Unions concerned about Cosatu's future

Zwelenzima Vavi's allies are worried the scandal could cause a split in Cosatu.

FILE: Cosatu General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. Picture: Sapa

JOHANNESBURG - The Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) has echoed the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa's (Numsa) concerns that the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) could split if the dispute over General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi is not handled properly.

Fawu General Secretary Katishi Masemola said while this issue could split Cosatu, he said it's not just about Vavi.

"It's about the voice that the office of the General Secretary of Cosatu is all about."

Numsa said on Monday that those who want to take action against Vavi 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.

However, Cosatu President Sdumo Dlamini has denied that Vavi's future will be discussed in the meeting and said claims that he will be discussed are 'misleading'.

"We need to be allowed some space internally to deal with the issues. Unfortunately, no one wants to give us the space to do that. But we are having our meeting of special safety on Wednesday."

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

The unions Deputy General Secretary Karl Cloete said this issue has the potential to completely divide Cosatu.

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

While Vavi's allies appear to be talking up this threat, those thought to be his opponents aren't speaking publically.

The South African Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu) and the National Education Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) say they have no comment to make.


Cosatu has been in the spotlight since Vavi admitted to having an affair with a married junior employee in January.

Vavi is reportedly facing three charges, which include having a sexual encounter at Cosatu's headquarters with his junior, irregularly appointing the woman and bringing the organisation into disrepute.

The 26-year-old employee levelled allegations of rape against Vavi, but later withdrew the charge at a formal hearing into the matter in Johannesburg last month.

She initially claimed Vavi, who is married, forced himself onto her in January. However, the General Secretary maintains they had consensual sex.

A string of cellphone text messages between the two shows the fallout after they had sex.

Vavi believes the woman forms part of a political plot to oust him.

He has since apologised to the nation for having an affair.