Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini has confirmed that general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has been placed on special leave.
"In my office – packing my essentials – clearing my desk – will speak tomorrow or Saturday."
Zwelinzima Vavi tweeted his thoughts as he vacated his Cosatu House office on Thursday afternoon.
Dlamini confirmed on Thursday that the general secretary has been placed on special leave.
"After lengthy discussion, the [central executive committee] meeting agreed to conduct a full investigation into the allegations and to ask both the general secretary and the staff member to attend disciplinary hearings," Dlamini told reporters in Johannesburg.
"The meeting insisted that everybody involved must be treated equally and that the process will be conducted in a free and fair manner, in full compliance with the Cosatu constitution."
Last month, a junior employee at Cosatu accused Vavi of rape. He admitted to having a consensual affair with her. The woman subsequently withdrew a sexual harassment complaint against him.
The central executive committee met in Johannesburg on Wednesday to decide on possible sanctions against Vavi for the affair.
Attempts by Vavi's supporters, including the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and the Food and Allied Workers' Union (Fawu), to cancel the sitting of the special central executive committee, which they claimed to be unconstitutional, failed. The two unions also unsuccessfully argued that Cosatu needed to take the mandate from its members before the decision to suspend Vavi was effected.
According to Cosatu insiders, Vavi was asked to leave the meeting at around 2pm on Wednesday after the report of the previous commission of inquiry was presented.
The report recommended that Cosatu should take action against Vavi as the federation had a strong case against him.
"The chair of the previous inquiry said we had a strong case against Zweli. We agreed that both needed counselling and that the federation should support them for trauma. They have families," said a Cosatu insider.
"The meeting was tense and tough but we managed to keep cool heads. We requested him to leave the meeting. Before he left he admitted to his mistakes and asked for an apology. The [central executive committee] did not respond to him while he was there. We asked him to leave so that we can discuss the report."
Cosatu's deputy general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali will act in Vavi's position.
Vavi's supporters believe his enemies are using the sex scandal to remove him from Cosatu because of his critical views on President Jacob Zuma and his administration. – additional reporting by M&G Reporters