The difficult times the labour federation is going through will eventually pass, Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini has said.
Two affiliates of Cosatu, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu), have already expressed their lack of confidence in Dlamini who they say does not have what it takes to restore unity in the embattled ANC ally.
Making his first public appearance since the 2.2 million-member federation suspended its general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, Dlamini told Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) political school delegates in Benoni that there was no need for leaders to publicly express fears about the federation splitting as Cosatu was bigger than individual leaders or unions.
Dlamini said the use of the media and courts to communicate within the federation were the two biggest problems facing it.
However, he denied that he was referring to Vavi who has threatened to take the federation to court for suspending him on the basis of a bogus spy report that suggests he was working with Americans to undermine the ANC-led government. The federation cited Vavi’s sexual misconduct with a junior employee as its reason for suspending him, and for subjecting him to a disciplinary hearing.
He said it was wrong for members to take their organisations to court when they didn’t like their decisions.
“I cannot be free and speak my mind on Cosatu without the risk of going to court to defend a position of the federation. Fine, so be it, if we have to go to court to defend the positions of the federation. But it is very unfortunate,” Dlamini said.
He later told journalists that it was “worrisome” that people within the Tripartite Alliance – ANC, SA Communist Party and Cosatu – resorted to courts when they were not happy with internal decisions.
“Everybody has the right to go to court. But if you are going to run organisations through court, (then) it is a worrisome feature. You should rely more on internal processes,” he said.
He also said he was not aware if Vavi’s lawyers had filed court papers as yet.
He said the internal mediation, related to the sale and purchase of Cosatu buildings and the disagreement over administrative and ideological issues, was still on track. It is being facilitated by lawyer Charles Nupen and veteran unionist Petrus Mashishi, and is expected to report back when the leadership meets next month.
Union presidents and secretaries are meeting Cosatu’s top leadership on Monday to decide who will chair Vavi’s disciplinary process.
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