Struggle betrayed by Vavi’s accuser

Zwelinzima Vavi’s rape accuser, whose name is known to the media, has caused untold damage to the struggle against the abuse of women.

She has also harmed the reputation of one of the country’s leading figures and tilted the scales in a political power struggle.

It is premature to say Vavi is off the hook. Apart from the now withdrawn rape allegation, there are other charges which should arise. It is unthinkable that as general secretary of Cosatu, Vavi is unaware of the implications of having sex, in the office, with a subordinate. Leaving aside the morality of two people, married and with children, committing adultery, what Vavi did would be a dismissible offence according to the disciplinary codes of most organisations.

Taking sexual advantage of juniors is outlawed in workplaces. If it is not so within Cosatu then the union federation is way behind in protecting workers’ rights.

In addition, Vavi apparently hired the woman without a proper interview, after chatting her up at an SAA check-in counter.

That too would be a procedural breach in most organisations, although the punishment would not normally be dismissal.

Vavi proclaims he’s not a coward. That’s not the issue. He has shown poor judgment, for which there must be consequences. However, the bigger threat to the country is the rampant corruption against which he has been outspoken. We do not believe he will be silenced by this scandal, nor should he be.

Of greater concern than the fate of one individual is predicament of countless women who live in fear of sexual harassment and rape.

Every high-profile false claim makes them potentially more vulnerable to predators. What a way to start Women’s Month.


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