IEC could help Saftu elect leadership
The newly formed trade union federation has admitted that a list of preferred leaders was compiled ahead of its first congress.
Former Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, who is also national convener of the steering committee of the new federation, was at pains yesterday to explain that the leadership was not imposed on delegates.
Yesterday, delegates officially adopted the interim name, SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), along with the interim logo that appeared on T-shirts worn by the delegates.
Vavi said it was the preference of the steering committee that there be consensus on all matters, including leadership, ahead of the congress.
He insisted that a democratic process was followed and the congress was not used to rubber-stamp preferences of only some of the affiliates.
“The new federation will be born out of a democratic process,” he said.
“Coming to this congress, the steering committee that was preparing for the congress held a view that there should be a consensus on all matters, including on the leadership – this being the first conference to merge the unions and to establish a federation.
“It will be somehow risky to open the issue that constitutes the actual establishment of the congress up for voting and therefore into a power play. That was the view of the steering committee,” he said.
This view was defeated at the congress, which opted to add a discussion on the election process on to the agenda.
“Once that happens, a process must start and include the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) receiving nominations; we must therefore prepare for the possibility of a vote. If the unions feel there is 100% consensus, in my view that will be good for the first congress. But if the unions don’t agree with one another and there is still some divergence of this and that position, it is only fair to use the process of the IEC to settle whatever differences people hold,” Vavi said.
The IEC was called upon to oversee a nomination process by secret ballot with the agreement that, if no contestation arose, no formal voting process would take place and the leadership would be accepted as is.
Vavi defended the use of the secret ballot, which is not typically used at congresses, saying that it was a “norm” with unions.
Nominations for the top six positions – which include president, deputy president, second deputy president, general secretary, deputy general secretary and national treasurer – were closed at 5pm yesterday.
From there, the IEC was scheduled to give a reportback on whether or not there were any contestations, and to facilitate voting which would happen today.
National Union of Metal Workers of SA (Numsa) regional chairperson Mac Chabalala was believed to be touted for the position of president, Moleko Phakedi of the Food and Allied Workers’ Union (Fawu) for the position of deputy general secretary, Vavi as general secretary, Nomvume Ralarala (SALIPSU) as first deputy president and Thabo Matsose (SAPU) as second deputy president. Smaller unions such as the Democratic Postal and Communications Union raised concerns during the plenary about a “big brother” syndrome seeping in, saying they were sidelined by the three bigger unions – Numsa, Fawu, the SA Policing Union (Sapu) and National Transport Movement (NTM) – on major decisions.
Numsa, who had 682 voting delegates at the congress, has been instrumental in the formation of the new federation alongside Vavi since their expulsion from Cosatu.
The second biggest voting delegation was Fawu with 250, third was Sapu with 154 and fourth NTM with 105.