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New municipal workers union formed

Sep 27 2015 16:27
Genevieve Quintal, News24

Johannesburg - A splinter group from the Cosatu-aligned SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) has launched a new union.

The Democratic Municipal and Allied Workers of SA (Demawusa) held its founding congress in Johannesburg on Sunday addressed by ousted Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.

"The launch of your union underlines a moment of tragedy but also the need to embrace a reality we are facing," he said in a copy of his address to the new municipal workers union.

"It’s as if we are being hit by a wave of a tsunami. Our unions are in tatters, the youth, women and civic organisations are a shadow of themselves, our Chapter Nine institutions and the judiciary are under a relentless frontal attack, the security apparatus and law enforcers are in disarray with golden handshakes being used to remove competent officials and they are being replaced by sycophants."

Vavi read out a letter he had sent to Samwu last year November when he was still Cosatu general secretary regarding allegations that union funds had been misappropriated.

He said the union had never responded but claimed that it continued to purge those who wanted to stand up against corruption and who called for a forensic audit.

Vavi went as far as to accuse Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini of approaching Samwu leaders and promising them protection and support against these allegations.

Samwu said it would respond to the formation of the new union and allegations made against it on Monday.

The embattled trade union federation, the Congress of SA Trade Unions, has been bogged down by infighting.

Affiliate unions have been divided over their support for Vavi and the National Union of Metalworkers.

Numsa was expelled from Cosatu in November last year after a vote at a central executive committee meeting.

This was after a running battle with Cosatu regarding the then suspension of Vavi, and resolutions Numsa had taken at its special congress in 2013.

Earlier this year, Vavi was expelled from the trade union federation.

Since then Cosatu affiliated unions have been split in their support of Numsa and Vavi, with some even boycotting federation meetings.

A group, which was calling itself the Nine Plus Unions, wanted to have Numsa and Vavi reinstated at Cosatu's special national congress held in July, but this was shot down.

The two would have an opportunity to appeal their expulsions at the normal congress in November this year.

Vavi on Sunday claimed that corruption had been behind the split in Samwu.

"Stealing, individualism, survival of the fittest, dog-eats-dog and everyone-for-himself and to hell with everyone else is what led to the implosion of Samwu.

"To protect themselves from the workers’ anger, Samwu leaders expelled 160 of you, the most effective and politically mature cadres from provincial, regional and branch leaderships, together with talented staff members, for merely demanding a forensic audit after allegations emerged that R132 million have gone missing in the union accounts," he said.

While new militant, democratic unions like Demawusa were welcomed and needed it was a reality that new unions and those still inside Cosatu fighting to reclaim it would not succeed on their own, Vavi added.

"We urgently need to come together on the slogan of 'United we stand! Divided we fall'.

"Over the next few weeks and months, we are going to step up the campaign to give workers back their voice," he said.

cosatu  |  samwu  |  zwelinzima vavi  |  labour  |  unions
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