Vavi to hear his fate

The Cosatu General Secretary's affair is the focus of an ongoing meeting at Cosatu headquarters.

FILE: Cosatu General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi is seen at a news conference in Johannesburg on Wednesday, 29 May 2013. Picture: Sapa

JOHANNESBURG - Zwelinzima Vavi's extra-marital affair is expected to take center stage this afternoon at Cosatu House - the headquarters of the Congress of South African Trade Unions - with a special meeting to determine the General Secretary's fate.

The federation's Central Executive Committee is due to decide whether action should be taken against Vavi for having sex with a younger Cosatu employee, who initially accused him of rape but has since withdrawn her accusation and now has an extortion charge to answer to.

Vavi also faces charges of irregularly appointing the woman and bringing the organisation into disrepute.

The closed meeting started around midday. It's not clear when the meeting is likely to end or if there will be a vote today on his political future.

Vavi will likely have to answer some tough questions as the committee takes him to task on all the allegations made against him.

The 26-year-old employee withdrew the charge of rape at a formal hearing into the matter last month.

She initially claimed Vavi, who is married, forced himself on 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.


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

Ntola was handed a suspension notice on Monday 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, meaning he could lose if this issue goes to vote.

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 for having sex with a younger Cosatu employee are politically motivated.

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."