Posted on October 2, 2010


The axing of Cosatu president Willie Madisha this week. raises many more questions than answers. Confusion still reigns.

Which is scarcely surprising since the entire affair has been clouded by conspiracy theories in an atmosphere thick with allegations of financial impropriety, lies and innuendo,

The knives have been out for Madisha for nearly two years. That was clear at the Cosatu congress in September 2006. It was at that congress that one of Madisha’s leading adversaries sidled up to me — shortly before going on to publicly condemn “faceless, unnamed sources quoted in the media” — to tell me confidentially: “Madisha is history. We’ll get him.”

They didn’t. He survived as president by a very narrow margin.

At the time he was condemned for failing to support Jacob Zuma as president of the ANC. But there were also other tensions: earlier that year Madisha confirmed that he was investigating general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi for the misuse of a union credit card.

Vavi accused Madisha and then deputy president Joe Nkosi, of leaking the information. SA Communist Party general secretary, Blade Nzimande, leapt to Vavi’s defence, claiming the allegations were part of a “political conspiracy”. At a Cosatu executive meeting in August 2006, the national office bearers were persuaded, in the name of unity, to deny that there was any investigation.

But there was, although the matter was buried and Vavi subsequently paid back the money owed to the labour federation. Madisha went along with this charade, again in the name of unity.

Unity of both the ANC and the governing alliance was also the reason Madisha advanced for refusing to back either Zuma or Thabo Mbeki. He argued that Cosatu should not take sides; that it should, instead, press for different policies, whoever headed the ANC.

This was seen by Zuma supporters as undermining their “plan”. But it did not amount to grounds for expelling Madisha.

That opportunity came last year with his admitted role in the alleged R500 000 donation in cash to the SACP by controversial businessman Charles Modise. As late as last week, SACP spokesperson Malesela Maleka again raised the spectre of “political conspiracy” and punted the claim that no charges had been laid by Modise against Nzimande.

But Bedfordview CAS 552//7/2007 relating to the investigation of Nzimande and an apparently missing R500 000 does exist, as Nzimande himself is aware.

There is also a widespread impression that the commission of enquiry conducted an exhaustive investigation in to all matters concerning Madisha and the charges against him. It did not.

It was limited. It did not even investigate the veracity of contradictory claims, assessing merely the impact of “recent events” and statements and whether there was evidence that trust had broken down between Madisha and the national office bearers as a result .

Why or how this happened or whether Madisha was telling the truth or not about the parlous state of SACP finances (for which considerable evidence already exists) and the SACP authorisation for cash donations and the reasons for them, did not feature. As such, the commission has been described in some quarters as “part of the hit squad”.

What the whole sorry and sordid affair has underlined is that a considerable amount of murk still surrounds dealings within the major union federation and its SACP ally. It is probably better that these matters are aired. But we may have to wait for the Cosatu congress next year where hopefully properly informed worker delegates will have their say.

Posted in: Archive - 2008