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Vavi fights on

Published Jul 30, 2013

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Johannesburg - Cosatu boss Zwelinzima Vavi may not be off the hook in connection with rape allegations made against him - despite his accuser withdrawing the “grievance” against him.

In a dramatic twist in the sex scandal that broke at the weekend, Vavi announced on Sunday that the woman who claimed he had raped her had dropped the complaint against him just two hours into the trade union federation’s internal disciplinary hearing into the matter.

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“Today, I attended the Cosatu grievance hearing… After about two hours, the grievant withdrew the grievance. I am pleased that the grievance has been finalised,” Vavi said in a statement released by Cosatu shortly after the hearing.

“I hope that we all can put this saga behind us, so that we all can concentrate on the real issues of the day - ensuring that we have a vibrant trade union federation that promotes South Africa, the interests of workers and the working class as a whole,” he added.

Vavi admitted to having unprotected sex with the woman but denied raping her, saying the sex was consensual.

He claimed the woman later tried to extort R2 million from him. The woman said it was not consensual as Vavi had “grabbed”, “kissed” and “’fondled my private parts and raped me”.

She brought a case of sexual harassment to Cosatu.

Following Monday’s dramatic turnaround, Vavi indicated that he could sue his accuser for defamation, saying: “In the light of the extreme damage that has been done to my reputation, I will consult with my lawyers to consider any further actions about this matter.”

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He has also laid a charge of extortion against the woman and hoped the police would “deal with the matter expeditiously”.

But Cosatu acting spokesman Vusimusi Bhengu cautioned that the hearing might yet continue, despite Vavi’s accuser dropping the charges.

“We don’t have details of what happened in the hearing yet. Our national officer-bearers (Cosatu’s top six) will first get the report.

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They will then scrutinise it and decide on the next course of action,” Bhengu said.

This was confirmed by Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini, who said the report would guide the federation’s next step.

A Cosatu insider said the organisation could institute an internal disciplinary hearing against Vavi for violating a code of conduct, including on employment policy by hiring his rape accuser without following proper recruitment procedures, sexual harassment, and bringing the federation into disrepute, among others.

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The hearing took place at Cosatu’s Braamfontein, Joburg, headquarters, also the site of the alleged rape on January 25. It was chaired by an independent person.

The Star understands that Vavi’s accuser was not accompanied by a legal representative during the hearing.

National Union of Metalworkers of SA general secretary Irvin Jim said the withdrawal of grievances had vindicated their stance that the charges were part of a political conspiracy to “liquidate” Vavi’s political career. He said the grievance had been “dodgy from the outset” as the complainant had not laid criminal charges.

“Rape is a very serious and sensitive thing. If you want justice for that, you should go to the police. Instead, she looked for justice from Cosatu,” he said. “What justice was she looking for from Cosatu, except that it was for political reasons? Is it not the political enemies of Vavi (behind this)?

“This is well timed for damage to undermine his stature, dampening his public credentials and weakening him. I hope she will come forward to say who are these people behind this.”

Earlier, Jim’s counterpart in the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Frans Baleni, denied that he had orchestrated the rape allegations against Vavi.

“Somebody showed me (a post) on Facebook, saying it’s me who planted this (alleged rape). I didn’t know this person. So I don’t know anything about this. I don’t control anyone,” Baleni said on Monday.

Baleni and his colleagues in NUM are seen as part of the anti-Vavi faction and, by extension, pro-Zuma. Baleni said the accusations against NUM were part of political conspiracies in which they would not engage.

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The Star

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