Saturday, May 06, 2017

Mr Vavi's Obsession With COSATU Undermines the Workers That Elected Him
COSATU spokesperson Sizwe Pamla takes on expelled SAFTU
The Congress of South African Trade Unions has noted with curiosity the recent outbursts and diatribe coming from SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu General Secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi directed at COSATU. While it would be easy and it's always tempting to just ignore and shrug him off, but sometimes one cannot rely on the fair-mindedness of readers and listeners, when confronted by such extraordinary mixture of envy, vindictiveness and hypocrisy.

We knew that he had a resentful temper but what we never knew was that his departure from COSATU bruised and damaged him so much that he is still struggling to define himself outside of our federation, despite being elected into a new position by his new organisation. COSATU for the record has closed the chapter on Mr Vavi and he has been banished to the limbo of forgotten things.

The people who need to be more worried are the workers, who have recently elected him to lead their organisation ;because he does not seem interested in them and their organisation. He is still unable to shake off his unceremonious departure from COSATU.

A cursory examination of his rather lofty formulations and self righteous public statements reveals that , he believes that his apology tour has given him a social licence to pontificate about leadership and integrity, despite his rather well documented history of exploitation and abuse of workers. We will not venture into his personal affairs, aware as we are of his many crimes and contradictions, because we are just glad he is no longer the responsibility of COSATU.

While, we are all allowed to lose ourselves in wishful thinking, Mr Vavi and his leadership collective are now abusing the privilege. SAFTU poses no threat to COSATU and when Mr Vavi is done dancing on what he considers to be the grave of our federation; he will be disappointed to discover that COSATU is not in it.

For the record, we are not losing any sleep over the formation of SAFTU, not because COSATU is arrogant or overconfident but because we know all the people, who formed this new federation. There is nothing mysterious about SAFTU. The absurd and comical attempts to rewrite history will not fly with workers because the very same people that have formed this new federation have a litany of failures and are responsible for the worst offences against the workers.

The General Secretary of Saftu himself was at the helm of COSATU for more than 14 years and oversaw the divisions and possible disintegration of our federation, so he is the last person to tell us about defective leadership and the betrayal of workers. The 76% of the workforce that is not organised has always been there, even when he was a leader of COSATU. He waged a bitter war trying to take COSATU with him on his political adventure but was rebuffed by the workers, so it's surprising that he now thinks that he can reinvent himself as the new Messiah of the working class.

NUMSA has blatantly violated the rights of many of its own employees in a very public way, so they are ill qualified to preach about defending the rights of workers. The union leadership has mismanaged the finances of the organisation by funding their political vanity projects, despite their shrinking membership numbers. It is an open secret that NUMSA membership has been inflated for propaganda purposes and the so called 360 000 members is just an invention. We challenge them to prove us wrong that they only have about 300 000 members.

FAWU is the same union that sold out more than 3000 Umbhaba Farm workers to a racist farmer in Mpumalanga. It is laughable to hear leaders from FAWU talking about defending vulnerable workers, when they have failed to do so for more than three decades. FAWU is not competing with any union in their sector but its leadership has dismally failed to organise the sector and they ultimately bankrupted and divided the union into a shell trade union that it is today. This is the union that has been on welfare and surviving through charity and solidarity for the last decade but today we are told that the same union and its new federation will bury COSATU. This will be laughable if it was not so tragic for the poor vulnerable workers.

More than half of the unions that have formed SAFTU have been in existence for more than two decades and have done very little if anything to organise and defend the workers in this country.

Nothing is as easier than to prove that something that involves humans has imperfections, it is amazing how Mr Vavi has made his personal mission to point out the slip-ups and weaknesses of COSATU. He has naively convinced himself that he will build his organisation through media statements, opinion articles and a campaign of vilification of COSATU; unfortunately it will take more than that to build his shell trade unions into organisations that can service and defend workers.

Despite this offensive directed against our federation, we shall not be defocused or distracted by side shows. We know that we do not have enemies at the workplace, except our exploiters. We will not listen or entertain those, who want workers to fight and remain divided, while employers are feasting. We remain adamant that workers cannot fight over the colour of their union T-shirts or the logos on their chests, when capitalists are having a free reign. We shall continue to ceaselessly work to build a federation that will remain occupied with broad social and political issues, as well as the immediate concerns of its members; a federation that strives to remain a social force for transformation and the home of all workers.

We hope that Mr Vavi succeeds in getting therapy that will help him come to terms with the fact that he is no longer part of COSATU.Hopefully he will start taking the workers that elected him seriously by talking about their organisation, their programme and their struggles. Workers want to hear about his federation's programme and so far his programme seems to be about doing a running commentary on COSATU.

Issued by COSATU

Sizwe Pamla (National Spokesperson)
Tel: +27 11 339-4911 Direct 010 219-1339
Mobile: 060 975 6794

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