Critics say they will now provide "evidence” that will justify his removal after an attempt to remove him failed at a meeting of the executive committee.
Accounting firm SizweNtsalubaGobodo will mount a forensic audit into any impropriety in relation to the sale of the old Cosatu building and the purchase and ownership of the new Cosatu House.
There will also be a facilitated process headed by lawyer Charles Nupen and former South African Municipal Workers Union president Petrus Mashishi, which will look into the union's internal wrangling.
The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru); the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM); the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu); the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu); and the South African Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu) have until June 6 to make their submissions to the facilitators. They believe they have damning evidence against Vavi and aim to weaken him politically in the eyes of 1.2-million members.
The unions have praised the official appointment of SizweNtsalubaGobodo to investigate Vavi, whom they accuse of trying to "sabotage” the facilitated process by not appointing the auditing firm three months after being mandated to do so by the executive committee.
ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe and party deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa held meetings with Cosatu structures before the central executive committee convened.
A Cosatu leader said the planned suspension of Vavi this week had been based on the fact that he had failed to appoint the auditors.
"There was anger about his lack of discipline. Our motivation to suspend him was mainly based on the fact that he tried to sabotage the process by not appointing Gobodo. The relationship with him has totally broken down. People don't see themselves working with him going forward,” said the angry leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"This was simple sabotage and noncompliance of the committee decision [made in February]. His tactic was to accept the political facilitation, but bluntly deny the forensic part of it. He has also been condemning the investigation outside the organisation's processes. That's lack of discipline. He was hiding behind those who were refusing submissions to be made like National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, who were saying, ‘Let's talk about these allegations in the meeting without bringing something in writing.' We rejected it because it is a way of frustrating the investigation. No one is above the organisation. If there are allegations against anyone, people must not stand in the way of an investigation,” said the source.
A pro-Vavi union leader said those who were opposed to him had failed to present evidence against him and were now clutching at straws. "They are dishonest. They were defeated at the central executive committee meeting because they wanted suspension of Vavi and people agreed with the ANC that such an act would be irresponsible,” he said.
"They have also failed to make submissions and present evidence of financial impropriety against Vavi. A resolution has been taken. Everybody must now respect the outcome of the meeting and present any information of corruption to the facilitators.”
The auditors are expected to conclude their report by the end of next month.
The anti-Vavi faction in Cosatu is hoping that Popcru's submissions will prove that Vavi mishandled the sale of the old Cosatu building in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. It has alleged that it offered to buy the building for R15-million, but Vavi allegedly turned the offer down and then sold it for R10-million.
"Popcru has a strong case. Their submission will reveal a lot, how the transaction was made, to which company. We also want to know who owns the company that bought the new Cosatu House because we understand that we are actually renting it and not owning it,” said another union leader.
Satawu, on the other hand, will accuse Vavi of interfering in its internal affairs. Satawu leaders are believed to be unhappy that their general secretary, Zenzo Mahlangu, was reported to Corruption Watch for investigation. Corruption Watch ultimately did not pursue an investigation. Mahlangu remains bitter about this investigation and apparently feel betrayed by Vavi, who sits on Corruption Watch's board. Nehawu's submission will focus on the so-called political rupture between Cosatu, the ANC and the South African Communist Party. Nehawu is also expected to claim that Vavi failed to articulate Cosatu's resolution to support President Jacob Zuma for a second term in the run-up to the party's national conference in Mangaung.
"That will be the centre of the political component of the investigation. There were a number of Twitter messages by Vavi contradicting Cosatu's position on Mangaung. The NUM, Sadtu, Satawu and Popcru will support Nehawu on the matter,” said a Cosatu leader.
Vavi, who looked exhausted after the meeting on Wednesday, said he wouldn't step down until allegations against him were proven.
"Will I be exonerated? All I know is that I have done absolutely nothing wrong. If anyone can produce evidence of what sources in newspapers say is true, then you will not see me. I will do what I always ask other people to do: walk,” Vavi told the media briefing.
"I won't step down on the basis of leaks. I won't jump on the strength of sources producing no information. I think that will be grossly unfair. No one has brought a shred of evidence [to say I am corrupt].”