Cosatu asks Numsa: drop court action

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Numsa is committed to remaining within Cosatu, despite the labour federation asking it to to withdraw their court action over general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi’s suspension.

Cosatu has asked Numsa and two other affiliates to withdraw their court action over general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi’s suspension.

“The request was made yesterday [Wednesday]… we are to wait and see,” Congress of SA Trade Unions second deputy president Zingiswa Losi told reporters in Johannesburg on Thursday.

“It is not in the interest of Cosatu finding itself in court on these matters.”

The request was made to the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), the Food and Allied Workers’ Union, and the SA Football Players’ Union at Cosatu’s three-day central executive committee (CEC) meeting this week.

Losi said the unions could not give the CEC an answer immediately.

“We would believe that they have taken that request and they will have to go back and consider [it], and they will have to come back and inform the federation of their decision.”

Numsa has lodged an application in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg challenging the suspension. Vavi then filed papers to be added as an applicant in Numsa’s challenge.

In these, he asks the court to grant him an interim order interdicting and restraining Cosatu from enforcing any decision taken at its CEC meeting in August.

He wants final relief to review and set aside the decision to suspend him and institute disciplinary proceedings.

Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini said the trade union federation had not asked Vavi to withdraw his court action.

“The CEC was talking to the affiliates, we did not ask comrade Zweli.

“All we will continue to do [is]… we will scorn off anybody who will not use and exhaust the internal processes of a progressive organisation and quickly take matters outside the organisation, like court,” Dlamini said.

Vavi was put on special leave pending the outcome of a disciplinary hearing relating to his affair with a junior employee.

In July, the employee accused him of rape. He said they had an affair. The woman subsequently withdrew a sexual harassment complaint against him.

Cosatu acting general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said the probe into Vavi’s conduct was nearly complete. The outcome of the investigation would be submitted to the CEC which would decide whether or not to bring charges against Vavi.

Dlamini said the issue was not just about “having sex in the office”, and a number of issues were being investigated.

These included employment, the recruitment policy, the name of the employee being given to the media, and power relations in Cosatu’s office.

“The investigation uncovered other things which need further investigation. It cannot be an overnight thing,” Dlamini said.

“It is not the fault of Cosatu. It is not the fault of investigators that there is a delay.”

He said the investigators needed those involved to co-operate, which Vavi had not initially done.

Numsa also came under fire at the CEC meeting for issuing a letter accusing Dlamini of dragging his feet regarding the request for a special national congress.

Ntshalintshali said the union was asked to withdraw the letter which it agreed to do.

He said a Cosatu special national congress would not take place this year.

“The president reported on the practicalities of convening such a congress, including among others, timing, costs and resources, the state of readiness of the affiliates, and the objectives and agenda of the congress.

“It was agreed that these issues be referred to a meeting of the NOBs [national office bearers] and affiliates’ presidents and general secretaries.”

They would report back to a special CEC meeting to be convened to discuss internal processes. If that meeting could not resolve the matter it would be taken to the CEC in February next year.

Dlamini said Numsa’s refusal to take part in Cosatu’s “rolling mass action” was discussed by the CEC.

“When there are disruptions of the action… by members of the union… the CEC says no it can’t be.

“Cosatu NOBs must talk to Numsa directly. We don’t want to find ourselves in a situation where we think we moving in the same direction [when we are not],” he said.

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said the union is still committed to Cosatu.

“We think workers are united in demanding a special national congress. We have no reason to opt out of the federation.”

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