Numsa: Cosatu may split

The union says Cosatu must move on from Zwelinzima Vavi's affair or face becoming a lame duck.

Cosatu general-secretary Zwelinzima Vavi is seen at a news conference in Johannesburg on Wednesday, 29 May 2013. Picture: Sapa

JOHANNESBURG - The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) says there's a very real possibility that Cosatu could split if the dispute over its General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi is not handled properly.

The union is backing Vavi, saying those who want to take action against him for having sex with a younger Cosatu employee are politically motivated.

It wants the trade union federation to cancel Wednesday's Central Executive Committee meeting which has been called to discuss the claims.

Numsa says the federation has become a lame duck because of the scandal and can't achieve anything for workers.

Vavi has denied rape claims but has admitted to having what he says was consensual sex with a younger Cosatu worker.

Numsa's Deputy General Secretary Karl Cloete says Cosatu has given up fighting for workers while dealing with the scandal.

"Cosatu is a lame duck and, within this context, we think that there is an agenda, in fact, to make Cosatu a permanent lame duck."

Cloete says this issue has the potential to completely divide Cosatu.

"Unless we handle things maturely, comradely, properly; there is indeed all the possibility of a split in Cosatu."

The claims may be read as a threat by Numsa - that it will take extreme action if Vavi is ousted from his post - particularly for those unions who want Vavi out.

Leaders of other unions such as the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) may call Numsa's bluff and say Vavi cannot be protected from the consequences of his actions.

They may believe they can't be held hostage to this kind of tactic.

Meanwhile, it emerged on Friday that Corruption Watch has censured Vavi following his admission of the extra-marital affair.

Vavi will not be allowed to speak in his capacity as a Corruption Watch board member on any public issue, but will maintain his position.

Although the woman withdrew her sexual harassment claims against Vavi during an internal Cosatu hearing, he has been publicly criticised for his actions in light of being married and a political leader.

Meanwhile, Cosatu has been keeping mum on whether or not Vavi will face an internal disciplinary process for gross misconduct.

He's claimed his enemies are trying to oust him from Cosatu.

He believes the woman, who claimed he raped her in her office, forms part of an on-going political plot to oust him.