Cosatu congress to begin

The congress is expected to decide on Zwelinzima Vavi's future at the trade union federation.

Cosatu's headquarters in Johannesburg. Picture: Sapa.

JOHANNESBURG - High-level tension between leaders of the biggest unions under the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) umbrella are likely to take centre stage this morning as the federation's Central Executive Committee begins a three-day meeting.

The gathering comes as the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) could be preparing to leave Cosatu following the suspension of General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.

Vavi was removed from his post in August after admitting to having sex with a younger Cosatu employee who initially accused him of rape.

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

Numsa has been Vavi's strongest ally since his suspension.

While Vavi himself isn't expected to be at this meeting, his name will hang over all of its discussions.

It is Vavi's suspension that has brought tensions between Numsa, the Food and Allied Workers Union and other unions, including the National Union of Mineworkers, out into the open.

Numsa leaders have appeared to strongly criticise Cosatu's leadership over the past few weeks and some of Cosatu's leaders may now feel the time has come to call Numsa to order.

If that happens, the tensions between them will most likely only become harder to manage.