Its executive said he had been put on special leave pending the outcome of a disciplinary hearing relating to an affair he had with a junior Congress of SA Trade Unions woman employee.
“[Vavi] has been released from all his official duties as the general secretary during this period of investigation until such time that the outcome of the [disciplinary] hearing is known,” deputy general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali told reporters in Johannesburg.
“He’s suspended in terms of given leave… any employee of any organisation, when you are suspended, then there are arrangements made in terms of coming to a work place.”
Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini announced earlier that Vavi at been placed on special leave after a special central executive committee (CEC) meeting.
“After lengthy discussion, the [CEC] meeting agreed to conduct a full investigation into the allegations and to ask both the general secretary and the staff member to attend disciplinary hearings,” Dlamini said.
“The meeting insisted that everybody involved must be treated equally and that the process will be conducted in a free and fair manner, in full compliance with the Cosatu constitution.”
The hearing would be chaired by an independent person. Ntshalintshali would take over Vavi’s role.
Last month, a junior Cosatu employee accused Vavi of rape. He admitted to having a consensual affair with her. The woman subsequently withdrew a sexual harassment complaint against him. The CEC met in Johannesburg on Wednesday to decide on possible sanctions against Vavi.
Earlier, National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) general secretary Irvin Jim said Wednesday’s CEC meeting was unconstitutional.
Jim said Numsa, a strong Vavi ally, was “feeling very bad about what has happened” to the general secretary.
Dlamini said it was agreed on Wednesday that the CEC meeting was properly constituted.
“The expressions of Numsa that, even after the meeting had satisfied itself that it was properly constituted… they remained convinced that it was not, is recorded in the minutes, but also is recorded that the meeting agreed that it was properly constituted.”
Dlamini said it was agreed that every individual involved in the matter had to respect Cosatu’s internal processes.
“[The] issues must only be communicated to media by national office bearers.”
Cosatu second deputy president Zingiswa Losi said a date for Vavi’s disciplinary hearing had not been set because the decision was taken late on Wednesday. A letter was only sent to Vavi on Thursday morning, before the news briefing, she said.
Regarding the length of Vavi’s special leave, Losi said the CEC decided that at its next meeting on September 16 a report should be ready.
“Which will then mean from now until that time of the central executive committee meeting it will be four weeks that we have to ensure that an independent… person or persons from outside the federation will be able to listen to the processes of that disciplinary hearing,” she said.
There had been claims by those supporting Vavi that the allegations against him were part of a political conspiracy and that people were trying to silence Vavi because he was too outspoken. Dlamini denied this.
“There is no way it can be a political conspiracy issue. We urge our members and leaders to contend with the fact that our duty as leaders, as affiliates, is to work internally and strengthen the federation.”
He denied claims that Cosatu was imploding.
“Our focus is to ensure there is no split in the federation… [it] becomes more and more critical.”