Vavi’s accuser ‘overwhelmed’

2013-07-30 14:48

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The woman who accused labour federation Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi of rape – and then withdrew her complaint – says the outcry sparked by her allegations has become “overwhelming”.

“Everything has become too overwhelming and I’m not ready to talk to the media or anyone right now. Please respect that,” she said when City Press called her today.

The 26-year-old was responding to questions about why she yesterday withdrew her complaint against Vavi two hours into an internal disciplinary hearing.

Cosatu, meanwhile, has closed ranks about whether or not the disciplinary hearing will proceed after the charges were dropped.

Vavi denies that he raped the woman, but admitted this weekend that he had an extramarital affair with her.

He has reported her to the police, claiming she tried to extort R2 million from him.

Lisa Vetten, a gender researcher, said it was important not to jump to conclusions about the fact that the sexual harassment charge against Vavi had been withdrawn.

“We don’t know why she withdrew (the internal complaint) and we should be careful about jumping to the conclusion that she withdrew because she lied,” said Vetten.

Vetten added that the law did not compel a woman to lay a criminal charge of rape if she did not want to.

The woman has been harshly criticised on social networks for not reporting the alleged rape to the police in January, when she claims Vavi forced himself on her at Cosatu’s headquarters in Braamfontein.

“Having dealt with sexual harassment cases before, women do decide to go the civil procedure route and follow internal company procedures because of the horrors of our criminal justice system,” said Vetten.

Speculation is rife about why the woman withdrew the charges – but NGO Sonke Gender Justice today released a statement urging fair and ethical reporting of the matter.

“As in all cases where sexual violence may be involved, we note that media and institutional ethics are key.

“We are deeply concerned that the name of the complainant has been released to the media – and that the source of this release was Cosatu itself,” the organisation said in its statement.

Sonke is urging the union to remove her name from a statement on the organisation’s website.

“We think this important symbolic gesture would demonstrate the union’s commitment to fighting gender-based violence.”

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