A Cosatu special central executive committee meeting voted on Monday evening to dismiss the federation’s general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. It marks the end his long-running leadership of South Africa’s most powerful trade union federation and comes after two-and-a-half years of turbulence in Cosatu. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY.
At a media briefing on Sunday afternoon, Cosatu’s embattled general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi told a media briefing: “I am prepared to live with the consequences of my actions… I am prepared to be a sacrificial lamb.” A day later, in the same boardroom where he stood addressing the nation, Vavi’s enemies in the labour federation voted 31 votes to one to dismiss him.
The vote came after discussions in the special Cosatu central executive committee (CEC) meeting earlier on Monday whether Vavi should be suspended and undergo a disciplinary process or face immediate expulsion.
Sources close to Cosatu and Vavi confirmed to Daily Maverick that there was “no objection” in the discussions to a straight expulsion. There was no support for Vavi as seven unions that have been backing him have suspended their participation in Cosatu. His biggest backer, metalworkers union Numsa, was expelled in November last year, paving the way for Vavi axing.
Daily Maverick understands the matter was voted on in anticipation of any court action Vavi might take to challenge his dismissal.
Vavi held a media briefing on Sunday to announce he would not be attending the CEC meeting as he anticipated that the deck would be stacked against him. “If my refusal to attend the special CEC is used as a pretext to fire me, then so be it,” Vavi said.
The dismissal marks the end of Vavi’s colourful career at the helm of Cosatu, 16 years of which he served as general secretary. He was an outspoken critic of government and the ANC during this time and was also integrally involved in the rise of President Jacob Zuma as head of the ruling party.
His future career plans are yet unclear. However he said on Sunday that he would now return to full time organising of worker struggles.
“I will be found everywhere marching with workers, mobilising them, reinforcing the recruitment of workers to reach out to the 71% who are not organised into any union, negotiating, leading campaigns against labour brokers, e-tolls, exploitation, job losses, service delivery, poor delivery of education and health care, etc. I call on all workers who agree to this programme to close the door on divisions that have sapped our energy, to join the mobilisation of the working class for our total emancipation,” Vavi said.
Vavi’s departure from Cosatu is likely to have major ramifications for the trade union movement and politics to the left of the ANC. DM
"A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason." ~ Thomas Paine