Cosatu general secretary and Corruption Watch board member Zwelinzima Vavi has been placed on special leave after a meeting of the union federation’s central executive committee (CEC), which deliberated over his admission of an affair with a junior staff member.
Both Vavi and the staffer will now be investigated for misconduct and will go through a disciplinary process, according to Cosatu’s Patrick Craven.
The latest action comes days after Corruption Watch’s board issued a statement on Friday last week, publicly censuring Vavi following its own special board meeting a few days previously.
In censuring Vavi, the Corruption Watch board focused on the power dynamics in the improper relationship, which it said “almost inevitably infect a relationship between a superior and subordinate in the workplace”.
Corruption Watch’s response received mixed reactions from the media and the public at large, especially over social media platforms throughout the long weekend.
Members of the CEC addressed the media on Thursday afternoon, with Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini strongly denying that the federation’s action reflected a political conspiracy against Vavi from within the organisation.
The leadership of the federation and its affiliates, he said, have a priority to strengthen it and to “not pronounce outside the parameters of the protocols we have agreed to as the federation”.
Deputy general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali – who will act in Vavi’s position until the investigation has been concluded – explained to members of the media that Vavi was given an opportunity to speak to the CEC gathering, and he acknowledged and apologised for his conduct.
Ntshalintshali added Vavi’s plea to the meeting, which was for the federation’s principles to be adhered to and held high, and not for him to be protected as an individual.
Reports of Vavi’s extra-marital affair first surfaced late in July, followed by a public apology in which he issued a statement detailing how he met the 26-year-old subordinate who joined the federation at its headquarters in Johannesburg late last year.
“Corruption Watch welcomes the convening of an independently chaired enquiry,” says Corruption Watch executive director David Lewis.