24/04/2017 07:36 SAST | Updated 24/04/2017 10:53 SAST

Vavi's New Union Federation Set Its Sights On The Unorganised Workforce

The new federation, led by Zwelinzima Vavi, is targeting 76 percent of the unorganised workforce.

John Wessels/AFP/Getty Images

The newly-formed union federation, the South African Trade Union Federation (Saftu) says it aims to launch a huge recruitment campaign, targeting 76 percent of the workforce, currently unorganised.

According to Business Day, Saftu launched at the weekend under the leadership of former Cosatu general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, with a membership of close to 700,000.

Vavi was elected general secretary of the federation at the weekend, according to eNCA.

The federation is primarily comprised of unions who left Cosatu after the expulsion of Numsa in 2015.

This includes the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and the food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu), according to eNAC.

According to Independent Online (IOL), the other elected officials are Numsa's Mac Chabalala as President, Nomvume Ralarala as first deputy President, and Motswari Letshogo as treasurer.

The elections were held in secret, according to IOL, but Vavi reportedly said this was not unusual. He reportedly said that Saftu's steering committee had decided that there should be consensus on the question of leadership.

Vavi told IOL on the sidelines of the congress: "The steering committee that was preparing for this congress, held a view that there should be a consensus on all matters, including the matter of leadership since this is the first congress to merge the unions. We feel it would be somehow risky to open the issue that constitutes the actual establishment congress up for voting, and therefore into to power play."

While the federation would be independent, it would not be "apolitical", Vavi reportedly said.

According to Eye Witness News, Vavi said the unions that currently existed had neglected the goal of transformation.

"The movement that was supposed to lead transformation process in our country has divided itself into small factions. The issue of unemployment, poverty and inequality is at the back of their minds," he said.

Cosatu's founding secretary general, Jay Naidoo told the new federation that it needed to go back to its organising roots.

"And that's what we have to return to... the basics of organising power because there's only one way in which those elite in power would listen to us is when we have power. When we sit around tables they don't see it as clever leaders they see the power of the working class behind it," he said.