The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) president Sidumo Dlamini said people who want to leave the federation must do so immediately, warning that no intimidation or blackmail will split it.
“If you have the desire to leave Cosatu, why are you wasting time inside and trying to contribute negatively?” Dlamini asked on Wednesday.
“It doesn’t work that way. This thing of having your cake and still eating it – it doesn’t work, but this is what happens when people want to split Cosatu.”
He was addressing the executive committee of the SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) in Braamfontein.
Dlamini told the meeting that Cosatu was under attack from people seeking to split the union federation.
Cosatu under attack
“We are under attack as an organisation by forces from outside, and forces from within, whose aims are to liquidate Cosatu,” he said.
“There is no amount of intimidation, blackmail, lies which will make us waive and move away from our objective.”
Dlamini said he would fight for unity within Cosatu, even if it cost him his life.
He urged Satawu members to defend Cosatu, and to reach out to other unions within Cosatu which were under attack.
“People want to split Cosatu. If you want to split us, remember you will be divided,” he warned, adding that there were workers who were loyal to Cosatu, who would want to stay with it.
Dlamini said people who took to public platforms and the media to oppose decisions made by Cosatu’s central executive committee were misleading the public.
Splitting from Cosatu
On Tuesday, National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) general secretary Irvin Jim said a decision to leave Cosatu would be a last resort for the union, but he confirmed that this was an option it was debating.
A discussion document about the Numsa’s decision to leave Cosatu was leaked to a Sunday newspaper.
Jim said the document would be discussed at Numsa’s special conference next month.
Nine of Cosatu’s 19 affiliates called for a special national congress after its general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi was placed on special leave in August for having an affair with a junior employee.
In September, Dlamini said Vavi did not feature in the unions’ reasons for calling the special congress.
Numsa has lodged an application in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg challenging Vavi’s suspension.
After a three-day central executive committee meeting last week, Cosatu asked Numsa to withdraw its court challenge.
Going after Vavi
On Wednesday, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said Cosatu had to decide whether going after Vavi was worth the fight.
“Splitting the federation is not an option. You can pursue [Vavi] if you want to, but if the price you must pay to pursue Vavi is to split Cosatu, it is not worth the price,” he told the Satawu committee.
“Splitting the federation is not worth the price of fighting battles. It doesn’t work in real life.”
Mantashe said efforts to split Cosatu should be stopped, and he reminded it that its founding principles were still relevant. He said it was the duty of the unions to protect Cosatu.
He said Cosatu was not collapsing because people were beginning to appreciate that splitting the federation was “not worth the price”.
Mantashe echoed Dlamini and said if people wanted to leave Cosatu they should, but he said Numsa should remain in Cosatu.