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Cosatu blames financial constraints on Vavi

A forensic report implicates Zwelinzima Vavi in the irregular sale of the old Cosatu headquarters.

FILE: General secretary Zwelinzima Vavi at a Cosatu briefing in Johannesburg in September 2014. Picture: Sapa.

JOHANNESBURG - The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Thursday said a forensic auditors report into the irregular sale of the old Cosatu headquarters in Johannesburg CBD has implicated general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and claimed its current financial constraint is a direct result of a flawed deal.

Cosatu's Central Executive Committee (CEC) met this week and has written to Vavi asking him to meet with the auditors to answer the allegations against him.

Vavi claimed the forensic reports were part of an agenda to oust him but Cosatu leadership said this was simply not true.

On Monday, Vavi tweeted that he wouldn't attend this week's meeting saying it was wrong to continue with it without seven unions, which are demanding the reinstatement of National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) which was expelled last year.

Cosatu President Sidumo Dlamini said Cosatu's problems did not arise after Numsa was expelled and that the forensic report needed to be attended to and could not be viewed as a witch-hunt against Vavi.

"We have been in the same situation for a long time, the final analysis will tell you we find ourselves in this situation because of wrong decisions taken before. It's not a case of, they started here and couldn't find a thing, they have moved to this one because they could not find something, now they are here because they are persecuting me, it's not that. It's not a witch-hunt."

The auditors do not have the power to subpoena witnesses and Cosatu claimed that Vavi had constantly dodged answering questions about his involvement in the sale.

At the same time, Cosatu's national leadership has lashed out at unions that boycotted this week's CEC meeting and has appealed to the affiliate's members to ask their leaders to return to the federation.

Vavi's deputy, Bheki Ntshalintshali said the unions should return to Cosatu's meetings to continue unity talks.

"We call of these affiliates to return to future meetings to engage in a democratic process where all unions are treated as equals and where all views are given equal weight and get subjected to the same democratic scrutiny."

He said Vavi had also been called to appear before a special CEC to explain his absence from the meeting.

"The meeting expressed deep concern against the general secretary of the federation that continues to conduct himself in such a manner that seeks to define himself as above the organisation or to act outside the discipline of the collective leadership."

Numsa was voted out of the trade union federation in 2014 by 33 votes to 24 and the decision has since exposed the rift between rival affiliates.

The expulsion had been on the cards for months after the union said it would not campaign for the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in the May general elections and accused Zuma's government of promoting business instead of workers' interests.

The seven other unions who back Numsa are the Public and Allied Workers' Union of South Africa; the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa; Food and Allied Workers' Union; the South African State and Allied Workers' Union; the Communication Workers' Union; the South African Football Players' Union and the South African Commercial, Catering, and Allied Workers' Union.