Ntola is a staunch supporter of Vavi and vocal critic of the ANC and the government policies. The decision by the Sadtu special central executive committee meeting to suspend Ntola comes a few hours before Cosatu’s crucial central executive committee meeting, which will decide Vavi’s fate following his admission of an affair with a subordinate.
Ntola confirmed his suspension to the Mail Guardian late on Tuesday.
He said the union suspended him for giving Vavi a platform to address Sadtu members in the Eastern Cape two weeks ago, and for commenting in the media that Sadtu’s Eastern Cape region had accepted Vavi’s apology.
Ntola told the MG he was shocked by Sadtu’s decision because he did not personally invite Vavi to address the workers in the Eastern Cape.
“Traditionally, we [Sadtu] invite Cosatu, the SACP and the ANC to come and address the workers. This is something that is done by the secretariat, whether national or provincial. It is not my work to ensure who must come or not. For me, as long as all the components of the alliance are there, I’m fine,” said Ntola.
He said he did not understand why Sadtu top leaders took issue with the fact that he commented in the media.
“I am the president of Sadtu. I don’t understand why I can’t answer questions from journalists. I guess they [Vavi’s enemies in Sadtu] did not want me to attend Cosatu special central executive committee meeting tomorrow. They [Sadtu leaders] are not supported by ordinary members. Sadtu members on the ground are supporting Vavi,” said Ntola.
Ntola said he had not yet been given formal charges and would go back to his job as principal of Chubekile Senior Secondary School in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape.
Meanwhile, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) will again try to convince Cosatu top brass on Wednesday morning not to go ahead with the special central executive committee meeting.
Numsa president Cedric Gina told the MG on Tuesday the union was planning to meet Cosatu leaders after its formal request to cancel the special CEC was rejected by Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini and other top six officials.
It is understood Numsa argued in a letter to Cosatu that the special CEC called by its deputy general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali was unconstitutional, as Vavi was the only Cosatu official constitutionally mandated to do so.
Gina said he was still confident Numsa could still convince Cosatu leaders before the special CEC on Wednesday.
“We will meet with them [Cosatu] in the morning. They [Cosatu officials] disagreed with our argument. The only different between us [Numsa and Cosatu leaders] is the interpretation of Cosatu’s constitution,” said Gina. He said Numsa would still attend the special CEC even if it failed to convince other leaders to cancel the meeting.
“We are not irresponsible. We will not say because Cosatu has rejected our request, we won’t attend the meeting. We can’t say because we are not finding each other, we should boycott the [special CEC] meeting. The CEC is the final arbiter. We will still argue our case there,” said Gina.
In for the kill
The anti-Vavi faction is expected to go in for the kill on Wednesday and ask the special CEC to suspend the general secretary for bringing the federation into disrepute after his admission of an affair with a subordinate.
Numsa believes the anti-Vavi group is using the sex scandal to kick him out of Cosatu after his enemies failed to provide evidence to back allegations of corruption against him.
Gina said deepening factions in Cosatu were as a result of differences between those who want to pursue a radical policy approach and those who are pushing for a softer stance towards the ANC and government.
“It is evidently clear that those within Cosatu that has been advocating the idea of a rupture in Cosatu might be correct. From Numsa’s perspective, this rupture in Cosatu is between forces of capitalism and forces of socialism.
“We make this bold statement because we have seen how in the CEC some argued why we should not campaign against e-tolling, and why we must not honour and execute the Cosatu resolution and policy of nationalisation of the commanding heights of the South African economy.
“Those who want comrade Vavi out of Cosatu want a Cosatu which will be a toy telephone, a labour desk, a pro capitalist Cosatu and those who are defending him want a revolutionary-socialist, anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist Cosatu,” said Gina.
Unions that are expected to support Numsa in defence of Vavi include the South African Municipal Workers’ Union, the Food and Allied Workers’ Union (Fawu), the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa), the South African Commercial Catering and Allied Workers’ Union (Saccawu) and the South African Professional Players’ Union (Sapfu).
Those opposed to him include the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), the South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) and the police union – Popcru.
Sadtu is divided, with a faction aligned to its general secretary Mugwena Maluleke pushing for Vavi’s removal, and a faction aligned to Ntola.
Numsa has threatened to withdraw its R800 000 subscription fee from Cosatu if Vavi is axed. The union said on Monday it would convene a special congress in December to decide on the way forward. Political observers have also warned of a possible split in Cosatu if Vavi is ousted.