Durban - Beleaguered union boss Zwelinzima Vavi will come face to face with his rape accuser on Monday when an internal Cosatu hearing into his conduct starts. The 26-year-old woman says the encounter will be “difficult”.
The woman, who cannot be named for legal and ethical reasons, has slammed Vavi for publicly releasing details of the incident, thus indirectly revealing her identity.
Vavi will appear before an internal hearing into a sexual harassment grievance linked to claims made by the Cosatu administrative official that he raped her.
Although she has not yet laid a formal rape charge with the police, she claims the sexual encounter in January “was not consensual”.
Vavi denies the allegation, but admits to having consensual sex.
Vavi has laid a charge of blackmail and extortion against the woman, for asking to be paid R2 million to make the matter go away.
“It will be difficult… I’m not certain if he has confirmed to being there,” said the woman.
“I have to see this through.”
The mother of two told the Sunday Times she first met Vavi at a check-in counter at OR Tambo International Airport in 2011.
She helped him sort out a problem with his ticket and was allegedly told that Cosatu could use “someone like me”.
She said Vavi took her telephone number and later offered her a job.
The woman was hired without going through proper procedures. “There wasn’t even an interview.”
She also raised concerns about her safety, claiming strangers had been coming to her house and invading her family’s privacy.
“I did not want him (Vavi) taking all of this to the media and him taking my information to the media, him releasing my identity on a very sensitive thing,” she said.
Her husband sprang to her defence, saying the family had been “hounded” since the details had come to light.
He refused to comment about not laying a formal rape charge with the police, although almost six months had elapsed since the alleged incident.
Police spokesman Lungelo Dlamini said Vavi’s accuser had not yet laid a formal charge.
He confirmed that a case of blackmail and extortion against the woman was being investigated.
Vavi said on his Twitter account: “I know many are extremely disappointed at news that I have admitted to having cheated on my wife. I have apologised to her profusely.”
He also apologised to the South African public for the indiscretion and said: “I am only human and fallible. I am no saint.”
The rape allegations come on the heels of reports of financial impropriety against the Cosatu boss over the sale of Cosatu’s headquarters. Vavi has also made repeated claims about threats to his life.
It has been reported that Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini has emerged as a key witness in the case of political disloyalty and maladministration that threatens Vavi’s future.
Dlamini and the federation’s deputy president, Zingiswa Losi, have both testified before a commission probing Vavi.
Two Cosatu-affiliated unions have come out in support of Vavi, saying he was the victim of an “onslaught” by his detractors.
The Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu), which supported Vavi when he faced charges of financial impropriety, said it was not surprised by the latest developments. General secretary Katishi Masemola said the “onslaught” against Vavi had now taken the form of “allegations of sexual impropriety or even rape” and came on the heels of a “failing project trying to link Vavi to some administrative impropriety”.
One of Cosatu’s biggest affiliates, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), also came to Vavi’s defence.
General secretary Irvin Jim said his union would “deal harshly” with those who would jump to use the sex scandal as a weapon to oust Cosatu’s embattled general secretary from his position. Numsa is the second-biggest Cosatu affiliate after the National Union of Mineworkers.
“We will be watching those who would want to use this to call for him to step down. They will have to face us,” said Jim.
He said Vavi’s admission to having consensual sex with the woman should not affect his work to defend workers.
“Vavi was not elected to uphold high morality. He is not an expert on morality. He was elected to defend workers, which he does very well,” said Jim.