Zwelinzima Vavi. File picture: Neil Baynes

Johannesburg - Cosatu general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, will insist that all victims of “factional” suspensions and “cut-throat politics” be allowed back into the fold, he has told members of the SA Democratic Teachers Union in East London.

In my three decades as an activist in the union movement I have never seen voting in the Cosatu CEC (central executive committee) as it is currently the case,” he said.

“Of course I insist that normalising this situation requires that all the victims of factional suspensions and cut-throat politics be allowed back in our fold.”

Vavi was himself a victim of a decision by the CEC, which decided to suspend him after he had sex with a junior staff member at work.

And in another possible reading into his comments, his biggest ally in the trade union federation, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) has twice survived attempts to suspend it in CEC meetings.

Vavi said Cosatu needed to emerge from its current toxic environment “as soon as possible or risk allowing a vacuum to develop”.

The vacuum, he said, would allow “new kids on the block” to emerge in “the space we risk abandoning”.

This could include a break-away federation - should Numsa be expelled - but may also allude to the meteoric rise of the Association of Mining and Construction-workers Union (Amcu).

Amcu recently made a major break-through when it clinched a R12 500 wage-agreement for workers in the platinum sector after a five month long strike – symbolically the biggest increase workers have ever won.

In recent months Sadtu itself has faced factional in-fighting amid allegations of corruption, with the dismissal of its president, Thobile Ntola, who is a Vavi-supporter.

Ntola is accused of blackmailing union service-providers into buying him a home, and providing him with cars, among other serious corruption allegations, although the union has so far refused to charge him.

Members of Sadtu in the Eastern Cape are understood to be planning to go to court to push for his reinstatement.

But Vavi said that while unemployment stood at 36 percent, the federation was concerned less with pressing matters such as this and more occupied with its internal affairs.

“We are not preoccupied with how we should ensure we contribute to the elimination of dysfunctional schools and ensure that 50 percent of working class children do not get marginalised by our education system,” he said.

“We are not preoccupying ourselves with ending the enslaving labour brokering system together with casualisation and subcontracting practices that have combined to sentence 50 percent of South African workers to poverty wages of less than R3000 per month.

“The agenda of our meetings are dominated by factional activities. I have never experienced the rate of suspensions and summary dismissals of members by the democratic trade union movement as is currently happening.”

Political Bureau