Zwelinzima Vavi is to face a disciplinary hearing for bringing Cosatu into disrepute in what appears to be a fresh bid to oust him.
Zwelinzima Vavi is to face a disciplinary hearing for bringing Cosatu into disrepute in what appears to be a fresh bid to oust him.

Vavi faces the axe

By George Matlala And Marianne Merten Time of article published Aug 4, 2013

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Johannesburg - Cosatu boss Zwelinzima Vavi is set to face a disciplinary hearing for bringing the labour federation into disrepute in what appears to be a fresh bid to oust him. This comes after his acknowledgement of an affair with a married junior employee, who later withdrew her sexual harrassment grievance.

The Sunday Independent understands that on Monday’s agenda of the regular top officials meeting will be a call for a special sitting of the central executive committee – Cosatu’s highest decision-making body between national congresses – to initiate disciplinary charges against Vavi.

It is understood the three charges to be brought against Vavi are:

* Having sex at the Cosatu headquarters with a junior staff member.

* Irregular appointment of the complainant.

* Bringing the organisation into disrepute through his conduct.

The move comes in the wake of Vavi’s apology to his family, South Africa and Cosatu members for his extramarital affair.

Last Monday, the woman at the centre of the scandal dropped her sexual harassment grievance a couple of hours into a hearing chaired by an independent facilitator.

It is understood the report on the grievance hearing could be key to Monday’s meeting.

Vavi and the metalworkers’ union Numsa, Cosatu’s biggest affiliate, have argued the matter be put to rest following the apology. Teachers’ union Sadtu yesterday echoed this, with its president Thobile Ntola telling SAfm Vavi’s apology was accepted at the union’s regional general meeting in Port Elizabeth.

The Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) and municipal workers’ union Samwu have already indicated they would support Vavi in what has been called a politically orchestrated campaign to oust him.

But senior Cosatu leaders have warned that Vavi’s woes are far from over. Three highly placed Cosatu leaders told The Sunday Independent the federation was set to discipline Vavi.

“There is a clear case to investigate further… He hasn’t apologised to Cosatu for bringing us into disrepute. He has issued statements saying that the matter is over. It doesn’t work that way. It is not up to him to decide,” a Cosatu leader said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not mandated to comment on the matter. “This is a serious case of misconduct,” he added.

However, matters are far from crystal clear, particularly on the second charge.

It is understood that the woman’s job as an administrative official was not advertised but agreed to by all national office bearers and confirmed after a trial period which had produced the internal cost savings the labour federation was seeking.

Cosatu’s constitution allows for the removal or suspension of a national office bearer if the official commits misconduct, neglects duty or acts in a manner that is detrimental to the federation or is in conflict with its constitution.

However, it is only a CEC or a national congress that can suspend or dismiss the general secretary or any other official.

In terms of the CEC’s composition and voting rights, the door is open to further wrangling to obtain, or counter, the necessary majority for any move of suspension or dismissal.

It is understood Vavi is supported by Numsa, Samwu, Fawu and also has support within Sadtu and the Southern African Clothing, Textile Workers Union (Sactwu).

Those wanting to oust him include Cosatu’s second largest affiliate, the mineworkers’ union NUM, its third largest affiliate and the largest public sector union, the National Health, Education and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) and police union Popcru.

Numsa general-secretary Irvin Jim came out in support of Vavi. “To call a DC (disciplinary committee) on a matter that has been dealt with, it is problematic,” said Jim, saying Cosatu needed to be “consistent”.

“When it was before Cosatu, it was withdrawn… We have no reason for a DC on a matter as vague as the one that has not been tested… that looks more like a political plot than anything else.”

Jim said any attempt to “nit-pick” would be opportunistic. “The matter was dealt with in Cosatu and it should be before a court of law, as serious allegations were made.

“Vavi has already been humiliated and his humiliation is almost like raising a red flag against you and you have no platform to defend yourself,” he said. “We don’t think those who have always moved to finish him will stop.”

But Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini condemned those who claimed Vavi was a victim of a political conspiracy.

“People should not play that card on this matter. There is no political conspiracy. I discourage those who repeat this lie,” he said.

Vavi’s sex scandal had damaged the reputation of the federation, Dlamini added.

“It will take Cosatu a while and a lot of work to clear and clean our image on the matter. The CEC must discuss the matter, putting Cosatu first.”

However, Dlamini would not be drawn on whether Vavi was facing a disciplinary hearing that could lead to him losing his job as general secretary, a job he has held since 1999.

NUM general secretary Frans Baleni said it would be difficult to comment “until such time as facts are presented before us at a meeting” and because “we have not been officially informed by the leadership of the federation”.

Until the report on the sexual harassment grievance hearing was submitted, questions remained over possible violations of the code of conduct. “It’s going to depend on that report,” Baleni said.

But one senior leader who also sits on the CEC, maintained Vavi was facing expulsion.

“The best plea bargain is for him to resign. He should have heeded his family’s call for him to resign,” the leader said.

Another said: “This thing has embarrassed the labour movement. As much as the (complaint) has been withdrawn, this doesn’t take away from the fact that there was gross misconduct. He went further to admit in public without consulting the national office bearers. These are our offices, they are not for bonking.”

However, Vavi said he would not resign – and appears ready for a fight. “I don’t think that would be fair, justifiable or the right thing to do. I’ve committed an error. I’ve acknowledged it and apologised for the mistake. And I’m prepared to take whatever form of a censure, but it can’t be equal to resignation as if I’m found guilty of rape, sexual assault or abuse,” Vavi told The Sunday Independent this week.

Should disciplinary proceedings be instituted against him – or a motion of no confidence raised – at the next meeting, or a special CEC, Vavi said: “If that was to be the majority view, I will have to abide by the majority view.”

Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven said the independent facilitator of last Monday’s abandoned grievance hearing would submit a report to Cosatu officials.

“Where it will go from there, we’ll await… We are not commenting until the report is fully discussed,” Craven added.

It is understood the report will be submitted tomorrow, and form the basis for the call for further investigations and disciplinary proceedings.

This would be the second serious investigation this year following accusations of maladministration and nepotism, particularly over the sale of the old Cosatu head office, against Vavi at the February CEC.

A forensic audit and an independent facilitation process of internal dynamics remains under way. The process has been delayed and is expected to be completed only in time for the regular scheduled mid-September CEC.

Meanwhile, Vavi raised concerns that Cosatu was paralysed and distracted by internal wrangling, rather than tackling challenges faced by workers and affiliates.

“Cosatu is not able to intervene in the internal battles inside unions,” Vavi said, pointing to a number of affiliates struggling with internal cohesion like the transport and chemical workers’ union.

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[email protected]

Sunday Independent

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