Hundreds of South Africans protest outside Johannesburg court

They protested the suspension of Zwelinzima Vavi, a prominent trade union leader and critic of President Zuma.

Hundreds of South Africans protest outside Johannesburg court

World Bulletin / News Desk

Hundreds of people demonstrated on Thursday outside the Johannesburg High Court to protest the suspension of Zwelinzima Vavi, general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).

"COSATU's central executive committee did not follow proper procedure before suspending comrade Vavi," Patrick Malume, an elderly member of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (a COSATU affiliate), told Anadolu Agency outside the courthouse.

"We are here to give him our support. We shall protest until the court overturns his suspension," he said.

Vavi, the vocal trade union boss who was once a strong supporter of President Jacob Zuma, was suspended eight months ago for allegedly having an affair with a junior employee.

He was also accused of using COSATU finances to book airline flights for his relatives.

About 200 supporters of Vavi from various trade unions dressed in red t-shirts danced and chanted outside the courthouse amid a heavy police presence.

Some carried placards reading, "We miss the critical ZV voice," referring to Vavi's strong opinions on various political issues – some of which are believed to have offended members of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

"We want comrade Vavi to be reinstated because we know his suspension was politically motivated," said one protester carrying a placard bearing the words "Long live Vavi."

Spectators gathered across the street to watch the protestors as they braved the hot sun.

Division

Ever since his suspension, Vavi has turned into a Zuma critic, and workers fear that COSATU – which unites all the country's trade unions – could be split between one faction led by Vavi and another led by COSATU President and Zuma supporter Sdumo Dlamini.

"The current factionalism within trade unions will most likely affect the ANC in the election," political analyst Mzoxolo Mpolase told AA, referring to upcoming general elections slated for May.

Previously, he said, the ANC had been assured of a block vote from the trade unions. But now, in light of current divisions, the governing party will likely lose some support from union workers.

COSATU and the South African Community Party are both members of the ruling ANC-led alliance.

South Africans will go to the polls on May 7 to elect a president, parliamentary deputies and city council representatives.

Twenty-nine political parties are expected to contest the polls.

The race will likely be led by five parties, including Zuma's ANC, the Democratic Alliance (the country's main opposition party), the recently-established Economic Freedom Fighters, the Congress of the People, and the Inkatha Freedom Party.

Last Mod: 27 Mart 2014, 14:29
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