Zwelinzima Vavi was one of the main guest speakers at a National Political school held by Numsa at the Kopanong Conference Centre in Benoni. Vavi who spoke for close to three hours, was warmly welcomed by Numsa members who broke into song and dance when he arrived and again when he departed. Picture: Antoine de Ras, 17/09/2013

Pretoria - Suspended Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has to appear before the trade union federation's disciplinary committee to clear his name, Sasawu said on Wednesday.

“There is no option where you can clear yourself other than appearing there,” the SA State and Allied Workers' Union's (Sasawu) general secretary Mike Ngqolowa told reporters in Irene, south of Pretoria. Sasawu is a Cosatu affiliate.

“If he does not appear in front of a DC, that will give credence to the fact that he is hiding something.”

However, this did not mean nine affiliate unions of the Congress of SA Trade Unions that were supporting Vavi approved of the processes that led to him being charged.

Ngqolowa said Vavi had received letters informing him that if he did not appear a decision would be taken against him. The nine affiliates had called for Vavi's reinstatement and for Cosatu to hold a special congress before the end of March.

They are the Communication Workers Union, the Democratic Nurses Union of SA, the Food and Allied Workers Union, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, the Public and Allied Workers Union of SA (Pawusa), the SA Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (Saccawu), the SA Football Players Union, the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu), and Sasawu.

Vavi was suspended last year after he admitted to having an affair with a junior employee. Cosatu handed him a charge sheet earlier this month, five months after his suspension.

Samwu general secretary Walter Theledi said the unions wanted a new Cosatu leadership elected.

“If the (congress) is not called by the end of March, we will have no option other than to pursue the matter through the courts,” he said.

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said the unions were not reading Cosatu the riot act.

“We know our rights. They are enshrined in the Cosatu constitution. We are exercising those rights.”

He said the unions had communicated with Cosatu but had received no response. Jim said if Cosatu did not respond, and hold a special congress, the affiliates would have to take extraordinary measures.

“From where we sitting we think the president (Sidumo Dlamini) has failed... in what he's supposed to do.”

Saccawu president Louise Thipe said the excuse that Cosatu would have to find money to hold the congress had been addressed.

Unions went as far as suggesting other ways of fundraising and so that the congress could be held.

“We don't need fancy bags and T-shirts and whatever,” Theledi said.

“We just need to talk to the issues and conclude.”

The unions said Cosatu's denial of a crisis within itself was making matters worse.

Pawusa general secretary Gavin Jood said Cosatu had been plunged into paralysis at a central executive committee meeting in February last year.

“The question to ask is when is this paralysis going to end?” he asked.

“Workers out there are crying for the kind of leadership and the kind of Cosatu we used to have before February 2013.”