Cosatu: Vavi to face additional charges for breaching suspension

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi will face additional charges because he breached conditions of his suspension, according to the federation.

Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini has confirmed that they are investigating claims that Vavi breached the conditions of his suspension by addressing Cosatu unions in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape after his suspension.

Vavi addressed striking National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) members last week and spent a weekend in the Eastern Cape addressing Cosatu members in different regions.

"Vavi's conditions were very clear; he may not address workers who are affiliated to Cosatu on federation matters. He has been doing that and we might lay charges," said Dlamini.

On Thursday, Vavi denied that he breached any conditions claiming that he was addressing the workers in his personal capacity and not as a Cosatu general secretary. Dludlu, spokesperson for the Vavi family, said Vavi is unaware of these "additional" charges.

"To ensure that the reporting of this matter is factual and accurate, we have decided to release a copy of the letter suspending Mr Vavi. Hopefully, this will end the intrigue and various interpretations about the conditions."

Vavi could be dismissed
The suspension letter sent to Vavi by Cosatu does not have a stipulation that he may not address Cosatu members but rather than he is released of his duties as general secretary. 

However, Cosatu's acting general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said Vavi could be dismissed immediately: "This federation expelled its former president [Willy Madisha] on a matter where he said he was acting on his capacity as a member of the SACP [South African Communist Party]. So Vavi has no defence on that one, but we will allow him to defend himself."

Vavi is still facing charges emanating from his affair with a junior staffer in the work premises. Dlamini refused to detail what the exact charges are.

Cosatu also condemned Vavi for causing a public outcry after he called a Cosatu employee "nopatazana" (loosely translated from Xhose to mean a woman of loose morals) over the weekend. He was referring to the woman who accused him of rape in July. Vavi subsequently apologised on Twitter to the woman who he had admitted to having a sexual affair with.

"Such comments portray women as sex objects or imply that they achieve their success in life only through providing sexual favours to men. The use of degrading language to women comrades is unacceptable," said Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven.

Special congress
Cosatu also announced on Thursday that it is considering holding a special national congress if their affiliates are ready and if the federation can afford it. Following a three-day central executive committee (CEC) meeting this week, Dlamini said he will take up to 14 days to consider the federation's readiness and the agenda.

"As the president I must consider the practicalities first such as costs, the agenda, and union readiness.  You have to be clear what you are calling a special congress for in order for all affiliates to be prepared. A report on progress will be given to the CEC in November and they will decide if it will happen or not," he said.

At this stage, the federation is uncertain what the agenda will be as submissions from the nine affiliates calling for congress vary substantially. "A congress is for the entire federation, not just the two-thirds that called for it. The CEC must decide on what will be the agenda. Affiliates must take mandates from their own members and then be ready to attend congress," said Zingisa Losi, the trade union's second deputy secretary.

On affordability, Cosatu said it is not saying it cannot afford a congress, but it needs to be certain.

Discipline
Ntshalintshali also called on Cosatu members to refrain from taking disputes to courts but rather utilise internal processes. This is after their affiliate Numsa and Vavi took Cosatu to court to challenge his suspension. 

"We are convinced that despite what the court may say, comrades will eventually find internal solutions to grievances currently on the table," said Ntshalintshali.

Dlamini invited all those who have a special interest in the success of Cosatu, including the ANC, to approach him and other leaders within the federation.

"If there are interested parties that want to approach Cosatu with possible solutions, they are more than welcome."

He said in the meantime, he will continue to try and bring unity to the federation.

"When people throw stones at me, I collect the stones and build a huge wall that will keep me safe. I don't stress an inch," said Dlamini.

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Khuthala Nandipha
Khuthala Nandipha is a journalist for the Mail & Guardian. This involves writing about various social issues that develop and change on an hourly basis. Her interests are, in a nutshell, how South Africa and the world’s revolution affect the person on the street: “the forgotten voting citizens”, as she calls them. She loves writing, and taking photos as a way to complement her stories. She grew up on the south-east coast of East London in the Eastern Cape. She studied journalism at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. She is not new to Jo’burg, having spent the first eight years of her journalism career working for various newspapers and magazines there.

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