Vavi accuser ‘overwhelmed’ - Twitter: Social networks castigate woman; gender activist urges caution

2013-07-31 00:00

THE Cosatu employee who accused the federation’s general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi of rape — and then withdrew an internal grievance against him — yesterday described the outcry sparked by her allegations as “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 yesterday.

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

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.

Many on Twitter accused the woman of only wanting to get money. Some asked why she did not report the rape to the police when it happened and why she withdrew her grievance of sexual harassment against Vavi.

She has been called a range of names and is the punchline in many cruel jokes.

Cosatu, meanwhile, closed ranks about whether or not the disciplinary hearing would proceed.

Vavi has denied that he raped the woman, but admitted to having unprotected sex in her Cosatu office.

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it was important not to jump to conclusions about the fact that the sexual harassment complaint against Vavi had been withdrawn.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.

She said the law did not compel a woman to lay a criminal charge of rape if she did not want to.

“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 released a statement yesterday 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.”

Sonke urged the trade union federation to remove her name from a statement on its website.

Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven declined to answer questions on the matter, until the federation’s investigation was finalised.

The woman’s name was still on the website last night at 9 pm.

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