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‘Political approach’ needed for Cosatu

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The ANC has stepped in once again to help embattled Cosatu deal with the internal struggles which have divided the trade union federation.

This included the charges against its general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) president Sidumo Dlamini told reporters in Johannesburg on Thursday.

“The ANC-led process shall deal with that matter in a political approach that we have agreed to, to deal with those issues.

“Those matters [the charges] are part and parcel of the political process we going to deal with,” he said.

Vavi was suspended last year for having an affair with a junior employee. The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), a strong ally of Vavi’s, took Cosatu to court over his suspension. Earlier this year the suspension was overturned and Vavi returned to work.

Numsa was expelled from Cosatu at a CEC meeting held on November 7.

The CEC sat again on Wednesday in what was said to be a continuation from the meeting where the metalworkers union was ousted.

It was at this meeting that it was decided that all outstanding issues, which included Vavi’s disciplinary and a call for Cosatu to hold a special national congress, would be dealt with by a political approach.

Dlamini said unity in Cosatu was the most important issue.

“We are pulling [out] all stops to ensure that unity is indeed realised, that divisions and cracks within the federation are closed…

“We believe very strongly that this approach adopted… will result in uniting the federation.”

He added that taking this political approach did not mean that Cosatu was treating Vavi differently from anyone else in the trade union federation.

“The GS [general secretary] months ago in this CEC said it quite clearly, Cosatu is the organisation and that nobody is above Cosatu. It continues to reign.

“We are not treating him with soft gloves, we are simply focusing ourselves on the unity of the federation. It matters most to this leadership.”

The charges against Vavi and other issues had been put on hold since April when the African National Congress task team intervened to help Cosatu with its internal problems.

In October the ANC handed over its report to Cosatu with recommendations on how to deal with the crisis.

Vavi on Thursday said all issues had been put in abeyance but since the release of the ANC report the issues were open for discussion again.

The issues on the agenda included an update on the disciplinary process against Vavi, an update on litigation against Cosatu and Dlamini’s report on the request for the special national congress.

Vavi said it was decided that all matters on the agenda required informal discussions among all Cosatu affiliates.

“We are discussing those matters; we’re no longer putting them in abeyance.

“In this regard the CEC agreed to allow the NOBs [national office bearers] working with the ANC task team and former Cosatu leaders to develop proposals on how this engagement will be undertaken,” he said.

The ANC task team would meet Cosatu national office bearers on Monday or Tuesday.

Vavi said during Wednesday’s meeting the CEC received a report from Dlamini regarding the call for a special national congress.

It was decided that a special national congress would be held.

Numsa before it was expelled, and seven unions supporting it, had been calling for a special national congress since last year.

“The CEC endorsed the report, which includes working together towards a date on which the congress will be held,” Vavi said.

“This date will be finalised as part of the engagement we will embark on.”

Numsa would be allowed to appeal against its expulsion at Cosatu’s next national congress which was expected to be held in September next year.

Dlamini said the CEC was looking at whether it would be feasible to have two national congresses in one year.

Vavi said Numsa had not yet indicated to Cosatu that it would appeal against its expulsion.

Last week, Vavi wrote a letter to affiliates saying he did not support Numsa’s expulsion. He would not be drawn on the matter on Thursday, saying it would “not help the process”. SAPA

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