Zwelinzima Vavi and Irvin Jim. Picture: Matthews Baloyi/African News Agency (ANA)
Johannesburg - The relationship between trade union allies Zwelinzima Vavi and Irvin Jim appears to have soured.

This comes after the decision by Jim and leaders of trade union Numsa to form a party to contest next week’s elections.

Vavi said his federation, the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), was not campaigning for Jim’s Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party (SRWP), because the latter kept the federation in dark about its decision to contest the elections.

“They (SRWP leaders) all have rights to campaign for workers’ support, but Saftu as an organisation is not campaigning for them,” he said.

The two organisations - Numsa and Saftu - were the brainchildren of Numsa, which together with its general secretary Jim and Vavi were expelled from Cosatu in 2015.

Vavi said his federation, which was launched in 2017, was not officially informed that SRWP, which Jim leads, was to contest the May 8 elections.

“Saftu has not discussed the issue of who we will vote for, and we cannot impose that without discussion. In an organisation there should be discussions and agreements,” he said.

A resolution which led to the forming of SRWP was taken at Numsa’s 2013 national conference. The socialist party was launched early last month.

When contacted, Jim declined to comment except to say he had heard that Vavi had said Saftu was not campaigning for the SRWP.

“I don’t know exactly what he said, I have just been told. I still need to get exactly what he said. I don’t want to answer you until I get what Vavi said,” said Jim.

The Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) is among Saftu’s 23 affiliates. Its national organiser, August Mbele, said although his union was not campaigning for any political party, he would as an individual vote for SRWP.

“As workers across South Africa we should vote for that party,” said Mbele.

He said that an official decision to support SRWP would be taken at Saftu’s national conference next year.


He said Saftu could not support SRWP without the mandate of the affiliate unions, since “we have members who come from different political parties”.

“Right now there is only one decision: that unions which fall under Saftu would not work with any political party, and that decision still stands.

“Each affiliate would, during their congresses, take that decision, which would then be adopted by Saftu.

“As individual workers, like myself as organiser of Fawu, I will vote for it individually, but I am not going to tell Fawu members to vote for it,” Mbele said.

Political Bureau