Cosatu did not follow procedure: Lawyer

By Drum Digital
27 March 2014

Cosatu did not follow proper procedures under its own constitution when it suspended general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi

, the High Court in Johannesburg heard on Thursday.

"Did this organ exercise its power correctly?" Hans van der Riet SC, for Numsa asked.

He was referring to the Congress of SA Trade Unions' central executive committee (CEC) meeting held in August which took the decision to suspend Vavi.

"It is clear that the majority must vote and in this case we know the delegates never voted."

According to Van der Riet, the decision was taken by a side caucus of affiliate union presidents and general secretaries and not by delegates at the meeting. Decisions taken like this in the past were not challenged, but this one was.

"A trade union cannot speak on behalf of delegates. The [Cosatu] constitution requires that majority of delegates participate. Those are delegates with voting rights," Van der Riet said.

There was never a vote, so the majority decision by the side caucus was never tested.

"There is a crystal clear case that the decision to suspend Mr Vavi is invalid and should be set aside," Van der Riet said.

In August last year, Cosatu said Vavi had been put on special leave pending the outcome of a disciplinary hearing relating to his affair with the junior employee.

In July, the employee accused him of rape. He said they had an affair. The woman subsequently withdrew a sexual harassment complaint against him.

Following Vavi's suspension the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), an ally of his, lodged an application in the high court challenging the decision.

Vavi then lodged papers to be added as an applicant in Numsa's challenge. In these, he asks the court to grant him an interim order interdicting and restraining Cosatu from enforcing any decision taken at its CEC meeting in August. He wants final relief to review and set aside the decision to suspend him and institute disciplinary proceedings.

Union officials and supporters packed courtroom E11, with Vavi and Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim sitting in the front row. Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini and acting general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali also attended proceedings.

-by Sapa

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