me,” Dlamini said.
Dlamini did not regret attending Zuma’s birthday celebrations.
“I consciously attended the party because I was invited by the ANC as an NEC member like everybody who was invited,” he said.
He said he was unaware that some unions were dissatisfied.
“Such concerns would be raised with me. You don’t have to wait for a central executive committee to do that. So, I haven’t heard about that. No one has spoken to me about anything,” he said.
Finance union Sasbo also came out in Dlamini’s support.
Sasbo general secretary Joe Kokela said Dlamini was also an ANC leader.
“We don’t have a problem with the president of Cosatu going to the party. It’s us who collectively said that Cosatu must swell the ranks of the ANC. It would now be unfortunate to go to the CEC and call for a motion of no confidence against him,” he said.
He added: “Sdumo Dlamini is not the only leader of Cosatu who is an NEC (ANC) member. We don’t have a problem. As long as he makes it clear that when he stood on that podium and said “we are behind you Msholozi, he was not referring to Cosatu then we are fine. Him saying that was more about how to create a safety net for himself."