N A move likely to raise eyebrows in the labour movement, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has been appointed to a top position at the Industrial Development Corporation.

The appointment was made by Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel, a former general secretary of the SA Clothing and Textile Workers Union – a Cosatu affiliate. Vavi was appointed alongside John Copelyn, chief executive of Sactwu’s Investment Group – the union’s investment arm.

Patel has worked with both Copelyn and Vavi. With Vavi, they were members of Cosatu’s central executive committee prior to Patel’s elevation to President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet. Vavi confirmed his appointment, which was effective from November 28.

He told Sowetan yesterday the first meeting of the newly constituted board was yet to convene. Vavi said he was confident his appointment would mean fighting for job creation as “IDC is tasked by government to create more jobs”. He said: “I hope to put on the table decent work agenda. I am hopeful the board will support enterprises that will create jobs.”

The IDC, which is wholly-owned by the state, has the job of providing finance for new industrial development projects that could result in the creation of viable new industries.

Asked about his relationship with Patel, Vavi said although he had been critical of government’s policies, including the New Growth Path drafted by Patel, the cabinet supported his nomination to the board of the IDC.”Cabinet wants us to make a difference,” he said.

Vavi’s position in Cosatu is full- time. His appointment to the IDC board is therefore likely to spark controversy in the trade union movement as his independence was likely to be questioned.

Question marks could also be raised about his relationship with Patel. Cosatu is believed to have recommended Patel to Zuma in a deal in which the president sought to appease the ANC’s alliance partners. Patel was appointed from outside the ANC’s list of public representatives.

Other new IDC board members include former Eskom chairman and Planning Commission member, Bobby Godsell, Eskom chief executive Brian Dames, and National Empowerment Fund chief executive Philisiwe Buthelezi.

Since Patel was appointed minister, Cosatu has advocated that his new portfolio be given more responsibility. This resulted in ANC general secretary Gwede Mantashe warning the labour federation not to isolate Patel as one of their own.

Zuma had promised to give him responsibility for the powerful job of overseeing macro-economic policy, but it still remains the domain of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Cosatu argued that Patel had been given a new responsibility without clear parameters.

Source: Sowetan – Moipone Malefane