Why Vavi’s future is at stake
By LEE-ANN ALFREDS
Cosatu’s central executive committee, its highest decision-making body between congresses and central committees, meets on Monday to decide on the future of its popular general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi – an outspoken critic of corruption by the ANC-led government – who has been accused of corruption. Lee-Ann Alfreds provides a guide to the issues behind the story.
(For background to this story see: Zuma’s final battle for control of the ANC)
WHAT IS AT STAKE?
The leadership of Cosatu as well as its political and moral direction.
Some analysts believe the crisis is the result of an SACP plot to oust Vavi, who is considered too critical of the ANC-led government of President Jacob Zuma and some of the government’s policies, especially the National Development Plan.
There is also an argument that the crisis centres on Cosatu’s increasing proclivity over the past few years to dabble in “high politics” and the ANC’s leadership wrangles at the expense of focusing on labour issues and protecting workers’ interests.
Vavi’s main foes, Cosatu president, Sidumo Dlamini, who is a staunch supporter of Zuma, and National Union Mineworkers (NUM) secretary general Frans Baleni, are in favour of fostering a closer working relationship with the ANC while Vavi’s main supporter, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), is focused more on building worker power and is critical of a too-cosy relationship with the ruling party.
WHO WILL ATTEND THE MEETING?
Cosatu’s six national office bearers, the nine provincial chairmen and general secretaries and the national leaders and representatives from the 19 affiliate unions.
The 11 unions with over 80 000 members are represented by four national leaders, while the remaining eight affiliates with fewer than 80 000 members are allowed only two.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE TO VOTE?
Only those representing the affiliate unions are allowed to vote, meaning 60 representatives have voting power.
The national office bearers and provincial representatives have speaking rights but no voting rights.
WHERE WILL THE MEETING TAKE PLACE?
At the Cosatu head office in Braamfontein, Joburg.
WHAT IS VAVI ACCUSED OF?
The main allegations centre on Vavi’s purported selling of the old Cosatu House building in Braamfontein, Joburg for R10 million, far below its market value.
The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) claims it offered to buy the building for R15m, but Vavi allegedly turned the union down and sold it to a company linked to a relative of his.
They also accuse him of awarding a contract to a company that allegedly employs his daughter.
Vavi is also alleged to be involved in financial impropriety relating to the procurement of the federation’s new R50m Braamfontein headquarters.
Other allegations relate to claims that Vavi has collaborated with opposition parties and rival unions to destabilise the government and the ANC, and that he has meddled in the internal affairs of one of the federation’s affiliates.
Union leaders also accuse Vavi of using Corruption Watch, of which he is a board member, to launch probes into their activities.
WHAT WILL THE DELEGATES BASE THEIR DECISION ON?
A three-pronged inquiry has allegedly been under way over the last few months. Auditors Sizwe Ntsaluba Gobodo have conducted a forensic audit into Cosatu’s administration and finances while respected labour lawyer Charles Nupen has headed up a political commission into the claims.
Former South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) president Petrus Mashishi has been looking into “organisational matters”.
All three were to have reported back to federation before the executive committee, but the Mail & Guardian reported this week that the inquiry had stalled because the union leaders had failed to provide a clear mandate on how to conduct it.
WHO SUPPORTS VAVI?
Numsa, the Food and Allied Workers Union, Samwu, the Democratic Nursing Association of SA and the SA State and Allied Workers Union.
WHO IS LOOKING TO GET RID OF HIM?
NUM, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union, Popcru, the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union and the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers Union.
WHO IS UNDECIDED?
The SA Democratic Teachers Union and smaller affiliates, the Communication Workers Union, the Public and Allied Workers Union of SA, the South African Democratic Nurses’ Union, the SA Football Players Union, SA Medical Association and finance union Sasbo.
WHO IS HOLDING THEIR CARDS CLOSE TO THEIR CHEST?
The Southern African Clothing and Textiles Workers Union and the SA Commercial Catering and Allied Workers Union.
HOW WILL A DECISION BE CARRIED?
By simple majority (in other words 31 votes) – generally through a show of hands. If the meeting agrees, a ballot can be held. For a decision to be made, a motion must be tabled and seconded and then voted on.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN IN TERMS OF VOTES?
It is too close to call. While the Business Day has indicated that the numbers are against Vavi – with 20 guaranteed votes against him compared to about 12 for him – a final estimate is difficult as it is unclear where some of the unions stand on the issue. Should the newspaper be correct, the anti-Vavi faction only requires a few more votes to carry the day.
WHAT ARE THE OTHER POSSIBLE SCENARIOS?
Instead of being ousted, the pro-Vavi faction may be successful in carrying a proposal that a special congress be held so that ordinary members can be given the opportunity to decide on his future. If this happens, it is more than likely that Vavi will carry the day as he is popular with the rank-and-file.
Source: Saturday Star