452-a newly reenstated General Secretary of Cosatu Zwelinzima Vavi outside the Cosatu House this morning. Braamfontein Johannesburg 07-04-2014 Picture:Dumisani Dube

Johannesburg - Zwelinzima Vavi has denied ever calling on Cosatu’s members to campaign for the ANC, blaming it on an inaccurate newspaper report, one which wreaked havoc in alliance circles throughout the week.

Speaking to The Sunday Independent on Saturday, back-from-the-cold Vavi said he was quoted out of context while speaking about the 20th anniversary of democracy in which he laid out the gains achieved over the past few years, which explain “why Cosatu supports the ANC”.

“I did not call on people to campaign for the ANC. And I wouldn’t do that,” he said.

Even if he had, it would have been reasonable, says Numsa chief Irvin Jim.

“You must understand that a decision was taken at the last Cosatu congress (in 2012) to campaign for the ANC and as general secretary (Vavi) is obliged to stand by that.

Numsa took a different decision (at the end of last year) not to support the ANC. But Vavi is not part of Numsa. He is general secretary of Cosatu,” said Jim, rallying to Vavi’s defence only days after he warned Vavi against making such remarks.

It is understood the about-turn on the part of both men came after a private meeting on Saturday, though they insist this is not the case. Both spoke to us independently of one another on Saturday.

Jim was also quick to kill reports that it was the ANC deputy president, as part of a ruling party task team, who rescued the union federation from its months-long crisis. “This is a hollow victory, if you ask me,” Jim said.

“Cyril (Ramaphosa) came and spoke to us for about half an hour and then left. There was no deal. There was no victory.

“Basically they (the ANC) asked for time so that they could consult with the various federations, and that is what was agreed. “A special CEC will be held in a fortnight and it is then that it will be decided if Numsa will be expelled and (a decision will be taken as to) what will happen to Vavi.”

The 19-member union federation is still in as much of a crisis today as it has been since the Jacob Zuma era began, says Jim, and to insist otherwise would be “foolish”.

Jim pointed to ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe and SACP chief Blade Nzimande as key to Cosatu’s problems.

“Those who wanted Vavi out still want him out,” he says, while the public sector unions and the industrial unions are very far apart on basic policy direction.

At the end of last year, Numsa, Cosatu’s largest member, decided not only to withdraw key campaign support for the ANC but also to embark on radical policies that would overhaul the labour force, and society in general.

Should Cosatu ATU decide to expel Numsa, Jim’s union has hinted at the possibility of forming a labour-oriented political party, but on that he would not be drawn.

What are the chances of Numsa being expelled. “Let me put it to you this way. We, as Numsa took a decision and we are not about to change that. If the forces within Cosatu who don’t like it are still in the driving seat, then we will be expelled.”

According to Vavi, if he can unite Cosatu around issues that are genuinely in the interests of workers, then he will do so.

“But if there are members who drag their heels because they don’t support the National Development Plan, which is essentially anti-workerist, then there is nothing I can do about that,” he says.

Meanwhile, the rumour mill has been rife with talk of Vavi being offered a position by the ANC as a way to keep him on side.

Some of those close to the Cosatu chief talk of an approach that was made privately two months ago in a bid to understand what Vavi’s core concerns were and what it might take to appease him. Vavi rubbished the very mention of it while a supporter of his said: “There was no deal. No offer. And there is none now.”

Sunday Independent