Zwelinzima Vavi has been released from all his official duties as general secretary of Cosatu pending an investigation.
At a press conference at Cosatu House on Thursday, acting general secretary Bheki Ntshalinsthali said they cannot say what the possible sanctions will be for Vavi as only the chairperson of the hearing can decide. An independent investigation, made up of a series of disciplinary hearings, will be conducted by Sizwe Ntsaluba Gobodo. A full report is expected to be presented during the normal central executive committee meeting on September 16.
Vavi and the female employee who accused him of sexual harassment were on Wednesday put on special leave. This follows Vavi’s admission of guilt to having sex with a junior staff member at the federation’s headquarters. He again admitted his guilt during Wednesday's special central executive committee meeting.
"His admission of guilt proves that there is no political conspiracy here, he admitted his own misconduct. There is no animosity between any two leaders in this situation. We will afford Vavi and the lady the opportunity to present their case and answer charges," said Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini.
Cosatu's second deputy president Zingiswa Losi attacked both the media and the public for trampling all over the rights of the woman involved in the case. "While your focus was skewed towards Vavi, you stripped her naked and speculated that she was being used, giving her a political motivation," she said.
She also asked both parties be treated equally and fairly going forward.
Dlamini clarified that the special meeting was constitutionally convened, was quorate and was attended by all leaders of Cosatu-affiliated unions, despite calls from the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), the Food and Allied Workers' Union (Fawu) and the South Africa Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) to have it cancelled as they deemed unconstitutional and unnecessary.
Numsa’s persistent unhappiness about the meeting, according to Dlamini, was noted.
'Not in denial'
Dlamini reiterated that Cosatu is not in denial of their challenges, but stressed that there is a bigger need to work towards the unity of the federation. "Our challenge is how best to build Cosatu and remain the workers' anchor. It is dangerous to continue to perpetuate and to drive a wedge between leaders because that serves to help the enemies of Cosatu."
The national office bearers that addressed the conference admitted that no organisation is 100% united. "But after this page has been turned, we need to go back to the responsibilities of campaigning against unemployment and poverty," said Dlamini.
On Thursday morning, Vavi took to Twitter to share his disappointment at his suspension. "I committed an error and have profusely apologised ... I am relieved so many have accepted that apology and recognise that some remain unforgiving. I know others are celebrating and rubbing salt," he said before promising to have more to say at a later stage.
The date for the first disciplinary hearing has not been set yet. Meanwhile he is allowed into the Cosatu building under special arrangements in line with Cosatu’s constitution.