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Cosatu chief Zwelinzima Vavi is unlikely to finish his term as fresh allegations surface about his daughter’s employment with a company linked to the labour federation.
His stepdaughter Thabisa Ngema is employed by VMS, a company that provides technology for the fingerprinting system among other services at Cosatu’s new premises in Braamfontein.
This has increased suspicion among his detractors that there is a potential conflict of interest case to answer.
When confronted with the allegations, Vavi told The Sunday Independent that he did not “know the terms of the contract or anything beyond that. I can’t take responsibility for her or Craig’s company.”
Craig Greene is the owner of VMS. He could not be reached for comment.
When The Sunday Independent first sent an SMS inquiring about Ngema’s employment at VMS, Vavi responded: “That’s news to me.”
But he later said: “Thabisa Ngema is my stepdaughter. She left my house about two years ago after falling pregnant while on second year doing technology in the financial sector. My relationship with her broke down at that point. Not because of pregnancy but because of other family-related things that I am not willing to engage in a public forum.
“I don’t know where she stays or works. When you sent me that SMS I called her mom and Craig to check. The answer I am getting is that she resides in Slovo Majola’s house.” Majola is the general secretary of National Education Health and Allied Workers Union.
Vavi added: “Craig tells me he engaged her for a specific software programme two or three weeks ago. Thabisa has been there about three times for that purpose. I don’t know the terms of the contract or anything beyond that.”
Attempts to reach Ngema for comment were unsuccessful.
Vavi also dismissed media reports that the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union had made an offer of R15 million for the old building after he informed Cosatu’s top brass that the building was up for sale.
Vavi said “a gun was held to my head” by Kopano Ke Matla (KKM), Cosatu’s investment arm, after a “trail of correspondence” on the possible sale of the old building.
“We needed a deposit. Popcru made no offer to anyone or me.”
But Popcru leaders told The Sunday Independent that the union made an offer of R15m “just two days after a meeting where he informed us that the building was for sale” and could not understand the haste in which the matter was concluded.
The new state-of-the-art building with an elaborate if cumbersome security system was bought by KKM Property Developments - a subsidiary of the investment arm - for R50m.
Cosatu deputy general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali is on record that the federation was paying rent and that KKM is independent from it.
But several leaders of the labour federation say it makes no sense for Cosatu to be paying rent if its own investment company owns the building.
According to company registration records, the old Cosatu building was bought by a company called Street Talk Trading 175 for R10m in August 2011.
Cosatu leaders also claim that they were made to understand that the federation has bought the new building, hence their confusion that rent to the tune of R500 000 month was now paid on the new building.
Vavi told delegates at the textile workers union’s conference in Cape Town yesterday that his accusers should provide proof that he, or relatives, unduly benefited from the sale of Cosatu House - or shut up.
“When you can bring evidence, back your allegations that you are happy to put in the media instead of the (Cosatu) structures, I will walk and this will be my last speech,” he said.
“Then it will mean I’m distrustful to the core to want to steal from you. I’ll walk away because Cosatu will never again champion the fight against corruption because its leaders are corrupt,” he said to loud applause and cheers.
“I will rather live the life of a beggar in the street than lose my integrity or Cosatu’s integrity, condemning workers into a deep, dark hole.
“I am too old to change at this age,” he said.
Vavi is no stranger to financial irregularity controversy.
Former Cosatu president Willie Madisha accused him of the unauthorised use of a Cosatu credit card.
He agreed to repay the monies spent.
Cosatu’s pension fund co-ordinator took a bribe from SA Quantum, which employed Vavi’s wife. The company provides financial services to trustees of the provident fund.
Vavi is also facing political turbulence within the federation.
Senior Cosatu leaders told The Sunday Independent that they were fed up with what they say is Vavi’s growing “refusal” to implement the federation’s decisions.
He refused to accept Cosatu’s decision that he be available for election to the national executive committee of the ANC.
Vavi, however, dismissed the charge, saying he did not understand why his decision not to stand for the ANC national executive committee was “now a life and death” issue.
He was also slammed for his alleged support for “breakaway and splinter minority unions”.
The issue of splinter unions came up for discussion at the SACP’s central committee meeting this weekend. This was during discussions on the challenges facing the trade union movement in the aftermath of Marikana, the De Doorns strike by farmworkers and the planned retrenchments in the mining sector.
SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande dismissed allegations that the party had any hand in the discussions on Vavi’s future in Cosatu. “Let me put it bluntly. This smacks of old style apartheid rooi gevaar tactics. This anti-communist tack is nothing but a gimmick. We have not discussed the internal matters of our ally. It’s none of our business. We discussed the challenges facing the progressive trade union movement and how to strengthen the alliance.” - Sunday Independent