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By Getrude Makhafola

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Saftu unions throw weight behind Vavi, accuses Chavalala of sabotage

Affiliates told Vavi to ignore Saftu president Mac Chavalala's letter to suspend him and continue with his duties.

Union affiliates of the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) accused the federation’s president Mac Chavalala of trying to elbow out embattled general-secretary Zwelinzima Vavi ahead of the elective conference.

The 13 affiliates on Friday pledged their support to federation’s general-secretary Vavi, who faces suspension over alleged transgressions that Chavalala said warranted an investigation and possible disciplinary action.

Describing Vavi as an “upright and honest” trade unionist, the unions demanded that Chavalala retract his “misguided” letter circulated on social media to Vavi informing him of a notice to suspend him.

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No authority to charge Vavi

The unions argued that Chavalala had no constitutional authority to charge Vavi.

“The letter sought to mischievously paint the Saftu general-secretary as corrupt. As we sit here, we have not been briefed on what Vavi has done…no one knows except you guys [media].

“The power to suspend a national office bearer is with the national executive committee of which we are all a part of…we have directed Vavi to disregard that letter and continue with his duties. The behaviour of president constitutes misconduct,” said Detawu (Democratised Transport Logistics and Allied Workers’ Union) secretary general Vusi Ntshangase.

Vavi is at work, said Ntshangase, and did not adhere to Chavalala’s Thursday deadline to give reasons why he should not be suspended.

The unions collective stance signalled divisions within Saftu that had pride itself as a militant and non-political partisan voice of the workers.

‘Chavalala is out of order’

Saftu will hold a conference this year to elect new leaders, where Vavi could run. According to the unions, Chavalala’s actions are meant to make sure that Vavi is not part of leaders contesting at the conference set to be held around June.

“The president is totally out of order…no communique was sent to affiliates who pay the Saftu subscriptions by the way. This is no way to run a federation.

“Vavi is among the leaders, and possibly due to stand for election…it is very suspicious for the president to do this 90 days before conference have leaders actin like they did is suspicious. Otherwise how do you explain his behaviour? This is politically motivated and is aimed at determining the congress,” said Steven Motingwa of Taswu (Tirhisano Transport and Services Workers Union).

Ntshangase said the federation was going through difficult times internally, and had hoped that leaders would soon resolve the issues within.

Vavi, Numsa expulsion from Cosatu

Saftu was formed after Vavi and Numsa (National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa) expulsion from Cosatu in 2015.

Vavi, who was general-secretary of Cosatu at the time, was expelled over the sexual harassment of an office colleague and irregularities in the purchasing of the Cosatu building headquarters in Braamfontein.

He had a close alliance with Numsa, which supported him as he fought for his career at the country’s biggest federation.

Cosatu leaders also expelled Numsa for openly declaring that it would not support the ANC anymore, which went against the constitution of the federation.

Numsa left with its staggering 350 000 members, Cosatu’s biggest affiliation at time, and became one of the founding members of Saftu.

Chavalala was part of the Numsa leadership before his election as Saftu president.

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