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COSATU general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi says he is afraid for his life after receiving death threats, but will not stop speaking truth to power.
Vavi, who confirmed yesterday that he had stepped up security at his home and had two bodyguards watching him, said he was worried about his safety, but would not stop standing up for what was right.
“This is the second death threat I have received in the past two years. I’m disappointed that nothing came of the report into the first [threat]] I received in 2010,” he said.
He had been told by acting crime intelligence head Major-General Chris Ngcobo that there was a plan to poison him to death to cause chaos before Mangaung.
According to Vavi, who also mentioned these death threats during his address at the International Anti-Corruption Day at Unisa and at a press briefing afterwards, the latest threats came shortly after he contested the leadership of Cosatu.
Vavi said he was still waiting for a report into the 2010 threat, but added that it was impossible that any union member would plot with foreigners to have him killed.
“Scared? That I am. But [would] I turn my back on what is right? No I wouldn’t. If I was not scared I would not have two bodyguards,” said Vavi.
He said his bodyguards were two shop stewards who had forgone everything to protect him. He had been advised to take out insurance for his children. “These are the hazards of speaking truth to power.”
Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven said the labour federation was shocked to learn about threats to Vavi’s life.
“Such reports of a death threat must always be taken seriously. They cause fear and worry for Comrade Vavi and his family, especially as this is not the first such threat. The federation sends a message of support and solidarity to the family and pledges to take every possible measure to ensure their safety and security,” he said.
Craven said the union was concerned that Ngcobo had not reported back two months after informing Vavi of the threat, except for one SMS in which he said the situation was being monitored.
Vavi said he would continue speaking for what was right, as he did in calling yesterday for delegates at Mangaung to adopt a resolution to ban all public officials from doing business with government, and to extend this to political leaders in the ANC and its alliance partners.
“The principle here is that if you are a leader in your organisation, whether it’s the ANC or the union, you must not do that and be in private business at the same time.
“It is inevitable that there will be conflict of interest. Even if you have left those private businesses, you must not allow your family to be in there as well.
“I hope there will be enough support for this at the conference [in Mangaung].”
Vavi said, however, that he expected resistance from comrades who were involved in business.
“Of course there will be resistance from people who are benefiting from the status quo,” he said.
According to Vavi, the public no longer believed the ANC and its alliance partners when they spoke about fighting the scourge of corruption.
“People have started not believing us when we speak about corruption,” he said.
“It has become impossible to counter this when there are daily reports about senior leaders facing allegations of corruption.”
Mathews Phosa, ANC treasurer and chairman of the council of Unisa, which hosted the International Anti-Corruption discussion, said delegates at Mangaung would definitely discuss the issues raised by Vavi about officials doing business with government.
“When we are in Mangaung we will be discussing and debating the issue of organisation renewal, and this is part of it, along with other policy issues,” said Phosa.
Vavi also accepted his appointment as chairman of the National Anti-Corruption Forum, a post he vowed to use to oppose corruption in all its forms.