Johannesburg - Tensions ran high in the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) national executive committee (NEC) meeting over the pending suspension of general-secretary Zwelinzima Vavi for allegedly abusing the federation’s credit card to the tune of R65 000 for his personal interests.
Insiders told Independent Media that the differences played themselves out at the trade union federation’s national executive committee meeting, which started at the Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg on Thursday.
At the heart of the conflict, according to insiders, were Saftu members affiliated to Numsa – the largest affiliate of Saftu – who were pushing for the suspension while the other 14 affiliates were against it.
Some of the sources were of the view that Vavi was being punished for allegedly having failed to endorse Irvin Jim’s Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party (SRWP), which contributed to its poor showing at the 2019 national elections.
SRWP failed to secure a seat in Parliament.
“The charges are politically motivated. Saftu unions are still seized with the matter of SRWP. We are discussing the matter in our unions. There are others who are of the view that we should remain a trade union which must look after the interest of our members.
“It was for those reasons that we broke away from Cosatu. There were instances in Cosatu where members spent entire meetings just discussing who should be the ANC president. We want to avoid such instances,” one of the sources said.
But Saftu president Mac Chavalala had a different view on the matter during an earlier interview of his executive committee’s decision to place Vavi on precautionary suspension.
Earlier, Chavalala said their executive committee’s decision was a private matter until Vavi spoke about it in the media. He was reacting to the accusation by 14 affiliates that he was the one who leaked the matter to the media, including the R65 000 allegedly misused by Vavi.
“Mr Vavi was the first to raise these matters in the media. He spoke to various radio stations and a TV station about these matters. We were merely replying to allegations he made on those platforms. He also admitted that he gave bodyguards the credit cards to use. We do not have bodyguards in Saftu,” Chavalala said.
He also said that Vavi was a full-time employee, saying Saftu top leadership has overall control over him and his staff.
“We pay for his salary and car allowance,” he said.
But the affiliates are adamant that the top leadership should have consulted them before issuing any precautionary suspension to Vavi.
These were the unanimous views of 14 affiliate unions of Saftu after some of the top leadership of Saftu announced the pending actions against Vavi in the media without their knowledge.
Addressing the media, Vusi Ntshangase general secretary of Detawu and Saftu NEC member described the decision of Chavalala and three others as a group of factionalists within Saftu tasked to divide the federation,
“A group of factionalists inside our beloved federation decided to leak to the media a misguided and ill-advised letter with the intent to suspend the General Secretary, comrade Zwelinzima Vavi. Most of our members have seen this letter penned by the Saftu president, comrade Mac Chavalala.
“The letter is mischievous and malicious as it sought to portray and smear the Saftu general secretary as possibly corrupt and to face a possible suspension to answer to a series of so-called misdemeanours, including trampling on the Saftu constitution, undermining the decisions of the constitutional structures, assuming the national congress, central committee and the national executive committee,” Ntshangase said.
He was adamant that they as Saftu’s national executive committee members were not made aware of the allegations prior to it being issued by their top leadership.
Saftu national spokesperson Trevor Shaku confirmed that their NEC was still discussing the matter and would brief the media in due course.