Open season on Vavi amid sex scandal

Zwelinzima Vavi. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Zwelinzima Vavi. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi's enemies in the trade union federation are planning to press for charges of misconduct to be brought against him after a rape allegation made against him was withdrawn.

Vavi came face to face with a junior staffer at an internal hearing at Cosatu House in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, this week to answer an allegation that he forced himself on her in her office.

The staffer, who is not being named for ethical reasons, later withdrew the charges. Cosatu gave no reasons for her decision.

But, while a relieved Vavi was popping the champagne, his powerful detractors in Cosatu took another tack: they are demanding that he should face the music for bringing the organisation into disrepute, following his admission that he had casual sex with the official at the party headquarters.

SMSes between Vavi and his accuser:

Vavi said the divisions were the result of sharp differences between those who wanted Cosatu to take a softer stance towards the ANC and government and those who were pushing for radical policy changes, in line with Cosatu resolutions taken at its 11th national congress last year.

Addressed systematically

"A difference of opinions has emerged between those who seek a united federation that is independent but works with a progressive and pro-worker ANC and SACP [South African Communist Party], an alliance capable of uniting and leading society to achieve the full demands of the Freedom Charter, on one hand, and those, on the other, who have lost the political will to push for this vision.

"The former are open in expressing disappointment about the lack of adequate progress in meeting the five ANC manifesto commitments, while the latter seek to paint a rosy picture about gains, even though statistics and reality continue to show that unemployment, poverty and inequality is not being addressed systematically.

"It is a division between those who argue that we push our heads in the sand and or at worst defend indefensible own goals such as what has come to be known as the Guptagate and countless others, and those who say Cosatu must speak out both internally and in public when the need arises against all of these real political deviations and distractions, based on our agreed political posture," said Vavi.

He questioned Cosatu's ability to arrest the decline in membership while its leaders were caught up in infighting.

"We have been attacked in the Rustenburg region where today we have been forced to play second fiddle to a union led by former leaders [from our ranks].

"Most importantly, this is a growth sector in the mining industry. Carletonville, too, where we used to enjoy the indisputable position of being the only choice, we are now facing tremendous challenges.

"Our affiliate in the chemical, petroleum, paper and wood sector is facing so many divisions that its NEC [national executive committee] meeting spent two days debating credentials, while it has not been meeting for many, many months.

Intervening decisively
"Allegations of corruption in the union are left unattended as the federation itself is so divided that it cannot intervene decisively.

"As we debate, the federation was supposed to be driving a listening campaign, a recruitment campaign, and our May Day celebrations were supposed to be a launch of our second phase of radical economic transformation.

"Unfortunately, what many will remember is not the demands of this campaign but the divisions that are being covered in the media daily," said Vavi.

Meanwhile, the general secretary of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union, Fikile Majola, blamed Vavi in his submission for the breakdown of relations between Cosatu, the SACP and the ANC.

"At the last CEC [central executive committee meeting] one of the things that was agreed was a meeting with the SACP.

"We were told this would take place on December 10.
We then suggested a meeting of the alliance before Mangaung. Neither meeting happened.

"The reason that we are now in the NDP [National Development Plan] problem is that the leadership is not engaging in the manner that was agreed …

"The breakdown starts in the secretariat – the chemistry that exists between the three secretaries makes it impossible. The political council collapsed. This is an untenable situation."



Matuma Letsoalo is a senior politics reporter at the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003, focussing on politics and labour, and collaborated with the M&G's centre for investigations, amaBhungane, from time to time.In 2011, Matuma won the South African Journalist of the Year Award and was also the winner in the investigative journalism category in the same year.In 2004, he won the CNN African Journalist of the Year prize – the MKO Abiola Print Journalism Award. Matuma was also a joint category winner of the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the year Award in 2008. In 2013, he was a finalist for Wits University's Taco Kuiper Award. Read more from ML

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