South Africa: Vavi Not Written Off - Cosatu

Photo: Werner Beukes/SAPA
Suspended Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi (file photo).

Johannesburg — The Congress of SA Trade Unions has not written off suspended general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, the trade union federation said on Wednesday.

"The stance Cosatu took from the beginning has been that this is an internal matter and would be dealt with accordingly," acting general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali told reporters in Johannesburg.

"We want to give respect to the comrades concerned. They are still our comrades, we are working with them and we have not written them off that they will never return to the federation."

A charge sheet was sent to Vavi two days ago, five months after he was put on special leave by Cosatu for having an affair with a junior employee, among other things. The trade union federation would not say what the charges were.

Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini said it was not unusual to take five months to draw up charges.

"It's not a surprise. We have explained before on why there were delays and such delays were not necessarily caused by Cosatu nor caused by the investigators. What is critical now is the charges indeed have been served two days ago."

He urged all involved, including the media, to respect Cosatu's internal processes.

"We must respect the process because it is very, very important... We [will] continue to manage it with the dignity it deserves, because it is not about the individuals concerned. It's also about the ability of an organisation to take action," Dlamini said.

He said no one was saying Vavi was guilty.

"You are innocent until proven otherwise."

Vavi was put on special leave in August pending the outcome of a disciplinary hearing relating to his affair with the junior employee. In July, the employee accused him of rape. He said they had an affair. The woman subsequently withdrew a sexual harassment complaint against him.

There were also allegations of corruption against Vavi.

On Tuesday, Vavi's spokesman John Dludlu confirmed that after five months of waiting he had received a charge sheet. He said Vavi was consulting his lawyers and allies within and outside Cosatu.

Vavi ally, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), has brought an application in the High Court in Johannesburg challenging his suspension. Vavi has lodged papers to be added as an applicant in Numsa's matter.

He asks the court to grant him an interim order interdicting and restraining Cosatu from enforcing any decision taken at its central executive committee meeting in August. He wants final relief to review and set aside the decision to suspend him and institute disciplinary proceedings.

Numsa has been at loggerheads with Cosatu since Vavi's suspension.

Last month, the metalworkers' union, which is the trade union federation's biggest affiliate, held a special national congress. It discussed its future in Cosatu and whether it should support the African National Congress in the elections. A decision was taken not to support the ANC, which was an alliance partner with Cosatu.

Dlamini on Wednesday said Cosatu had written a letter to Numsa requesting a meeting to discuss the resolutions taken at the congress.

"We must have that meeting so that we can clear up a number of issues. That meeting is very, very critical."

Numsa has accused Dlamini of dragging his feet in organising a special Cosatu congress.

Dlamini said presidents and general secretaries of Cosatu's affiliates met in Johannesburg on Tuesday to discuss the matter and were assured that a special congress would be held.

He said a report would be given to a special central executive committee meeting to be held soon.

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InFocus

S. Africa: Vavi Not Written Off - Cosatu

Suspended Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi (file photo).

The Congress of SA Trade Unions has not written off suspended general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi who was placed on special leave for having an affair with a junior employee. Read more »