Vavi's foes draw first blood

Sadtu has suspended its president, Thobile Ntola, a strong supporter of Zwelinzima Vavi.

Cosatu General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The South African Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu) has suspended its president Thobile Ntola, a strong supporter of Cosatu Secretary General Zwelinzima Vavi.

Ntola was handed a suspension notice on Monday for allowing Vavi to address a union gathering in the Eastern Cape, soon after the rape allegations against him surfaced.

He also told the media that the Eastern Cape branch had accepted Vavi's apology.

Ntola's sacking has been seen as the first step taken by the union in its bid to oust Vavi.

He has lashed out at the decision, saying no one who attended a meeting which led to his suspension, had the authority to make that kind of decision.

Ntola maintains that the correct procedures were ignored.

"To what extent can those elected in positions undermine their responsibility and take controlled decisions."

Meanwhile, Sadtu General Secretary Mugwena Maluleke says the union will not be commenting on the issue.

"As an organisation, we have not issued a public statement. So whatever is internal will remain internal. We are therefore not going to be able to confirm nor deny it [the suspension]."

VAVI'S FATE UNCERTAIN

Ntola's suspension comes as Cosatu's Central Executive Committee meets today to discuss Vavi's future.

The federation's Central Executive Committee is due to decide whether action should be taken against Vavi for having sex with a younger Cosatu employee, who initially accused him of rape.

Vavi and his allies have claimed his opponents are simply using this incident as a motive to oust him from the federation.

It appears Sadtu, The National Union of Mineworkers and the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union are against Vavi, meaning he could lose if this issue goes to vote.

Over the last few days, Vavi's allies including the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) have thrown their support behind him and expressed concern that Cosatu could split if the dispute is not handled properly.

Now, the South African Municipal Workers Union general secretary Walter Theledi has also lined up behind Vavi.

"We do not see any reason for this meeting. But if the national office bearers feel that it should go on, we will be part of it."

Theledi believes there are attempts within the union to oust Vavi.

"We believe that there is probably a concerted effort to get rid of our general secretary."

Fawu General Secretary Katishi Masemola said while this issue could split Cosatu, he said it's not just about Vavi.

"It's about the voice that the office of the General Secretary of Cosatu is all about."

Numsa said on Monday that those who want to take action against Vavi for having sex with a younger Cosatu employee are politically motivated.

It said the federation has become a lame duck because of the scandal and can't achieve anything for workers.

Numsa's Deputy General Secretary Karl Cloete said this issue has the potential to completely divide Cosatu.

"Unless we handle things maturely, comradely and properly, there is indeed all the possibility of a split in Cosatu."