Johannesburg - Thobile Ntola, suspended president of teachers’ union Sadtu, said on Tuesday night he was seeking legal advice over the union’s decision to push him out.
This came after a special national executive committee of the SA Democratic Teachers Union summarily suspended him on Tuesday for allowing embattled Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi to address the union’s gathering in the Eastern Cape a few days after his sex scandal made headlines.
The decision made Ntola the first casualty of the ongoing battle for the soul of the labour federation between supporters of Vavi and his rival, Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini.
It also came on the eve of Wednesday’s special Cosatu central executive committee (CEC) meeting that is expected to decide Vavi’s future as the federation’s general secretary in the wake of his embarrassing sex scandal.
The CEC, comprising the presidents and general secretaries of Cosatu-affiliated unions, is expected to cast a secret ballot on whether to suspend or discipline Vavi for allegedly bringing the federation into disrepute.
Vavi and Dlamini lead rival Cosatu factions that have had running battles over the federation’s socio-political ideology and whether to give President Jacob Zuma’s government unqualified support.
Vavi did not support Zuma’s re-election in Mangaung, while Dlamini is one of Zuma’s closest allies in the tripartite alliance.
Ntola, who is seen as close to Vavi, on Tuesday night confirmed his suspension.
“I was informed that I was put on suspension on two factors. The first was to allow Zwelinzima Vavi to address teachers in Port Elizabeth. The second was to comment on his speech. These were the reasons given for my suspension,” Ntola said.
“This is a legal matter. I will have to seek advice before taking any action against them.”
Ntola leads a pro-Vavi Sadtu faction. Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke is said to be leading the anti-Vavi group.
Maluleke on Tuesday declined to comment, saying his organisation did not allow him to discuss “internal matters” with the media.
But Sadtu members said the last straw for the union was Ntola’s decision to accompany Vavi when the Cosatu leader addressed Sadtu’s regional biennial general meeting in Port Elizabeth on August 2.
According to some sources, Ntola was not given permission to accompany Vavi to the meeting, which took place just days after Vavi’s sex scandal broke.
Ntola’s suspension came a day after Cosatu’s biggest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), denounced Vavi’s sex scandal as a second, desperate attempt by his rivals to kick him out of Cosatu.
Numsa blamed a “factionalist” Dlamini for attempts to marginalise Vavi.
The union added it had since lost confidence in Dlamini.