Mantashe may be too late to stop Cosatu rift
TOO little, too late. The olive branch held out by ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe this week in a bid to prevent Cosatu tearing itself apart has not softened the position of metalworkers’ union Numsa, which has put the option of leaving the federation and forming a workers’ party in opposition to the ANC firmly on the table.
These are among the proposals to be decided when Numsa holds a special national congress in two weeks, and the signs are that while it might give Cosatu one more chance, a workers’ party is a near certainty, though not before next year’s elections.
Mantashe told a meeting of the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) this week that if gunning for Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi would come at the price of a split in the federation, it was not worth it, and Cosatu should “try something else”.
Given the growing pressure on Vavi in recent weeks amid a probe into his sexual liaison with a junior colleague, the allegedly irregular sale of Cosatu House, Vavi’s strident criticism of the ANC government, and new claims that the federation paid for private flights on his behalf, Mantashe’s comments were seen as a last-ditch attempt to patch up differences and avert a Numsa walkout.
While other affiliates associated with efforts to have Vavi reinstated have distanced themselves from talk of a split, Numsa may be able to win over significant numbers of mem- bers, especially if it also opts to ditch the Cosatu rule that affiliate unions recruit only in their designated sector. This is another proposal to be decided at its special congress.
It has already been accused of recruiting members of what was Cosatu’s biggest affiliate, the National Union of Mineworkers, which has also been bleeding members to its main rival, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, allowing Numsa to overtake it as the top Cosatu union.
Numsa regional leaders welcomed the possibility that Vavi might be rescued, but said the differences in Cosatu were bigger than the fate of the general secretary.
Sizwe Dlamini, Wits Central regional secretary, said Mantashe was “adopting a factional stance” and should instead have been trying to mediate a solution. He called on Mantashe to clarify what he intended in his comments.
LAST DITCH: Gwede Mantashe intervened.