Johannesburg – A new spat over the suspension of Cosatu’s second deputy president, Zingiswa Losi, as a shop steward of the metalworkers’ union Numsa is adding to the tension in the trade union federation.
Cosatu has seen its 19 affiliates publicly divided over the suspension of general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi after his admission of an extramarital office affair with a married junior Cosatu employee.
His suspension also followed allegations of maladministration made against him in February – the subject of a continuing forensic audit.
Losi, a Numsa shop steward in Port Elizabeth, is widely seen as close to Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini and part of the anti-Vavi lobby.
Numsa, however, is a vocal backer of Vavi.
In Port Elizabeth on Wednesday, Numsa called on Dlamini to apologise for public comments, including that “it would be unfortunate if Losi was being targeted so that there can be a speedy special congress”.
Vavi has indicated in court papers he would take his appeal against his suspension to a special congress.
Nine affiliates, just over the one third required under Cosatu’s constitution, have asked for a special congress, where Vavi’s backers believe he will be returned to his post.
The matter is under consideration by Dlamini, to whom it falls as Cosatu president to call and arrange a special congress. It is on the agenda of the next central executive committee meeting in November.
Referring to Losi’s suspension, Dlamini said on Wednesday: “When the affiliate suspends her and does not inform us, I cannot ignore how unfair this is. We deserve to know why she is suspended.
“I can’t apologise for that.”
Numsa Port Elizabeth local secretary Bandla Mtshiselwa called on Dlamini to stop publicly commenting on an internal union matter.
“Such comments can only be made by someone that suffers from high levels of paranoia and infantile disorder.
“Comrade Losi’s suspension has nothing to do with the forthcoming Cosatu special congress, as duly requested by nine affiliates.”
Earlier this week, it emerged disciplinary charges and a date for proceedings against Losi were yet to be set.
Next week, Cosatu affiliates will find themselves on different sides in the Johannesburg High Court over Vavi’s suspension.
Numsa is challenging Vavi’s suspension with the Food and Allied Workers Union and the SA Football Players Union.
Opposing them are Cosatu and six affiliates, including the National Union of Mineworkers, teachers’ union Sadtu, the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union, police union Popcru and the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union
Meanwhile, from court papers filed by Vavi this week, it emerged the vote on his suspension taken at a special meeting of Cosatu’s cental executive committee was indecisive: eight affiliates in favour and eight against, or not in favour, in a split that indicated the battle lines now drawn in court.