Cosatu threatens to call in cops

COSATU leaders threatened to call police outside Cosatu House in Johannesburg yesterday as members of one of its affiliate unions staged a protest before a meeting of the federation's top brass.

A group of SA Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) members in Gauteng started gathering at the federation's headquarters yesterday morning before the central executive committee meeting, demanding that their leaders answer to allegations of corruption or be fired.

This relates to the alleged embezzlement of R140-million which vanished from the union's coffers, as cited in a draft report by auditors Pele-Ea-Pele, who also exposed questionable decisions by Samwu leadership relating to the awarding of a tender for the union's new headquarters, among other damning findings. Cosatu leadership, led by president Sdumo Dlamini, threatened to unleash the police on the group yesterday, saying that the gathering was illegal.

It was only through intervention by provincial secretary Mohau Mokgatla that the group dispersed to wait for their leaders at the Samwu offices. Samwu has about 180000 members and represents some of the lowest-paid municipal workers.

Times Media understands that the issue of the union's missing millions has created a tense environment, with members constantly worried about being suspended as leadership allegedly embarked on a witch-hunt. It is understood that 16 people have already been suspended.

"The union has been fighting corruption in the municipalities, but it can't fix its own house. There is a terrible manipulation of the constitution," a senior leader said.

Samwu members outside the Cosatu office like Sipho Vilakazi and Nosipho Mda, a shop steward, said all that members wanted were answers and their money back.

Cosatu leaders were late yesterday locked in a meeting which is expected to seal the fate of general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, who was suspended and reinstated after admitting to having sex with a junior employee in the office. - Hlengiwe Nhlabathi