In March 2012 Cosatu moved from its old headquarters with creaky lifts, worn brown carpets and easily accessible from the street, to its plush R50m headquarters with a  first-floor boardroom which is the venue for meetings of the federation’s top decision-making structure, its central executive committee.  According to reports the new building comes  complete with a biometric fingerprint access system and thick, soft carpets, warm lighting and embossed glass doors.

According to three recent media reports all is not well and Cosatu is ‘hobbled by internal battles, with plans for fresh elections still on ice’.   Cosatu insiders report that while Mr Vavi  was returned to his post after his suspension last year, he remained largely a “figurehead”.

Last Friday he is reported to have told a Fawu congress in Johannesburg that “Unions are in a state of paralysis,” and that “The workers’ issues are being side-lined even by Cosatu itself.”

Natasha Marrian’s report Cosatu still hamstrung by internal battles first appeared in Business Day on 14 August 2014 and her second report No wonder Cosatu in tatters, if it ignores its own rules first appeared in the same publication the next day.   The report by agency staff Unions failed workers, says Vavi first appeared in Business Day on 30 August 2014.

Some extracts from the last report

Mr Vavi said 38% of workers joined unions because they wanted to be protected from unfair dismissal, while a further 33% joined because they wanted to improve their income.

“If unions are unable to deliver on this, then they don’t deserve the union fee that workers pay them.”

He said trade unions were in “a state of paralysis” as most workers did not belong to one.

“Seventy-one percent of those employed do not belong to a union.”

One of the reasons for the decline in union membership was that unions placed too much focus on politics and not enough on issues facing the union itself.

“We can’t just blame government for this. The unions are also to blame as they are unfocused.”