Lobbying begins to save Vavi

Cosatu's constitution says for a special congress to be held, seven affiliates need to call for it.

Zwelinzima Vavi.

JOHANNESBURG - Eyewitness News has learnt that three Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) unions have formally called for a special congress to decide Zwelinzima Vavi's fate and that two more will discuss the issue next week.

Cosatu's constitution says a special congress must be held if seven affiliates call for it.

Vavi was suspended as Cosatu General Secretary last week after admitting to having what he says was consensual sex with a younger Cosatu worker.

South African Football Players Union's General Secretary Thulaganyo Gaoshubelwe says he's joining National Union of Metalworkers South Africa and Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) in their calls for a special Cosatu conference.

"It's about time that the federation and the owners of the federation stand up and be counted and say this is where we want to go."

While Democratic Nursing Association of South Africa's General Secretary Thembeka Gwagwa says they held an urgent phone conference in the hours after Vavi was suspended.

"Out of that meeting, people said we need to come together to discuss it further."

Vavi's supporters may feel they need just two more unions before they can officially demand a special conference, which would see Cosatu members voting on Vavi's fate.

Fawu continued to lobby other unions in order to get enough numbers for the special congress to be called.

The union'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."

'WIDER POLITICAL AGENDA'

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 has 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 his supporters losing their jobs.