A man walks past a banner in support of suspended Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, who returned to the High Court in Johannesburg on Thursday, 27 March to challenge his suspension. Vavi is challenging his suspension after admitting to an extra-marital affair with a junior employee. He said the trade union federation's central executive committee failed to hold a vote as required by its constitution. Cosatu maintains that Vavi was suspended because he violated the federation's code of conduct. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

Johannesburg - Suspended Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi's bid to set his suspension aside should be based on his employment contract and not the federation's constitution, the High Court in Johannesburg heard on Friday.

“(However) he's not relying on a contract of employment but a direct contract between him and Cosatu,” Kirsty McLean, for intervening unions, said.

She was arguing against Vavi and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA's submissions that the Congress of SA Trade Unions had breached its constitution when it decided to suspend Vavi.

Gauteng Deputy Judge President Phineas Mojapelo had to stop McLean mid-way, asking why this argument was not in their heads of argument. He asked that she prepare her submissions for him in writing.

Earlier, her colleague Craig Watt-Pringle, SC, reiterated what Karel Tipp, SC, for Cosatu, had said about the matter being more suitable for the Labour Court and Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration.

“In general terms we associate ourselves with submissions made by Mr Tipp,” he said.

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 a junior employee.

In July, the employee had 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 in Johannesburg challenging Vavi's suspension. Vavi then 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 central executive committee (CEC) meeting in August.

He wants final relief to review and set aside the decision to suspend him and institute disciplinary proceedings.