His eight months on suspension were wasted time, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said on Monday.
“I've never been on leave for such a long period in my life,” he told union members gathered outside Cosatu House in Johannesburg.
“It has been (a) long eight months of wasted time.”
Vavi returned to work at the Congress of SA Trade Unions' (Cosatu) headquarters on Monday morning.
Food and Allied Workers' Union members surrounded Vavi, singing as he stepped out of his car outside the building.
On Friday, the High Court in Johannesburg set aside Vavi's suspension.
Judge Phineas Mojapelo ruled that it was invalid and that the Cosatu constitution had been breached because the decisions to suspend Vavi and investigate his conduct were not put to the vote at the central executive committee (CEC) meeting where they were made.
“A vote is prescribed as the manner in which decisions are to be taken … therefore no valid decisions were taken,” Mojapelo found.
Vavi was placed on special leave in August, pending the outcome of a disciplinary hearing relating to his affair with a junior employee.
In July, the employee accused him of rape. He said they had an affair. The woman later withdrew a sexual harassment complaint against him.
Following Vavi's suspension, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), an ally of his, lodged an application in the High Court in Johannesburg challenging the decision.
Vavi then lodged papers to be added as an applicant in Numsa's challenge.
Cosatu will discuss the judgment and the way forward at a special CEC meeting on Tuesday. Numsa's position in Cosatu is also expected to be on the agenda.
Last week, Numsa wrote to Cosatu demanding that it convene a special national congress, and threatened to take the matter to court if it did not.
On Monday, Vavi thanked union members for their warm welcome.
“Last week Friday was about defining the basic… rule of law… we (are) thankful we came out triumphant.
“Your power has brought me back to where you have elected me to be.”
Vavi said it was a difficult day because his daughter was being operated on after an accident last week in the Eastern Cape, but he was excited to be back at work.
He said he was returning to Cosatu not with vengeance in mind, but to unify the trade union federation.
“I'm acutely aware of my responsibility to build the unity of the federation,” Vavi said.
“I recognise an un-unified Cosatu is not in the best interest (of workers). Our challenge here is to unify the federation, to unify progressive forces.”
He called on people to forget what he called the “political shenanigans” of the past.
“Forgive them, because they don't know what they do,” Vavi said.
Fawu members followed Vavi into the building and up to the ninth floor, which is the secretariat office.
Vavi stood singing with union members in the foyer outside his office.
He then proceeded to a meeting with other national office bearers, which he said he was chairing and had chaired every Monday in his role as general secretary. - Sapa