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Johannesburg - Cosatu's national office bearers (NOBs) had no ulterior motives when suspending general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, the High Court in Johannesburg heard on Thursday.
“It is apparent from the transcript that it was not the intent of the NOBs to influence 1/8delegates 3/8,” said Karel Tipp, for the Congress of SA Trade Unions.
“(Discussions were) spontaneous and thoughtful and engaging.”
Tipp was referring to a special central executive committee (CEC) meeting in August. It was through this meeting that a decision to suspend Vavi was taken.
He said comments attributed to Vavi and unions supporting him about the way the trade union federation had acted improperly had been widely publicised in the media.
Legal teams for Vavi and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA argued that the decision was taken by the NOBs in a side meeting and not through a vote by delegates from Cosatu's affiliate unions.
Tipp went through the different unions' submissions during the meeting. He pointed out that the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union was the first union to bring up suspension, and the SA Democratic Teachers Union had agreed.
The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union and the National Union of Mineworkers also supported the suspension.
Tipp said eight of the 16 affiliates in good standing were for the suspension, while eight were against it or non-committal.
According to Cosatu's constitution, the CEC had the power to dismiss or suspend the general secretary.
“When one looks at what each affiliate said and does it suggests an ulterior motive, we say clearly there isn't.”
Tipp said assuming that the number of delegates within those eight affiliates which supported the suspension all agreed, this would mean there was a majority and a vote was not needed.
Deputy Judge President Phineas Mojapelo questioned whether this meant there was a decision on the suspension, since there was a 50/50 split. Tipp's argument was based on an assumption, he said.
He asked whether this should not have meant that a vote should have been taken.
“One gets the sense there is a deadlock... so why not consider a vote?”
Tipp pointed out that Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini had called for a vote, which was the position taken by the NOBs. Affiliates however said they would discuss it and if they did not “find each other” a vote would be taken.
In August last year, Cosatu said Vavi had been put on special leave 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.
Following Vavi's suspension Numsa, an ally of his, lodged an application in the High Court challenging it. Vavi lodged papers to be added as an applicant in Numsa's challenge. In these, he asks the court to grant him an interim order interdicting and restraining Cosatu from enforcing any decision taken at its CEC meeting in August.
He wants final relief to review and set aside the decision to suspend him and institute disciplinary proceedings.
Union officials and supporters filled courtroom E11 in the court on Thursday. Vavi and Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim sat in the front row. Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini and acting general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali were also in court.
During court proceedings Jim turned around to joke and laugh with Dlamini and Cosatu acting general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali. There was however little interaction between Vavi and the Cosatu leaders.
A small group of Vavi supporters sang and danced outside the court and displayed placards with messages of support. They heckled Dlamini when he left the court.
Earlier, legal teams for Vavi and Numsa argued that Cosatu had not followed the trade union federation's constitution when it made the decision to suspend Vavi.
The case continues on Friday.