JOHANNESBURG - The president of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu),S'dumo Dlamini, says the trade union had an obligation to follow through with an internal hearing into allegations of rape levelled against its general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, by a junior employee.
The federation's top leadership is now awaiting the full report from Monday’s hearing and says it will make a decision on the way forward after studying it.
Dlamini says it's not up to the federation to decide if the matter should be heard in court.
The 26-year-old woman who laid a complaint that she had been raped by Vavi in her office withdrew the charge on Monday at a formal hearing into the matter in Johannesburg.
She initially claimed Vavi forced himself on her in January but the general secretary maintains they had consensual sex.
A string of cellphone text messages between the two show the fall out after the sex act.
On Sunday, relatives of the woman who at the centre of the saga told Eyewitness News she would consider opening a criminal case against Vavi once the Cosatu disciplinary hearing was concluded.
Vavi himself has opened an extortion case against his accuser and her husband, claiming they tried to blackmail him into giving them R2 million to bury the matter.
Dlamini says they will now have to rebuild the federation.
“This saga has seriously damaged the reputation of the union and it will take us time to reconstruct Cosatu and move beyond this phase.”
The organisation's Vusumuzi Bhengu says Vavi's accuser spoke publicly over the weekend and it's up to her to explain why she withdrew her complaint against him.
“As Cosatu there are no charges we can institute against anyone without receiving the full report from the chairperson of the hearing. At this time it would be premature for us to say whether we will be charging the general secretary or the complainant.”
UNIONS LOCK HORNS OVER SCANDAL
Meanwhile, Cosatu's two biggest unions now appear to disagree over whether investigations into Vavi's actions should still continue.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has indicated there should be a probe into the circumstances around what Vavi says was consensual sex, while metalworkers' union Numsa says any further probe would be a witch-hunt against Vavi.
The NUM's General Secretary Frans Baleni says this saga won't end here.
“I’m sure as the leadership we’ll have to discuss other related matters but I don’t want to elaborate on than that.”
But Numsa General Secretary Irvin Jim says only Vavi's political enemies would want to keep investigating him.
“We had Jacob Zuma involved in similar allegations and nobody asked whether it was in an office or in a house.”
Jim has claimed Vavi is the victim of a political plot.
The outspoken Cosatu boss's supporters claim he is being targeted because of his decision not to back President Jacob Zuma in the run-up to the ANC's elective conference in Manguang last December.
Meanwhile, the ANC Women's League (ANCWL) wants Vavi to answer to the allegations in court.
The league says the withdrawal of sexual harassment claims is regrettable.
The ANCWL’s Deputy President Nosipho Ntwanambi says they fear the women may have been intimidated into dropping the charges.
She maintains the only way Vavi can prove his innocence is in a court of law.
(Edited by Gia Kaplan)