Zwelinzima VaviZwelinzima Vavi’s public statement 29th March 2015

1. Many workers will be aware that I have been asked to come to a Special CEC being convened on 30-31 March to explain why I did not attend a COSATU CEC meeting held on 02-04 March 2015. This statement I am making today is my response to this looming confrontation, as well as my explanation as to why the Federation is facing an implosion, and how I have chosen to relate to these developments in COSATU which are so tragic for the working class.

2. I wrote an email to my colleagues – fellow COSATU – NOBs on 01 March 2015 the evening of the CEC meeting advising them that I would not attend the CEC. Out of fear of being distorted I am disclosing this letter (see below) which explains the reason why I felt unable to attend that meeting.

3. In essence there was an insistence on going ahead with the CEC, despite the view of a number of affiliates that they could not attend the meeting unless it was linked to a unity process, inter alia involving the ANC. The refusal to postpone the meeting would inevitably lead to the boycott of the CEC by these affiliates, and I made it clear that under those conditions I could not attend a meeting which only represented part of the organisation.

4. Nothing has happened since then to convince me that COSATU is moving in the direction of confronting its nearly three years of paralysis and factionalism. Accordingly and regrettably I will also not attend the upcoming special CEC on 30-31 March too. I am not convinced that the important task of building unity is on the agenda of this Special CEC.

5. I set out below a background as to why I have come to that painful conclusion. I do so in order to dispel the propaganda that I have sought to position myself above the organisation and that I am ill disciplined and have become too big for my boots.

6. I was elected by all COSATU affiliates and not 9 or 11 or any other number, but ALL of them. I insist the only way of solving the current crisis is to embark on an inclusive process involving ALL unions, informally or formally. Adopting a business as usual approach when a significant section of our unions are no longer participating in the CEC is irresponsible.

Brief background

7. The public will recall that the CEC held on 07 November 2014 took an unprecedented decision to expel NUMSA, together with all of its 340 000 members after months of bickering that culminated in a vote in the early hours of 08 November 2014. Some union leaders who for two years championed the view that NUMSA must be surgically removed from the federation went to the Parktonian hotel in those early hours to celebrate. But others, including me, were in tears and in disbelief that the Federation was taking this step to show the door to a union based purely on political differences that had nothing to do with the basic reasons why workers joined trade unions in the first place.

8. In response to this I penned a letter to the COSATU President and COSATU Affiliates on the 11 November 2014.

9. Among other things in the letter I explained why I could not defend the decision of the CEC to expel NUMSA:

“I completely respect internal democracy and democratic centralism. This is what I have practiced all my life in whatever labour movement organisation I have been active in. I am ready to admit that at times I have had to articulate views that contradicted my own, but always with the firm belief that they were arrived at democratically, and therefore have had to serve as a disciplined cadre. 

However, the magnitude of the decision that was taken by the Special CEC is not only of historical importance but has momentous implications. I have to say that I view the decisions that were taken as ones that could destroy what we have jointly built for so many years.

In advancing this I am not in any way suggesting that there should be no discipline in the organisation. I am advancing this argument with only one consideration that has weighed against all other considerations – what is in the best interest of the Federation at this moment. Let me repeat what I have said above – it does no longer matter who is right or wrong – what is at stake here is the future of workers as a whole.

From that point of view I plead with you to understand that I will not be able to defend a decision that I honestly believe is contradicting and undermining organised workers and broader working class unity, a decision that will have momentous implications for years to come.

I remain an optimist. My faith in the working class is stronger today than even in the days of my youth. I sincerely believe that if given the opportunity, we can address the challenges that we face and overcome them. With an honest commitment to unity, based on principles that have guided all of our lives, and in particular reflective of the resolutions agreed by the ground breaking 11th National Congress, I believe that we can work together to save our Federation from imminent disaster. I strongly believe that the basis of our unity has to be adherence to 11th Congress resolutions as well as all existing policies of the Federation. The decisions made by our sovereign democratic structure, the Workers Parliament, cannot be undermined or manipulated for narrow interests.

These are the reasons why I have decided not to participate in the NOB press conference of this afternoon or to conduct interviews or participate in any activity that will exacerbate division further, or will further jeopardise any chance of the Federation committing suicide by jumping off the cliff. There must an alternative to this.”

The full letter is attached (below) for easy reference. For the record the letter was written for internal consumption and was leaked by someone without my permission.

10. The response to this plea from me was public condemnation by some of the other COSATU Office Bearers. The contents of the letter were simply ignored. One of the issues I stand accused of in the Special CEC to be convened on the 30-31 March 2015 is the very letter pleading for unity of the federation. Many in the current CEC regard this as nothing but an act of ill-discipline on my part. Yet everything that has happened since that unprecedented decision to dismiss 340 000 workers from the Federation that they helped build from inception and before, vindicates the views I advanced.

11. Notwithstanding this I remained inside the Federation arguing my points of view as a disciplined cadre of this movement.

12. On the 14 November 2014, the NOBs (including me) following an engagement facilitated by the ANC, issued a statement that would have taken us onto a different path, if all were committed to its contents. It stated:

i. “The National Office Bearers of the Congress of South African Trade Unions wish to inform COSATU members, members of the Allied formations, friends in the civil society, all South Africans and indeed our sister Federations across the globe that we, the six National Office Bearers of the Federation, have been holding crucial discussions amongst ourselves since Monday 10 November 2014.

ii. This followed the momentous occurrences in the federation, which included the COSATU Special Central Executive Committee held on 7 November, the press conference held on 11 November 2014 and the statement by the General Secretary to the NOBs and affiliated unions, as well as letter we received from certain affiliates announcing the suspension of their participation to the CEC.

iii. We are happy to inform you that these frank and robust debates amongst ourselves, whilst they have not resolved all issues, have created possibilities for similar discussions to take place between us and the affiliates of COSATU. History has given us a special responsibility, as the leadership of the federation, to spare no energy in ensuring the integrity of workers` unity within COSATU.

iv. In this context we shall on our own, and also through the assistance of the ANC Task Team and the former COSATU National Office Bearers, embark on a process to confront all issues that have led to the federation finding itself in these uncharted waters.”

13. Nothing excited me more than this statement. I felt vindicated that I did not walk out of the CEC that expelled NUMSA and that I had exercised patience in pursuance of worker unity – a unity that I have repeatedly stated is sacrosanct.

14. I maintained my participation despite the fact that seven unions wrote COSATU letters suspending their participation in the CEC. Everybody who has cared to follow this unfolding saga will know that these unions and others have steadfastly defended my rights throughout. Many suggested that attending any CEC in their absence would be suicidal as this would be tantamount to me delivering myself on a silver platter to union leaders who have mobilised for my removal from my position since 2012. I chose to ignore the advice and attended the CEC held on 19 November 2014 not as a desperate act to keep my job safe but because I believe that the NOBs statement referred to above truly held the potential to take us in a different direction.

15. My presence somehow helped and I was happy with the broad direction the CEC took even though not with some of the decisions it made. Notwithstanding that, I attended a press conference on the 20 November 2014 and articulated these decisions of the CEC, some of which antagonised those who provided me support. The statement said:

“We are forced to convene this press conference with a view to setting the record straight, following the distortion of the COSATU Special CEC decisions by some faceless individuals using some journalists. Information peddlers have gone out of their way to spread untruths about the fact that the COSATU Special CEC “reinstated the charges” against the COSATU General Secretary. Nothing can be further from the truth. The COSATU Special CEC took no such a decision.

For the record we wish to reiterate the statement issued by the COSATU National Office Bearers on the 14 November 2014 (attached below) following a series of discussions amongst themselves. This we are reading in order to help the public understand the context of yesterday’s CEC discussion.

The Special CEC held on 7 November 2014 adjourned its session and decided to continue its deliberations on 19 November 2014, at which the CEC had a discussion on the current challenges facing the Federation.

The CEC agreed to leave no stone unturned in search of solutions to the differences that have arisen, with a view of ensuring the integrity of workers’unity under COSATU. All leaders of COSATU without exception have a responsibility to ensure that we do not fail in this historic mission. The CEC accepted this engagement; whilst it must be thoroughgoing it must be undertaken urgently to ensure that a new environment emerges.

Accordingly all the matters that were on the agenda will require an informal discussion amongst all the COSATU affiliated unions, which will culminate in a CEC to endorse a package of proposals emerging from this engagement. In this regard, the CEC agreed to allow the NOBs working with the ANC Task Team and the former COSATU leaders to develop proposals on how this engagement will be undertaken. The ANC Task Team is meeting the former COSATU leaders this Saturday, 22 November 2014, and will meet the COSATU NOBs on Monday or at worst on Tuesday to develop this roadmap for these discussions.

The CEC however did receive a report of the President regarding the call that has been made to convene a Special National Congress in line with the provisions of the constitution. The CEC endorsed the report, which includes working towards a date on which the congress will be held. This date will be finalised as part of the engagement we will embark upon.

Further the CEC discussed the status of the 2nd Deputy President and decided to confirm her status as the 2nd Deputy President in the light her seamless move from NUMSA to POPCRU where she was elected a shop steward. The CEC acknowledges that the COSATU constitution does not provide clarity in cases where a member/shop steward/ or union representative changes a workplace after their election into a COSATU office bearer position. This matter requires a discussion as part of the agreed to process so that considerations is given on whether the constitution should not be amended to provide the clarity.

The CEC agreed not to proceed with the 6th Central Committee scheduled for 24-26 November, as it will be counter-productive in the current state of affairs.

The NOBs reiterate the statement they issued on the 14 November 2014. We are calling for calm and a stop to public mudslinging and insults that will undermine this process.”

16. Let me emphasize that notwithstanding the fact that I was not happy with one or two of the decisions I was excited by the prospects this statement opened up.

17. There was a setback immediately however. “Sources” from within the CEC went to the media to say we had misrepresented the CEC. SATAWU wrote a letter to the NOBs advancing the same point. Other unions including NEHAWU phoned the President making the same argument. This put a spanner in the works and suddenly I had doubts about where we were going. Still, based on the statements above I had faith that we could forge ahead.

18. COSATU issued a joint end-of-the-year statement emphasizing the same issues of unity and the need to mobilise in support for the 11thNational Congress resolutions. I do accept that the open letter I wrote in response to the SACP Deputy General Secretary’s public attacks on me upset other leaders who agree with the sentiments expressed. I stand by each of the words I expressed in the letter to the SACP leadership. By the end of the year we had the President of COSATU issuing his own end-of-the-year statement underlining increasing tensions as a result of this.

19. I was still relatively happy however that the NOBs would pull together after their January 2015 meetings. We were all aware that the ANC was working to get meetings with the affiliates. Some meetings with a few affiliates were held in this regard. This all encouraged me that the process was underway. There were however unavoidable delays in that the ANC was mobilising for its January 8 rally and the Deputy President was spending more time in the Lesotho mediation process.

20. The clock was ticking, taking us closer and closer to the CEC scheduled for 23-26 February 2015. I knew, as did all the NOBs, that going to the CEC without a package to resolve the stalemate would be a disaster. This would put me in an invidious position particularly as it would be the second CEC meeting I would be attending without almost half of COSATU affiliates.

21. The NOBs wrote a letter to affiliates convening the CEC scheduled for 26-28 February 2015 but indicating that we may have to postpone it because we felt that we should hold it after the unity processes facilitated by the ANC had produced results. Not surprisingly POPCRU immediately responded rejecting the NOBs argument, that the CEC may be postponed to give the ANC Task Team more time. Later, NUM, NEHAWU, CEPPWAWU and SATAWU wrote us almost identical letters, clearly from a caucused position, agreeing that the CEC can be postponed for a week but insisting that this was not being done to give the ANC a chance but because the NOBs were not ready with the preparations.

22. Once this happened, my hopes suddenly faded. I knew trouble was on its way in that I was to face the same dilemma of attending the CEC with about half of the affiliates maintaining their suspension of participation and without any progress on the facilitation attempts. When the seven unions held a press conference on the eve of the CEC announcing that they will not attend the CEC I knew at that moment I would not be able to repeat what I did in November 2015. I wrote an email to the NOBs that evening (see above). I also announced in public through the social media that I could not attend because I did not believe that going ahead with the CEC in this context was going to be a good move to unite the Federation.

23. This is the view I still hold. In my view the Federation should have immediately after the 11th National Congress held in September 2014 as well as after the February 2013, CEC let alone after November 2014 CEC stopped everything – I mean literally everything in pursuit of unity. Unfortunately this did not happen. I feel it’s important that I briefly trace this history littered with missed opportunities to cement the unity of workers under COSATU.

Yet after all these processes COSATU is now on the brink of total implosion.

How did the Federation arrive at this point?

24. Many members will be aware that leaders of about five unions tried but failed to oppose the re-election of the COSATU General Secretary at the 11th National Congress held in September 2012. This was despite their campaign of public opposition run in certain newspapers.

25. Once that happened, the leaders of these unions, without any mandate from their members decided to use the CEC – which is a very important but a much smaller leadership structure – to achieve what they failed to achieve in the Congress. Firstly this grouping, which now totaled leaders of about six unions, ran a campaign in the newspapers accusing the COSATU GS of being corrupt and benefiting from the sale and purchase of the COSATU building. They will deny this of course. Few of them have had the guts to reveal their identities.

26. At the CEC held in February 2013, they launched a blistering attack on the GS accusing him of being the ‘elephant in the room’, and of political deviation. They made statements that the Federation is in state of paralysis because there is a political rupture, caused by these supposed deviations of the GS. They demanded his suspension and a commission of inquiry over these completely unsubstantiated allegations.

27. The CEC in February and May 2013, decided to appoint Charles Nupen and Petrus Mashishi together with Sizwe Ntsaluba Gobodo (SNG) to facilitate a discussion on all of the political, ideological, administrative and organisational issues raised.

28. At the May CEC this faction reached new lows, led by the COSATU President who launched an innuendo about some people being in the pockets of the imperialists. The then NEHAWU General Secretary, Fikile ‘Slovo’ Majola (now an MP in Parliament) went as far as accusing the COSATU GS of being an agent of imperialism. He further made breathtaking statements to the effect that they (the faction) have made a calculation that come what may both NUMSA and the COSATU GS must be surgically removed from the Federation. He acknowledged that this will create more disunity but said they were prepared to allow a split in order to build COSATU afresh. Fikile Majola went further to repeat this in an interview with the Sowetan. Read the extract below:

29. Split in Cosatu is unavoidable, says Nehawu’s Majola, 25 March 2014

“Moipone Malefane writes that according to Fikile Majola, general secretary of the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), a split in Cosatu is unavoidable and its leaders will have to rebuild the labour federation based on what is left of it thereafter. In an exclusive interview with Sowetan, Majola, who is one of the ANC’s candidates for Parliament, said the troubled federation had been weak organisationally for several years before the fallout over suspended general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi started. “What is happening in Cosatu is not healthy but is unavoidable.We are far down the road. I don’t think it can be stopped. The person at the centre of the crisis is Zwelinzima and he does not want to find a solution,” said Majola. He went on to state: “We can re-establish Cosatu on correct principles, build a strong Cosatu that can direct its affiliates. But we cannot do it with those who say Vavi or nothing.” He also said that Cosatu was currently living on the strength of its past years and the biggest crisis was that it could not hold its unions accountable on anything. Vavi is currently facing disciplinary action for sleeping with a junior employee, amongst other charges.”

Read more on page 4 of Sowetan of 25 March 2014

30. The allegation of the GS being a spy was to resurface through a fake intelligence report circulated by the COSATU President. The SATAWU GS, Zenzo Mahlangu, gave an interview to the Mail & Guardian making wild conspiracy allegations against the COSATU GS. (See .)

31. Whilst all these shenanigans were unfolding, the people making the allegations of political rupture, deviation from congress resolutions and/or the GS being an agent of imperialists were not keen to back up these allegations with facts through the CEC facilitated process led by Charles Nupen and Petrus Mashishi. We attach below the report of Petrus Mashishi and Charles Nupen to the CEC on October 2014, in which they withdrew from the facilitation process, citing the lack of cooperation by the very people making these wild allegations.

32. Later this faction was to push for the separation of the work of Charles Nupen and Petrus Mashishi from the investigation of the forensic auditors. They were convinced that a fishing expedition by auditors could find something they could use to achieve the goal so categorically stated in the CEC and in the public, to surgically remove NUMSA and the COSATU GS and start building the Federation afresh.

33. Since then I have been subjected to ongoing forensic audits. SizweNtsalubaGobodo has embarked on a fishing expedition, and is still pursuing every avenue to try and find something against me. I cooperated fully with this process save issues I raised after SNG lied to both me and COSATU CEC claiming to me they had a draft report subject to further investigation whilst telling the CEC that the report was final.

34. I handed over my laptop and my personal bank statements and I know they raided my telephone records illegally to try and find something they could use. This all failed to produce anything substantial save administrative mistakes that I together with other fellow Cubah Properties Directors (Bheki Ntshalintshali and Freda Oosthuysen) committed by not signing a particular form when we were selling the old COSATU building.

35. When I committed the serious blunder of getting into a relationship with a COSATU staff member, for which I apologised countless times, my opponents saw this as an opportunity to achieve a long-held goal – to surgical remove me from my position. My action was a serious own goal as I have said; it was equal to handing over a loaded gun to your enemy. They grabbed the opportunity and I was placed on suspension and the COSATU constitution was sacrificed for political expediency. Thankfully the Court vindicated me when on 4 April 2014 that illegal decision was reversed.

36. It will be recorded in history that after committing that blunder I humbled myself and profusely apologised to the CEC and called on them to take steps that will protect the image of the organisation and communicate that this was not acceptable. At the same time however I insisted that such action must be consistent and that it must not be that comrades would use this to settle political scores. I had consulted my union (NUM – Frans Baleni and Senzeni Zokwana) leaders on this approach. Little did I know that Frans Baleni would get the NUM to second my illegal suspension as soon as I had recused myself from the CEC.

37. Everyone except the active participants in this faction and their followers will recognise that this shocking campaign of political persecution was and is a vendetta that knows no bounds.

Where things stand now

38. We now have a situation where:

a) Seven of our affiliates have written letters informing us that they are suspending their participation in the top structure of the Federation in between the National Congresses and Central Committees, the Central Executive Committee. No serious attempts are being made to address the concerns of this group;

b) NUMSA, our largest affiliate, now with 365 000 members, has been fired, and steps taken to replace it with a new affiliate called LIMUSA, which has not even had a Congress and has an unverified membership of 1 670;

c) The impacts include putting the Federation into an absolutely unviable financial position. COSATU is currently living R300 000 a month beyond its income. COSATU staff could only be paid in February and March by raiding the Political Fund (designated for other purposes). This source will dry up soon. Campaign activities – the core of our work – will be curtailed, and there is the likelihood of having to go with a begging bowl to our class enemies for money to hold a Congress later this year. This is a recipe for a complete loss of independence. Our research institution Naledi and the Chris Hani Institute will have to close down, the Shop Steward magazine will have to close down and the very COSATU house can’t be maintained more so with the insistence of tenants to stay in for free.

d) The Special National Congress, petitioned for in terms of the Constitution more than two years ago, to allow members a say in resolving the crisis, has not been convened;

e) Very few affiliates have escaped the factional politics, which has ravaged COSATU, and many are fracturing as we speak. Hundreds of leaders are being purged either for showing signs of loyalty to the demands of the 9 unions who called for a Special National Congress or for blowing the whistle on corruption. Few affiliates have sought and received mandates from their members on how to resolve the COSATU crisis;

f) A worrying number of scandals relating to corruption and abuse of power are wracking the trade union movement. Hardly a month passes without us reading in the newspapers allegations of millions of Rands being embezzled or misspent by union leaders.

g) The COSATU General Secretary has been subjected to a sustained campaign of vilification and slander in an attempt to force him out;

h) The various interventions and attempts at facilitation have either collapsed, and are now stillborn. ANC Task Team report has been sidelined. The report was not perfect but if it was engaged with, we would have avoided reaching this point. Today I want to thank all those that have worked hard to save the federation from imploding;

i) The paralysis of COSATU has left workers defenseless on the ground, demoralised, and angry at the leadership for betraying them in this fashion.

j) The once mighty COSATU is slowly being reduced to an irrelevant toothless dog whilst the material conditions of workers continue to deteriorate.

k) Unemployment is at 35% and in particular youth unemployment is at catastrophic levels of around 60%. Today we rank number 8 in the whole world in terms of unemployment and number 4 in the world when it comes to youth unemployment. A staggering 54% of our population is living in poverty with 12 million unable to put a plate of food on the table every night and half the population being “food insecure”. More than 35% of workers are employed as temporary or subcontracted labour, and wages have been suppressed whilst so many companies’ profits are at record high. Half of all formal workers earn less than R3300 a month. And South Africa is now the most unequal society in the whole world.

l) Marikana and De Doorns have happened indicating clearly that workers will leave ineffectual unions that do not take up their workplace issues. Some unions have lost the plot as some leaders seek to use workers only as a platform to go to parliament. 70% of all workers do not belong to a trade union.

m) The Federation that some called the moral compass and a hope for our democracy has been reduced to a shadow of its former self.

39. Government and capital have wasted no time in taking full advantage of these weaknesses: e-tolls were implemented, the youth wage subsidy has become a policy, and previous conservative macroeconomic policy has now escalated to full austerity. The anti worker neoliberal programme contained in the NDP has been rammed down the throats of workers. The COSATU 11th National Congress responded to all of these yet as we speak, most of those resolutions have been sidelined in favour of the pursuit of purges of political opponents.


40. It is a sad day indeed that I have had to call today’s press conference to announce, after much introspection and consultation, that I have come to the conclusion, that I have reached the end of the road in trying to resolve COSATU’s internal crisis, through using traditional organizational means (i.e. engaging in boardroom discussions). I have taken this decision after two and a half difficult and painful years of factional battles and deepening crises in a Federation which has been so loved by millions of workers for close on three decades.

41. Beyond the summary I have already given, I don’t intend to go through a detailed repetition of the sorry and sordid history of what has taken place over nearly three years. That is not the point of today. Rather we are trying to inject a dose of realism into the assessment of where we stand, and to send out a clear message – that it is time for a new approach.

42. Workers will not stand by while the leaders fight it out in endless boardroom battles. If leaders are workers’ servants, then we leaders have clearly revolted against the mandate that we must at all times serve our members. This situation cannot continue for a moment longer!

43. From this point on I will no longer participate in internal factional wrangling in the organisation. I will rather dedicate my energies to mobilising members to the best of my ability, to implement the mandate of our 11th National Congress, and to address workers’ daily concerns and struggles. This is what I have been pursuing for the last period, and I will continue to focus on this for as long as I am allowed to do so.

44. I will not attend meetings of the Federation whose sole purpose is to pursue the factional agenda of one grouping, no matter how powerful they may think they are. Legitimating such meetings is tantamount to giving credibility to the idea that these are genuine forums to resolve problems. In reality such meetings are only mechanisms to annihilate opposition to the agenda of a powerful faction, parading under the semblance of constitutionality.

45. Therefore I cannot attend the pending Special CEC meeting, which is being convened not for reasons of unity, but purely for the purpose of dealing with me and the perceived opponents of the dominant faction. This meeting, like the 02 – 04 March CEC, is not even trying to create the pretence of constructively intervening to resolve the dispute. No serious attempts are being made to reach out to the group of unions suspending their participation at the CEC.

64. True, after the March 2015 CEC letters were written to the unions that have suspended their participation pleading with them to return back to the CEC. However the reason for their suspension of participation is not being engaged. They have been told that they must accept that NUMSA and it’s 365 000 members have been dismissed and that NUMSA can only appeal to the next ordinary National Congress. It is said that they (NUMSA) will not be allowed to appeal to the Special Congress, which NUMSA together with 8 other unions called in the first place! This refusal to allow NUMSA to appeal at the Special National Congress is again in blatant violation of the COSATU Constitution.

65.If my refusal to attend the Special CEC is used as a pretext to fire me, then so be it. There comes a time in the life of every organisation, and every individual, when we have to submit to the dictates of our conscience. I for one will continue to do what I can to serve the working class. But I refuse to feed the illusion that the current CEC constituted by a dominant faction in the boardroom is still a genuine forum to represent the members’ interests, although every organisational bone in my body has resisted arriving at this drastic conclusion.

66.If however there is a dramatic turnaround and some genuine opportunities present themselves for advancing a project of unity in the Federation, I will continue to make myself available, and vigorously pursue any realistic prospect to resolve this crisis.

67.I can honestly say that, as COSATU General Secretary, I have done everything in my power to avoid us reaching this moment. There are no victors, but the bosses and the beneficiaries of the status quo. The biggest losers from COSATU’s implosion is certainly the working class and COSATU members in particular.

68.It is with a sense of humility that I make this announcement. We must all share individual and collective responsibility for reaching this point. The only thing I can claim is that we spared no effort in the struggle to rescue our beloved Federation from division, factionalism and ultimately implosion.

69.The various facilitation attempts, including that of the ANC, are no longer even on the CEC’s agenda. The call for the ANC to renew its intervention is meaningless in the context of the refusal to reconsider the dismissal of now 365 000 workers. The campaign of public vilification and smearing of me continues uninterrupted.

70.What I do need to place on record, however, is my response to the string of public allegations, which have been made in an attempt to drag my name through the mud. I append a 24 page summary of my response to these trumped up allegations, and a chronology outlining the role of the SizweNtsalubaGobodo investigation, and why I have been left with no alternative but to respond in the way that I have.

Why I am not resigning at this point

71. This is a deliberate act of defiance on my part, even if in the end it turns out to be symbolic. It sends a message to workers that we must refuse to hand the organisation over on a platter, and must only walk away when all alternatives to rescue it have been exhausted. I am refusing to make it easy for those who are trying to hijack the organisation, and those want to take control of the Federation out of the hands of members.

72. I am making a statement that COSATU belongs to its members, not to any faction or clique. Those who abuse their power in an attempt to take this ownership away will not have an easy road.

73. It must be clear that if I, and members or affiliates leave the organisation, it is only because we have been left with no alternative. We are now trying one last ditch attempt to reclaim the organisation from below, by mobilising the members to assert their rights to control their movement. If this fails, history will record that we tried everything in our power.

74. If all avenues are closed, we will have no option but to walk away. But this is ultimately a huge decision, which only the members, and workers more broadly can make. If members decide there is nothing further that can be done to rescue the organisation, I will respect that decision.

75. So ‘back to the trenches’ also means that I will be having wide consultations with workers about their views on the future of the organisation, and will act further on the basis of the majority view which members express about the strategic option which they prefer to pursue.

76.From now on I will return full time being the organiser of a workers’ fight-back strategy as per the 11th National Congress resolutions and elaborated on by the unions that have suspended their participation in the CEC. I will be found everywhere marching with workers, mobilising them, reinforcing the recruitment of workers to reach out to the 71% who are not organised into any union, negotiating, leading campaigns against labour brokers, e-tolls, exploitation, job losses, service delivery, poor delivery of education and health care, etc. I call on all workers who agree to this programme to close the door on divisions that have sapped our energy, to join the mobilisation of the working class for our total emancipation.

Thank you


Annexure 1

Memorandum from: Zwelinzima

Date: Sunday 01 March 2015 at 8:34 PM

To: Sidumo Dlamini, Tyotyo James, Zingiswa Losi, Freda Oosthuysen, Bheki Ntshalintshali , Bheki Ntshalintshali

Subject: My attendance to the COSATU CEC


I have been hoping that this CEC taking place tomorrow will represent a new beginning for our beloved federation. This would have been represented by the ANC process producing results that can finally get everyone to discuss the difficulties at hand and chart a way forward for unity and cohesion.

Those hopes faded when a group of affiliates who when supporting our request to postpone the CEC to allow space for engagement made it clear that COSATU CEC must be linked to the ANC TT process and that the CEC must continue notwithstanding the stance taken by the 7 unions to suspend their participation until NUMSA has been brought back to the federation.

When the ANC informed us late in the day that the meeting of the 27 and 28 has been postponed I knew we are heading towards a disaster – at least from my point of view. Knowing the stance taken by the affiliates who clearly had caucused their position that the CEC must continue irrespective I could not even dare suggest that the CEC should be postponed for I know what will be the response to that.

Under the circumstances I regret that I cannot attend the CEC with about half of COSATU affiliates outside. In my view unity can only be guaranteed if all affiliates are persuaded to discuss challenges. Even though we agreed to lead the way, I think we as the NOBs did not try at all and that we ourselves have tended to over rely on the ANC TT.

Best regards

Zwelinzima Vavi

Issued by Zwelinzima Vavi 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s