The decision taken by the Cosatu central executive committee to expel Numsa from the trade union federation has “momentous implications”, general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said on Tuesday.
“I am ready to admit that at times I have had to articulate views that contradicted my own, but always with the firm belief that they were arrived at democratically, and therefore have had to serve as a disciplined cadre,” he said in a letter sent to all Cosatu affiliates, which Sapa obtained a copy of.
“However, the magnitude of the decision that was taken by the special CEC is not only of historical importance but has momentous implications.”
The decision taken by the CEC could destroy the Congress of SA Trade Unions, Vavi said. The letter was sent on Tuesday and addressed to the Cosatu president, affiliate general secretaries and provincial secretaries.
He said he was sending the letter in his capacity as general secretary but also in his personal capacity.
Earlier, Vavi did not attend a media briefing held by the Cosatu national office bearers in Johannesburg. Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini told reporters Vavi was not in attendance because he was consulting his lawyer on the defamation case against him lodged by the woman he had an affair with last year.
However, in the letter, Vavi said the issues surrounding Numsa’s expulsion and Cosatu’s unity was the reason he decided not to participate in the briefing or give interviews on the matter — because he did not want to “jeopardise any chance of the federation committing suicide by jumping off the cliff”.
Numsa was expelled at the CEC, which ran into the early hours of Saturday morning. The union gave a presentation defending itself against charges of contravening Cosatu’s constitution, but was ousted in the end by 33 votes to 24.
Vavi has been silent on Numsa’s expulsion except for comments on social networking site Twitter. Numsa was a strong ally and supporter of Vavi. Cosatu said it sent a formal letter of expulsion to Numsa on Tuesday. The letter was signed by deputy general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali.
It was rumoured that Vavi refused to sign it.
In the letter sent to affiliates, Vavi complained that Cosatu was making headlines in the media daily, but for the wrong reasons, and was being “lampooned” by cartoonists.
A cartoon in The Times newspaper by cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, known as Zapiro, showed Dlamini and ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe sitting on a big shower head spraying water onto Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim, who has his back to them.
In the cartoon, titled Cosatu takes the shower head to Numsa, Vavi is depicted gripping onto the showerhead holding on for dear life.
Vavi, in the letter of Tuesday, said it no longer mattered who was right or wrong.
“What is at stake here is the future of workers as a whole.
“From that point of view I plead with you to understand that I will not be able to defend a decision that I honestly believe is contradicting and undermining organised workers and broader working class unity, a decision that will have momentous implications for years to come.”
However, Vavi said he remained optimistic and given the opportunity Cosatu could address the challenges it faced and overcome them.
“I believe we have to now put personal considerations and feelings aside.
“We have arrived at a point in my view where the future of the federation must transcend who is right or wrong, or which faction is correct or mistaken or who has the numbers or not.” SAPA