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Cosatu suspends Vavi

Cosatu has suspended its leader following his extra-marital affair with a junior staff member.

FILE: Cosatu General-Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi speaks at a seminar on xenophobia hosted by the University of the Witwatersrand's African centre for migration and society on Friday, 10 May 2013. Picture: Sapa.

JOHANNESBURG - Eyewitness News has learnt that Congress of South African Trade Union (Cosatu) General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has been suspended after a meeting of the organisation's Central Executive Committee on Wednesday afternoon.

He had been accused of bringing the organisation into disrepute after admitting to having sex with a younger Cosatu employee who he allegedly employed improperly.

Sources close to the meeting have confirmed the suspension but there's no official confirmation yet from Cosatu House.

A statement on this is expected either during the night or early Thursday morning.

Vavi would have gone into the meeting knowing that the balance of power was against him and, if it came to a vote, he would probably lose.

While his enemies may have won, his supporters are likely to accuse them of causing severe damage to Cosatu.

The 26-year-old employee withdrew a charge of rape at a formal hearing into the matter last month after initially claiming Vavi forced himself on her in January.

However, the general secretary has maintained they had consensual sex.

A string of cell phone text messages between the two showed the fallout after they had sex.

POLITICAL PLOT?

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

On Monday, the South African Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu) suspended President Thobile Ntola, a strong supporter of Vavi.

Ntola was sanctioned for allowing Vavi to address a union gathering in the Eastern Cape soon after the rape allegations against him surfaced.

He also told the media that the Eastern Cape branch had accepted Vavi's apology.

Ntola's sacking has been seen as the first step taken by the union in its bid to oust Vavi.

It appears Sadtu, The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) are against Vavi, and they may have played a role in his suspension on Wednesday.

Over the last few days, Vavi's allies, including the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), have thrown their support behind him and expressed concern that Cosatu could split if the dispute is not handled properly.

The South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) General Secretary Walter Theledi has also lined up behind Vavi.

"We do not see any reason for this meeting. But if the national office bearers feel that it should go on, we will be part of it."

Theledi believes there are attempts within the union to oust Vavi.

"We believe that there is probably a concerted effort to get rid of our General Secretary."

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 are politically motivated in their aims.

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

Numsa's 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."

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