Vavi 'not resigning', but forces Cosatu's hand

Zwelinzima Vavi says he’s not resigning but expects to be fired for refusing to attend tomorrow's CEC meeting.

Congress of South African Trade Union (Cosatu) General-Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi during a press conference about his future in the trade union federation on 29 March, 2015. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) General-Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi says he refuses to attend tomorrow's Central Executive Committee (CEC) meeting, although he has stopped short of "resigning" as was widely speculated this weekend.

Cosatu's CEC is due to meet tomorrow amid speculation that the gathering could see Cosatu leaders decide to oust Vavi.

He called a press conference at Cosatu House in Braamfontein to responds to tomorrow's gathering. In calling the briefing Vavi said he was due to make a "big announcement".

Vavi says he is not resigning, but clearly expects to be fired for refusing to attend tomorrow's CEC meeting.

The Cosatu boss has been under intense pressure within the trade union federation after the majority of unions voted to expel the National Union Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa).

Last year, he was suspended for eight months after admitting to having sex with a junior Cosatu employee in 2013, but was reinstated following a court ruling.

The general-secretary says if the meeting is used to fire him, 'so be it.'

"Why I am not resigning at this point? I'm making a statement that Cosatu belongs to members, not factions. This action sends out a message to workers we must refuse to hand over the organisation on a platter," Vavi said.

He added that if he or members and affiliates leave the organisation it's because they have been left with no alternative.

This isn't the first time that he has boycotted a CEC meeting.

Last month, Vavi tweeted that he wouldn't attend a meeting, saying it was wrong to continue with it without seven unions which are demanding the reinstatement of Numsa.

Nine affiliate unions, including Numsa, supported Vavi during his suspension.

The metalworkers' union was expelled from Africa's largest trade union federation last year by a vote of 33 to 24 after months of infighting and a widening rift between the union and Cosatu bosses.

Numsa was Cosatu's largest affiliate with nearly 350,000 members and was also backed by eight other unions in the Cosatu CEC.

Numsa, previously the biggest member of Cosatu, which is seen as a powerful vote-winning machine which also makes significant financial contributions for elections, has regularly criticised President Jacob Zuma's administration.