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Cosatu announces Vavi inquiry

Following their suspensions, Vavi and the employee he had an affair with will now face a disciplinary inquiry.

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 - The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has announced its general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, and the staff member he had an extra-marital affair with will now go through a disciplinary process and have the chance to state their cases.

The union says both have been placed on special leave but many view the sanctions as being indefinite suspensions.

Speaking in Johannesburg on Thursday, Cosatu President Sdumo Dlamini said Wednesday night's marathon meeting in which Vavi was sanctioned was constitutionally convened.

Vavi, who has been general secretary for nearly 13 years, admitted to having what he says was consensual sex with the younger Cosatu employee. The woman withdrew her complaint after initially accused him of rape.

He has also been accused of hiring the woman through improper procedures.

Although Dlamini said the Central Executive Committee meeting was lengthy he wouldn't go into exactly what was discussed.

He said the matter was still very sensitive and the disciplinary committee would decide what charges Vavi would face.

He didn't give a date for when that process would start but emphasised that everyone involved must be treated equally.

REACTION DIVIDED

Meanwhile, the Food and Allied Workers' Union (Fawu) said there were still serious questions around the legitimacy of the meeting.

Fawu's Katishi Masemola said it was unclear if it was called by Cosatu's national office bearers or by affiliates.

Masemola said his union would now attempt to nullify the entire process. He added the union's senior leadership would meet on Sunday to discuss a way forward.

"We have convened an urgent meeting on Sunday at which we will be weighing the options of what kind of action we should take in getting the meeting we are saying is unconstitutional to be nullified."

Fawu, the South African Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) have thrown their support behind Vavi over the last few days.

His allies have expressed concern that the decision to discipline Vavi could cause a rift within Cosatu that might see some unions breaking away from the federation.

A split in Cosatu could lead to a major realignment in South African politics as it seems unlikely those unions would still support the ANC.

Leaders of Numsa have already said they would ask their members to discuss leaving Cosatu at their December conference.

A rift could also lead to more instability in the country's industrial relations as it will cause unions to compete with each other more often.