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Legitimacy of Cosatu meeting questioned

Zwelinzima Vavi's allies say his suspension could see some unions leave Cosatu.

Cosatu General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi was suspended on Wednesday 14 August, 2013 during a meeting held by the union's Central Executive Committee. Picture: Sapa

JOHANNESBURG - The Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) says there are still serious questions around the legitimacy of a meeting held by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) that led to General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi's suspension.

Vavi, who has been General Secretary for nearly 13 years, was suspended during the trade union federation's Central Executive Committee meeting on Wednesday.

The meeting was called to decide whether action should be taken against Vavi for having sex with a younger Cosatu employee, who initially accused him of rape.

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

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

Either way, it will now attempt to nullify the entire process.

Masemola says the union's senior leadership will be meeting 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, along with 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 could cause a rift within Cosatu that might see some unions leave.

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.

Already, leaders of Numsa said they will 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.

Samwu general secretary Walter Theledi said he 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."

Numsa said on Monday that those who want to take action against Vavi for having sex with a younger Cosatu employee are politically motivated.

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."