Vavi is a liar who wants to destroy Numsa, says Jim in blistering attack

Embattled National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) general secretary Irvin Jim has launched a blistering attack on SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) boss Zwelinzima Vavi, accusing him of being a liar, who is trying to destroy the country’s biggest union.

Jim has accused Vavi, who was his long-time political ally, of driving a malicious and divisive agenda aimed at removing him from his powerful post, which he has held since 2008.

In a scathing secretariat report prepared for the union’s national conference, which starts next month, Jim laid bare the fallout between the erstwhile friends, who were part of leaders that catapulted former president Jacob Zuma to the Union Buildings.

At the heart of the war between the country’s two popular trade unionists is Numsa’s withdrawal of Vavi’s bodyguard, stemming from disagreements over support for the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party (SRWP).

The duo has been at loggerheads since the dismal performance of the SRWP and Numsa-aligned United Front during the elections.

Vavi survived an attempt to remove him at a tense Saftu national conference last month, when he beat a candidate that was backed by Jim. It was expected that Vavi was going to back a candidate that would challenge Jim when the metalworkers hold their elective conference at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

Things came to a head when there were attempts to suspend Vavi, spearheaded by Saftu’s former president Mac Chavalala, an ally of Jim, in March on allegations of abuse of the federation’s credit card. However, 13 affiliates blocked the move, leading to the suspension of Chavalala and three other officials by the federation’s national executive committee.

In the report, Jim laid into Vavi.

“It has been very clear that the Saftu GS, instead of uniting Saftu affiliates, works with some and excludes others. This is what played a role in the 13 affiliates convening a press conference as there was no meeting where all Saftu affiliates were convened by him to raise his objections to the steps the Saftu NOBs [national office bearers] had taken to call him to account. It is also true that within Numsa, he works within particular Numsa regions, and not through the collective of Numsa NOBs,” he said.

“He addresses regional congresses of some regions where some NOBs and some comrades within Numsa are, in their absence, bashed and attacked with no ability to defend themselves. In the Saftu NEC, which suspended the four Saftu NOBs, the Saftu GS repeated his propaganda and lies that his suspension is linked to Numsa having taken a decision to withdraw his bodyguard. In fact, the entire agenda he is driving is anti-Numsa, divisive and malicious. It is designed to liquidate what he regards to be an ‘elephant in the room’ to be dealt with, which is the Numsa GS [Jim].”

Jim also took issue with the letter that Vavi wrote in March in which he claimed that Saftu was being paralysed from within to aide an agenda that had nothing to do with furthering the interests of the working class.

Vavi further wrote that proponents of Radical Economic Transformation (RET) had surfaced in Saftu, who had launched a vicious campaign targeted at him with the aim of capturing the federation for a “nefarious” agenda.

RET is a faction aligned to Zuma and suspended general secretary of the ANC Ace Magashule.

“The painful part of this attempt to derail the federation is that the endeavours to collapse Saftu hitherto happened in dark rooms and the boardrooms,” he said.

Numsa was expelled from Cosatu in 2014, which was followed by Vavi’s sacking the following year.

In the secretariat report, Jim said Vavi implied that he was leading a group that never left the ANC when Numsa ditched Cosatu.

“The baseless slander of these claims is obvious. How can one simultaneously fight to return to the ANC RET and then put pressure on the Saftu GS to, as he claims, endorse the SRWP?”

Jim said Vavi had not taken their advice to resign from Cosatu after the union’s expulsion and only withdrew from its activities after it became clear that he was going to be removed. He added he had persuaded the union to pay Vavi a high salary that was more than his during their Cosatu days.

“We did not know that he could turn against Numsa or its collective leadership. Nor did we anticipate that he would go on to persecute any of the Numsa leaders. We thought that with such loyalty and commitment to him, he would be loyal and committed to Numsa’s political posture and political and ideological campaigns with the sensitivity they deserve,” he said.

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