Former Congress of South African Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. Picture: MOELETSI MABE/THE TIMES
Former Congress of South African Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. Picture: MOELETSI MABE/THE TIMES

General secretary of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) Zwelinzima Vavi has declined an invitation by the SACP to its national congress, presently underway in Boksburg.

Vavi says he cannot forgive the party’s involvement in Cosatu’s split.

The SACP invited Vavi and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) to its 14th national congress, as it eyes contesting elections independently of its ally, the ANC.

This is after the party played an integral role in Vavi and Numsa’s expulsion from Cosatu at the end of 2014.

Vavi and Numsa have gone on to form a new federation, Saftu, and are in the process of setting up a workers party to contest future elections.

"By openly supporting the expulsion of over 340,000 metal workers [Numsa], and then to stand idly by when hundreds of other unions members within Cosatu were summarily expelled for demanding an end to corruption, financial and political accountability and transparency by their union leaderships makes us doubt that any serious reflection has taken place," Vavi said in a letter to the party on Wednesday.

He said members of Saftu were "disbelieving and sceptical" of the SACP leadership.

Turning to the ANC succession race, Vavi accused the SACP of making the same mistakes it made in the run up to Polokwane when it supported President Jacob Zuma.

The party was again backing a faction and this time a "pro-capital candidate", he said referring to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The SACP congress is debating state power and whether the party should contest elections apart from the ANC.

On Monday, first deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin said the SACP was not necessarily looking at contesting elections solely behind its red flag but as part of a broad front.

Vavi questioned why the SACP was inviting Saftu to its congress and whether it was looking for support for its broad front.

"[Is] the sudden talk of putting together a broad front of left formations not an attempt at redeeming itself and worse, using us as a bargaining chip in its factional manoeuvres inside the ANC-led Alliance to sort out the eating queue in 2017 and 2019, instead of addressing the crisis facing the working class and the black majority today?" Vavi asked the party in the letter.

The SACP also invited the 101 ANC veterans, the academics and the South African Council of Churches who have been speaking out against state capture and corruption.

Vavi said Saftu would only accept an invitation from the communist party when it "decisively and publicly breaks with politics of positioning, patronage and class collaboration".

"Until that time, we shall continue placing the needs of the working class at the centre of our concerns, for that is the real meaning of nonsectarianism.

"Activists on the ground, if listened to, will testify and show evidence to indicate that the working class and the poor are desperately looking for organisations that will represent their interests, and who will also be ready to stand side-by-side with them in actively challenging, not accommodating the dictates of the market."

Vavi said that was what Saftu intended to do.

The federation would wait for the outcomes of the SACP congress to see if such a "re-orientation" was capable of emerging.

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