S. Africa’s Vavi, Union Say Suspension Is Political Plot

Zwelinzima Vavi, general-secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, and the group’s largest affiliate said his suspension is part of a political conspiracy to divide the federation.

Vavi, 50, and the 323,000-member National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa will seek legal advice to challenge an Aug. 14 decision by Cosatu’s leadership to put him on special leave while he is being investigated for having an extra-marital affair with an employee he hired.

Numsa and Vavi said today unidentified state intelligence officials were involved in compiling a report aimed at discrediting him by alleging he is involved in a plot to destabilize the government. While Cosatu is allied to the ruling African National Congress, Vavi has criticized the government for not doing enough to combat corruption and poverty.

“Those who have formed long queues in the corruption-feeding trough fear an independent organization,” Vavi told reporters in Johannesburg today. “I believe they have designed schemes to divide and destroy Cosatu, no matter the consequences for workers’ interests. The federation of workers is today in total turmoil, divided and totally paralyzed.”

Numsa told reporters at a separate press conference today that it’s lost faith in Cosatu President S’dumo Dlamini, who has failed to unite the federation’s 21 affiliates. Vavi said Dlamini circulated the intelligence report and shouldn’t have chaired the meeting where the decision was taken to suspend him because Dlamini was prejudiced.

‘Substantially Unfair’

Dlamini denied yesterday that the action against Vavi was politically motivated and called on union leaders and affiliates to work to strengthen the organization.

Cosatu has been “completely paralyzed,” Irvin Jim, Numsa’s general-secretary, told reporters in Johannesburg. “Our members are up in arms about the suspension of Zwelinzima Vavi. This is cutting across all members of the federation. We are worried about the state of Cosatu.”

Vavi was unanimously re-elected to his post, which he has held since 1999, at a Cosatu conference in 2009.

“I believe a grave injustice is being visited on me,” Vavi said. “I believe that my suspension will be proven to be both procedurally and substantially unfair. What will be investigated when I have admitted to having done wrong and apologized publicly?”

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