Vavi should have acted sooner: Lawyer

By Drum Digital
28 March 2014

Suspended Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi should have acted soon after his suspension to have it lifted.

Suspended Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi should have acted soon after his suspension to have it lifted, the High Court in Johannesburg heard on Friday.

Seven months have lapsed since Vavi was suspended.

"The suspension is an issue still and has been since August 15," said Karel Tipp, SC, for the Congress of SA Trade Unions.

"Mr Vavi could have referred [the suspension] to the CCMA on August 16."

Tipp was arguing that the bid by Vavi to have his suspension set aside was not a matter for the high court but rather for the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA) and the Labour Court.

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 a 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 in Johannesburg challenging Vavi's suspension.

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 central executive committee (CEC) meeting in August.

He wants final relief to review and set aside the decision to suspend him and institute disciplinary proceedings.

Tipp questioned Numsa's decision to lodge its application in the high court. He pointed out that Vavi and Numsa were seeking different relief.

Vavi wanted his disciplinary hearing to go ahead while Numsa did not.

Numsa wanted Vavi's suspension set aside. However, Vavi was not a Numsa member, Tipp said.

If Numsa had a problem with the way a Cosatu meeting had been conducted it had every right to address this with the trade union federation.

"They are correct to say they are not satisfied that decisions were taken without a vote. What should have happened? Numsa should have written to Cosatu.

"There is now a specific prayer for an individual."

Tipp pointed out that disciplinary proceedings had commenced. There was an investigation and a date had been set for the hearing.

Craig Watt-Pringle, for intervening unions in favour of Cosatu, reiterated what Tipp said about the matter being more suitable for the Labour Court and CCMA.

"In general terms we associate ourselves with submissions made by Mr Tipp," he said.

-by Sapa

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