How Cosatu avoided voting on Vavi

2013-08-18 10:00

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General secretary put on ‘special leave’ without proper procedure

The decision to suspend labour federation Cosatu boss Zwelinzima Vavi was taken by a smaller caucus of union general secretaries and presidents because they wanted to avoid putting the matter to a vote.

A union leader who attended the meeting told City Press that, of the 13 unions in good standing, eight were in favour of suspension, while the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and the Food and Allied Workers’ Union favoured a disciplinary process that excluded suspension.

The SA Clothes and Textile Workers’ Union, the Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA and the SA ­Municipal Workers’ Union wanted the central executive committee (CEC) to defer the meeting so that they could take a mandate from their members about what should be done in the wake of revelations about Vavi’s sexual misconduct.

Provincial secretaries and chairpersons were left out of the meeting that made the final decision.

A union leader said Vavi’s decision to release information about the grievance filed against him by the woman who initially accused him of rape, and his decision to ­address meetings of the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union hardened ­attitudes against him.

Others within Cosatu agree his decision to bring on the court challenge will strengthen the hand of critics who want him gone.

“Our (initial) approach was to say ‘censure him because what he did was wrong, maybe give him a final warning, but not dismissal’,” the ­union leader said.

Another source who attended the meeting on Wednesday said the ­Cosatu leaders wanted a decision to be taken by consensus as it was clear Vavi’s supporters were outnumbered, and to avoid deciding the issue by a ballot.

By this time, Vavi had already been asked to leave the meeting.

“Satawu (the SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union) was saying we will not be intimidated by people who want to break away from the federation. (Numsa’s Irvin) Jim had already left, and (Numsa president Cedric) Gina also walked out of the meeting of presidents and general secretaries.

“It was the caucus of presidents and general secretaries that ­decided. In any event, (National Education, Health and Allied ­Workers’ Union general secretary) Slovo (Majola) was clinical about what type of action should be taken. These guys want him gone either way,” he said.

Jim told City Press that he left early because he needed to catch a flight to Eastern Cape, but denied that Gina left the meeting early.

A memorandum that acting ­Cosatu general secretary Bheki ­Ntshalintshali circulated to the ­federation’s provincial secretaries and affiliated union secretaries on Thursday said the meeting felt it was necessary to put Vavi on ­“special leave”.

“In the view of the special CEC, it was necessary to place the general secretary on this leave of absence in the light of the nature and the seriousness of his conduct in this matter, its consequential effect on the federation and the seniority of his position. The CEC felt that this was in order to ensure a thorough and proper investigation,” wrote ­Ntshalintshali.

On Friday, Vavi said he would take his suspension up with his lawyers as the matter was political.

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