Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi on Tuesday said he did not regret boycotting the trade union federation’s central executive committee (CEC) meeting this week, despite rumours he could face suspension again.
“Frankly, I don’t care what happens,” he told reporters in Pretoria on the sidelines of a court case involving Aurora Empowerment Systems.
“I’ve been suspended before and if that’s the decision, that’s the decision.”
Vavi said he was relaxed and his conscience was clean. He said he would not speculate on a rumour.
“All I’m saying is that I don’t regret the decision I took to be away from a meeting I knew would not produce better levels of unity in the federation.”
The Congress of SA Trade Unions is holding its three-day CEC meeting in Johannesburg, which started on Monday.
The meeting went ahead without Vavi and some Cosatu affiliate unions that had pledged not to participate until the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) was reinstated as a member of the federation.
The unions include the Food and Allied Workers’ Union; the Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA; the Communication Workers’ Union; and the SA Commercial, Catering, and Allied Workers’ Union.
Vavi took to Twitter on Monday to announce he would not attend the meeting.
“I will not join the Cosatu CEC — I don’t believe going ahead with half of the unions refusing to participate is the best way to unify,” Vavi tweeted.
Responding to a tweet asking if staying away or boycotting would bring unity, Vavi said: “I twice attended the CEC with 340,000 dismissed and with half not present — that did not help unity project.”
The embattled trade union federation has been dealing with its unions supporting either Vavi or Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini.
Vavi on Tuesday said the battle had been “going on for too long” and workers’ issues were being ignored.
“For three years almost all genuine issues of the workers have been sidelined. No one is talking about the labour brokers, no one talks about decent work, no one talks about the crisis of unemployment… no one is talking about the extent of inequalities… no one is talking about the extent of poverty,” he said.
“We’ve got to return to those issues in the most uncompromising fashion.”
He said he did not want Cosatu to split.
“I’ve spent two years and more fighting inside, agitating for us to confront the issues, the differences, making appeals, submitting myself to unfair disciplinary procedures, having to ward off one forensic investigation after another, doing everything that I can to ensure that everybody realises the critical importance of preserving the unity of the workers under the federation.”
Vavi said he would do everything in his power to make sure the trade union federation was not destroyed. However, both sides needed to make it work.
“It takes two to tango. There needs to be a willing partner on the opposite side to meet you halfway. When there is no person on the other side you will fail.”
Vavi said Cosatu currently only existed in name and there were people who wanted it that way, a “sweetheart federation”.