South Africa’s Suspended Union Leader Rejects Offer as Lawmaker

Zwelinzima Vavi, the suspended general-secretary of South Africa’s biggest labor federation, declined an offer to serve as a lawmaker for the ruling African National Congress.

Vavi, a critic of President Jacob Zuma, said in a Twitter post he won’t accept a nomination by ANC branches to become a member of Parliament after elections this year. He was suspended from the Congress of South African Trade Unions, an ANC ally, in August while being investigated for having an extra-marital affair with an employee he had hired.

“To me the priority for now is not on strengthening of Parliament but building organs of people’s power,” Vavi wrote on his Twitter feed yesterday. “Sweetheart unions who largely serve only as a ladder for its leaders to get Member of Parliament jobs neither serve members nor democracy.”

ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe called on Vavi to quit union politics and take up a position as an ANC lawmaker, the South African Broadcasting Corp. reported on Jan. 4.

Vavi, 51, has been a vocal opponent of the ANC’s proposals to relax labor laws and impose tolls on highways, while also accusing it of not doing enough to combat poverty and corruption. His suspension, which he says is a political plot aimed at weakening Cosatu, threatens to split the labor federation and undermine the alliance with the ANC.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, the country’s biggest labor group, last month said it won’t endorse the ANC in next year’s election and called on Zuma to resign.

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