Fawu attempts to save Vavi

The union is attempting to convince other members of Cosatu to hold a special conference for Vavi.

Cosatu General-Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi speaks at a news conference in Johannesburg on Friday, 24 August 2012 on the shooting at Lonmin's Marikana mine. Picture: Werner Beukes/Sapa.

JOHANNESBURG - The Food and Allies Workers Union (Fawu) is attempting to convince members of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) to hold a special congress in an effort to save its suspended General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.

Vavi was placed on special leave by the federation's Central Executive Committee last week after admitting to having sex with a junior employee at their headquarters.

He was also accused of hiring the woman through improper procedures.

Vavi and his allies believe his suspension forms part of a wider political plot to oust him.

He accused Cosatu President Sdumo Dlamini of distributing an intelligence report he says is full of lies about him.

He said the report circulated among the federation's leadership was fabricated to smear prominent South Africans including himself, Cyril Ramaphosa, Tokyo Sexwale, Judge Dikgang Moseneke, General Secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) Irvin Jim and others "perceived as opponents and who dare to speak truth to power".

Fawu's General Secretary Katishi Masemola said the organisation has already managed to garner some support.

"It takes about seven affiliates to get that request made and granted. So at the moment, we have two affiliates that have formally confirmed."

Masemola said the union hopes to gain more support.

"We will seek to lobby other affiliates to understand where we're coming from and hopefully we can amass enough affiliates for us to get the special congress convened."

Fawu has also questioned the legitimacy of the meeting during which Vavi was suspended.

Fawu and other unions supporting Vavi believe he's more popular than Dlamini among ordinary Cosatu members and thus would win any vote.

Any such vote could also see Dlamini and their supporters losing their jobs.

NUMSA FUMING

Numsa has said its members are up in arms about Vavi's suspension and said it might have to call a special congress to evaluate how to align itself.

Jim believes Vavi was suspended against a backdrop of a wider political agenda.

He said Numsa is worried about the organisation's current leadership under President Sdumo Dlamini and said there are efforts by forces within Cosatu itself to reduce it to a toothless organisation.

He slammed leaders within Cosatu, the South African Communist Party and the African National Congress for trying to divide the federation.

Jim said certain affiliated union leaders were kept in the dark about the meeting in which Vavi was suspended, while others knew exactly why the gathering was called.

He said Numsa will fight to defend Cosatu from being destroyed.

"We are not surprised we have been having this sustained programme to ensure that Vavi is basically removed. Within both the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP) there are forces who are hell-bent on working 24 hours a day with those in Cosatu to ensure that Cosatu will be made a lap dog.

Numsa has also expressed fear that Jim is the next target.