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Media Centre  |  COSATU Press Statements

Why was comrade Zwelinzima Vavi expelled by COSATU?

By Zingiswa Losi, COSATU 2nd Deputy President

8 April 2015

Introduction

The current challenges confronting the federation continues to be defined along the terms , template and the narrative imposed by NUMSA and Zwelinzima Vavi grouping who present themselves as victims and continuously plead for public sympathy even when they have committed the most obvious misconduct.

This has happened with the help of the media which has obviously taken sides against anyone associated with the ANC and the SACP. It will be one of those rare moments if this article finds itself in the media given the latest observable improvement which may been born out of the fact that the truth shall always be victorious over lies. Adolf Hitler and his Joseph Goebels knows this truth wherever they are.

The Zwelinzima Vavi led grouping present a narrative which is decorated with fiery language mainly borrowed from the liberation movement’s battle cries and slogans.

But more irritating is their continued abuse and distortion of Marxism - Leninism to hide their true ideological character and present themselves as super revolutionaries using the credentials of our federation and the liberation movement as a licence to attack and undermine the very same federation and the liberation movement. We will reflect more on their ideological outlook in the next article which will be issued soon.

The recent alien conduct by Zwelinzima Vavi is consistent with the NUMSA driven agenda which is essentially aimed at undermining the federation (to paraphrase comrade Jeremy Cronin) by consistently diving into the penalty area as a way of forcing the issuing of a red card in the form of a disciplinary action. Indeed Zwelinzima Vavi was expelled as the General Secretary of COSATU at the Special CEC convened from the 30th to the 31st March 2015.

Whatever may have been the plan of the NUMSA - Zwelinzima Vavi axis, this expulsion was bound to happen if the credibility of the federation was to be protected.

It is now an open secret that this was part of the options contained in the document they have developed as we were preparing towards the Special CEC.

The plan was to create conditions of expulsion as NUMSA did in order to create a platform to mobilise sympathy against the federation and lay the foundation to mobilise against the liberation movement , a plan which is bound to fail!.

It is also a known secret that this groping is currently developing a come- back plan which is centred on spreading lies to the masses. This will include creating confusion amongst the members using apartheid tactics such as distributing COSATU affiliates T- shirts in their meetings to create false impression for their support.

We want to promise them that we will meet on the ground and we are not armed with money or any form of patronage to buy allegiance but we are armed with truth and truth only.

Our main occupation currently is to reach to every structure of the federation to communicate the CEC decision and to refocus the organisation towards quality service to members and building unity amongst workers.

It is in this context that our call is unity amongst workers and war to our class enemy. We want to build unity based on the founding principles of the federation.

Anyone who will stand on our way towards achieving this goal will experience a deadly collision!

Why was Zwelinzima Vavi expelled by the CEC?

The CEC had a lengthy discussion and considered many of the things which comrade Zwelinzima Vavi had done against the federation but the recent defiance against the federation made the CEC to say it can only go this far or no further.

As it is captured in our press statement that the reasons for his expulsion include the following:

  1. After the Special Central Executive Committee meeting held on the 7th November 2014 in which a decision was taken to expel NUMSA, the General Secretary did not attend the media conference which was convened to communicate the decisions of this CEC. Instead he wrote a letter which was also accessed by the media in which he expressed his opposition to the decision of this CEC to expel NUMSA. This was a CEC which he had convened and in which he was also present and participated in its deliberations.
  2. He did not attend the joint Political and Socio- Economic Commission which he had convened on the 24th January 2015, saying that he will not attend the meeting because the other affiliates who went public about boycotting the CEC had also not attended the meeting.
  3. He did not attend the properly constituted ordinary CEC held from the 2nd to 4th March 2015 which was convened by himself, citing the absence of the unions which had openly boycotted the meeting as the reasons for his non-attendance. Throughout the proceedings of the meeting he spoke to the media communicating views that were in opposition to or contrary to the interests of the Federation which he had been elected by the 11th Congress to lead as its General Secretary.
  4. At its properly constituted ordinary CEC held from the 2nd to 4th March 2015 which he convened , in the light of the failure of the General Secretary to attend this meeting o to explain his behaviour which went against the expressed provisions of the COSATU constitution and the code of conduct for staff and leaders , it was decided that the General Secretary be called upon to attend the meeting of the Special Central Executive Committee scheduled from 30th to 31st March 2015 to explain his failure to attend the ordinary CEC held from the 2nd to 4th March 2015 . By not coming to this CEC to explain his conduct he therefore waved his right to put his side of the story. This is in addition to his refusal to cooperate in giving his side of the story on serious allegations contained in the Sizwe Ntsaluba Gobodo report.
  5. The General Secretary refused and failed to attend these meetings . The failure of the General Secretary to attend the meeting of the 2nd to 4th March 2015, including the Special CEC convened from the 30th to 31st March 2015 had major implications on the management and administration of the affairs of the Federation.

Comrade Zwelinzima Vavi refused to come and explain his conduct to the CEC and instead went out to speak ill of the organisation and its leaders and spreading lies at every available opportunity including raising internal organisational issues to the public when there was an internal platform to do so. How can such a comrade still be trusted by the organisation?

It is actually irritating to realise that there is an intention to hide behind the honest struggles of our people in order to justify shameful act of ill discipline by comrade Zwelinzima Vavi. We can’t be fooled to believe these lies when we know that the name of our organisation has been put into disrepute by the actions of comrade Zwelinzima.

The commission which was set to deal with the conduct of the former president, on amongst others considered whether the conduct of the president constituted a conduct which put the name of the organisation into disrepute concluded as follows:

"The President is the figurehead of COSATU. COSATU’s members are entitled to expect his conduct to be beyond reproach, not only in relation to COSATU matters but generally. In the Commission’s view his conduct in relation to the donation as revealed in the statements falls well short of that expectation.

It has caused divisions within the Federation. It has implicated the President and by association COSATU in what has all the trappings of an unseemly financial scandal. It has reduced his level of acceptability to important constituencies in COSATU and its alliance partner the SACP. It has exposed the President and COSATU to ridicule.

The Commission accordingly finds that the statements have had a negative impact on COSATU and the President and have brought COSATU into disrepute".

A similar conclusion should be reached with regard to the conduct of the General Secretary who occupies such a strategic position of leadership in the organisation.

What are the most obvious defining characteristics of comrade Zwelinzima Vavi.

This is a comrade who at some stage showed the signs of being humble and truthful to the struggle for the emancipation of workers. Like many of the comrades in the federation and in the liberation movement he provided leadership.

The manner in which COSATU operates is that it gives those of its leaders a chance to lead without micro -management. Workers give their absolute trust to those they elect. They sing about them, ululate when we speak and shout slogans with our names.

In the process comrades Zwelinzima gradually mastered the art of abusing this trust. He gradually began to see himself as being above these very masses and above his own comrades in the leadership. He began to wear two faces, the face of pretending to be with the masses as he shouts slogans and use fiery Marxist language dressing himself in borrowed robes of the SACP and liberation movement.

On the other hand he began to be sucked into the vortex of self centeredness, individualism and refused to listen when told by the collective about his deviations.

He began to construct COSATU in his image and usurped the operations of the federation to be at his service as an individual and not at the service of COSATU. In the process everyone became his inferior subject who must listen to him, and him alone. In this context the organisation served him and not the other way round.

It was difficult for comrades to effectively call him to order because he enjoyed the support of the membership which the organisation has opened up to him to serve and not to abuse.

It is this trust which he abused in the process to a point of not even caring about what the collective was saying. Those who dared to openly differ with him, got removed from positions of leadership or had their political credentials questioned continuously to a point of losing confidence about their work.

When the organisation agrees on a programme he will sideline everyone else to elevate himself as the only person driving such a programme and therefore as the only one serving workers.

The power and influence of the media came in handy as journalists continuously received private briefings without the knowledge of the collective. In some cases they will come to our press conferences with prepared questions to get certain responses or deal with some individual leaders.

Given the trust bestowed to him by the organisation he was able to access various institutions who consulted with him about various issues and these issues would on the basis of trust be allowed into the agenda of the federation. In some instances he rammed them trough without anyone questioning.

The truth has a way of coming up.

Over a period of time the collective leadership of the federation including those comrades who were close to him began to question the behaviour and it is at this point that the differences became pronounced.

The most glaring characteristics of Zwelinzima Vavi is in how he speaks from both sides of his mouth and how he apply one standard for others and another standard to himself.

In public he present himself as representing high moral standards and expect everyone to live and be judged by these standards and yet in the dark , away from the public eye he emulate the worst conduct of his ideological and class masters -white capital in general and white monopoly capital in particular.

Inconsistency has become a defining feature of Zwelinzima Vavi. For an example when it suited Zwelinzima Vavi it was correct to say that "I will never ever use the powers I have as general secretary of the federation to steal from the very downtrodden members of the federation, who are ... struggling daily against corruption," ..... "I will just leave because that will be the worst form of betrayal ... I will just walk because it means I have no bloody credibility left whatsoever,"

But when the Sizwe Ntsaluba Gobodo firm of auditors wanted him to meet with them to explain his side of the story he found all sorts of reasons not to present himself. Instead chose to engage in a media campaign about the truthfulness of the report and blamed the auditors for their findings when he is the one who refused to meet them .

Recall how he answered after admitting to have slept with a married junior staff member without a condom. He started pointing to others in the federation.

It can be argued that this admission at the time was based on the calculation that it was better to admit sleeping with a married junior staff member (just observe the moral standards of this self appointed super revolutionary) than to face the rape charges which were later withdrawn when the junior staff member was subjected to the extreme pressure under cross examination.

But when the organisation through an independent chairperson of the Disciplinary Committee made findings and wants him to account for his actions and face the consequences of his actions he chose to embark on a campaign alleging conspiracy against him. Surely the admission was also made based on the calculation of hiding other irregularities which include the employment process and how workers money was abused in the exchange of benefits with the junior office partner.

Realising that his real character has been exposed , emotions of unsuspecting workers were drummed up for his support with NUMSA leading the deflective mobilisation as way of ensuring that Zwelinzima Vavi - the super revolutionary is placed above the organisation and does not face the disciplinary process like any other member and leader of the organisation.

Did comrade Zwelinzima Vavi walk away as he promised ? No, instead the media was mobilised and came in to protect its leader. Compare how the media had drummed up public opinion on pay back the money campaign on INkandla by the opposition versus how it has remained silent and downplayed the immoral actions by Zwelinzima Vavi.

Even when it is reported, he gets juxtaposed with the COSATU President in order to feed to the conspiracy theory and for the public not to judge the man by his actions alone.

Questions are not asked by the media as to how can there be conspiracy in moving from the 9th floor, get to a lift to the third floor of the building, take down the zip or remove the trousers and underpants to sleep with a married junior staff member instead of doing COSATU work. Where exactly is conspiracy in this irresponsible and shameful act?

How could COSATU resolutions have been implemented when a person placed at the helm of such a process is occupied with changing the federation’s offices into a brothel.

Even when he says that he is not above the organisation and is prepared to go through a disciplinary process but in action he acts against his own words. He argued that even if there is to be action against him but it should not be too harsh as to include his dismissal.

Consistent with his character, he wanted to place himself into a position of being a judge in his own case. In the process drum up sympathy amongst the workers to create conditions which will make it impossible for the disciplinary process to commence.

Where are the high moral standards of this super revolutionary of respecting internal organisation processes?

Very recently these double standards were exposed for all to see when Zwelinzima Vavi openly opposed the decision of the CEC to expel NUMSA, refused to attend a press conference and instead went to the media to communicate his opposition to the CEC decision. This is the CEC which was convened by him as part of his constitutional responsibility. This is the CEC which had been planned for by the NOB collective.

As if this was not enough he refused to attend the joint meeting of the political and socio-economic commission which was preparing towards the ANC NEC Lekgotla whose outcome would inform the content of government programme. He said that he could not attend the meeting because the other unions who were supporting NUMSA were not part of the meeting.

Just before the CEC could discuss these issues, the General Secretary refused to attend the first CEC of the year 2015 on the basis that the other unions were not attending the CEC.

Where is revolutionary discipline this comrades talked about in his open letter to comrade Chris Hani where fiery communist language and false accusation were used to whip the emotions of the masses against the SACP leadership who on the basis of the SACP programme accepted deployment to parliament.

Comrades must read comrade Chris Hani’s interview with Vickie Erenstein Ya Toivo where he said that "we stand for the victory of the National Democratic revolution which will lead to the democratisation of our society . That will b revolutionary because our people will for the first time in his history be given the vote to decide on his own government. We are going to push for that government to have working class representatives, communists and trade unionists in its ranks within the alliance".

Here is a communist leader speaking and respecting the policy of the organisation he leads. Comrade Joe Slovo another leader of the SACP went on to serve as the first minister of housing in the democratic government.

Again another leader placing himself as a subject of his organisation and not above it. Can the same be said of Zwelinzima Vavi?

As COSATU we said it was wrong of the former COSATU President comrade Willie Madisha to take matters of the organisation to the media. The General Secretary was at the forefront of a charge against the former President. True to the teachings of our movement we all agreed that indeed it was wrong for anyone, more so a leader to take internal matters of the federation to the media.

But Zwelinzima Vavi have repeatedly taken the affairs of the federation to the media. The very same Zwelinzima Vavi took the federation to court for doing things in accordance with the established traditions of the federation including when it has implemented the constitution on convening the Special National Congress.

The 2007/2008 Commission of Enquiry which was mandated to investigate allegations involving the COSATU President Willy Madisha and whose findings led to the CEC taking a decision to dismiss him had this to say about collective leadership which in the view of the CEC, the former President was undermining :

"The NOBs are designed to operate as a collective, to work together to implement policy, to guide the federation, to prioritize and plan and to represent the federation.

In the minute of the COSATU CEC of November 2006, the CEC asserted that the constitution was designed to reinforce the principle of worker control and collectivity, not presidential control or individualism. The COSATU constitution "allocated the powers of the President in a manner that reinforce the principle of worker control, collective leadership and internal democracy." The minute further cited the Presidents role under the constitution as "in conjunction with other NOBs, to generally supervise the affairs of the Federation between meetings of the NC and CEC"

In circumstances of a complete breakdown of any effective working relationship between the President and the NOBS it is difficult to imagine how the President could do justice to the responsibility accorded him under the constitution".

This conclusion equally applies to the General Secretary

As we speak NUMSA has taken the federation to court on the convening of a Special National Congress and yet the president has acceded to the request and that Special Congress is scheduled to sit from the 13th and 14th July 2015.

As the federation we are running a campaign against corruption, which is the campaign also being spearheaded by the SACP but we have never consciously worked on a joint anti - corruption campaign with the SACP instead Zwelinzima Vavi ( when he was still the General Secretary of COSATU ) will blatantly refuse to attend or have a COSATU leader deployed to an SACP programme against corruption .

The only conclusion which can be drawn from this is that, this is done because the SACP is not a platform where individuals can shine above the organisation. He is not in control to muster publicity as it will happen with COSATU and that even if this could be done but it should not end up elevating the SACP as leading the anti- corruption campaign perhaps because the party had the ability to expose the lie and the facade in the sloganeering against corruption when those shouting are actually doing so in order to divert attention from them.

It has been found that Comrade Zwelinzima Vavi lied in the media when he said that he conducted an interview in the presence of the Administrative Secretary when the staff member who later became his sexual object was employed. He knows that he lied but he has not walked away on his own. Instead he entered into a campaign to claim conspiracy instead of taking responsibility for his own individual action and ill discipline.

Zwelinzima Vavi will have the guts and audacity to go public and claim to be disciplined and to understand and practice organisational discipline but he is the first to disown a decision taken by a collective in his presence. Instead of owning up to this gross mistake , what does he do , he goes out to divide COSATU and mobilise a section of affiliates to demand that he should not be taken through a disciplinary process using a cover up of representing the interests of workers.

As Mao Tse Tung puts it that "people who are liberals look upon the principles of Marxism as abstract dogma. They approve of Marxism, but are not prepared to practice it or to practice it in full; they are not prepared to replace their liberalism by Marxism. These people have their Marxism, but they have their liberalism as well - they talk Marxism but practice liberalism; they apply Marxism to others but liberalism to themselves.. They keep both kinds of goods in stock and find a use for each".

COSATU had to be content with having a General Secretary who has double life, whose life and relevance to the organisation and society is dependent on lies which the unsuspecting public consume without questioning based on the history and credibility of COSATU as a genuine representative of workers and the working class in general.

A comrade who operates like Joseph Goebbels of the Nazi German who said that you must "use emotion for the many and reserve reason for the few".

The CEC said it can only go this far and not any further!

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