Keeping it Zipped

Twists and turns in the Vavi Saga

From death threats to being called a ‘spy’, a ‘rapist’ and a ‘cheater’, Zwelinzima ‘Zwelinzipper’ Vavi has faced one obstacle after another in the last couple of months.

Source: dailymaverick.co.za Photographer: Greg Nicolson

HUMAN TARGET: Zwelinzima Vavi has been at the centre of controversy following his sexual antics                                                                              Source: dailymaverick.co.za
Photographer: Greg Nicolson

Vavi was the Congress’ regional secretary for the Western Transvaal in 1988. He served as the Congress of South African Trade Unions’ (Cosatu’s) Deputy General Secretary from 1993 to 1999. This proves his commitment over time. While a man who’s committed to his job, he is also a family man: he is married to Noluthando and the father of their twins, who were born this year. Prior to his suspension in August this year, he was the General Secretary of Cosatu.His suspension came after allegations of having sex with a junior employee, but this is not Vavi’s first involvement in a sex scandal. In 2006, former Cosatu president Willie Madisha compiled a dossier in which he accused Vavi of sexually harassing a married female Cosatu employee but the charges were dropped. During the same period, Vavi was also alleged to have misused Cosatu’s credit card to fund his mistress’ foreign trips and shower her with gifts.

Vavi has been at the centre of media attention for some time and always seems to be apologising to the public for mistakes he makes. He admitted and apologised to the nation, but it was difficult for most citizens to accept his apology.

A thought that may have crossed the minds of people is that he is not been the first prominent figure to be accused of rape. President Jacob Zuma was also so accused, and admitted to having unprotected sex with a woman. Current sports minister Fikile Mbalula was also similarly accused.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) feels that the alleged rape charge against Vavi is a set-up, since the president was also involved in a similar scandal. NUMSA accused African National Congress’ (ANC) deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte and the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) of targeting Vavi, while they did not follow the same procedure when Zuma faced rape charges: “Where were they during the allegations of rape against JZ (Jacob Zuma) involving an HIV-infected child whose parents would have been devastated, had they been alive, that a family friend and comrade could abuse and betray (their) trust?” asked NUMSA general secretary Irvin Jim.

According to NUMSA, Vavi’s opposition has taken issue with his speaking against e-tolling, as well as structural problems within the economy. To the ordinary South African, whose voice cannot be heard, he was seen as a hero… but to his opponents, he was a threat and an enemy.

“COSATU remains absolutely determined to oppose the e-tolls at the street level. The mobilisation is not over,” Vavi said to reporters. However, the quarrel concerning e-tolls has come to an end after President Zuma finally signed the bill into effect.

Is it a coincidence that this happens now? When Vavi is still suspended and Cosatu seems to be toothless? Was he really a threat?

As exciting and fascinating as the Mangaung conference was, Vavi didn’t seem to have Zuma’s back as he did before the 2009 national elections. Vavi had been criticising Zuma and his cabinet for poor service delivery and he seemed to have cut all ties with the President.

An ‘intelligence report’ came to light in August this year, which accused Vavi of spying for the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which (according to City Press) is intended to establish the ‘United State of America in Africa’ by overthrowing governments.

Apparently, Vavi and some high-profile political figures were being paid to spy. Vavi argued that Zuma and his supporters were trying by all means to get rid of him. He told City Press that he had no doubt in his mind that the report had been widely circulated amongst certain leaders in the organisation, and have changed the public’s perception of him.

Not only is his job at risk, but his future in politics is still uncertain. Vavi worsened matters when he breached his suspension conditions by addressing Cosatu unions in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape after his suspension… as if he were still General Secretary of the union. On the 15th of September, Twitter was a-buzz when news broke about Vavi at a rally in the Eastern Cape, calling the female colleague with whom he had ‘brief sex while standing’ a ‘Nopatazana’ (meaning ‘loose woman’).

It caused more havoc when an analyst, researcher and public speaker on gender, politics, leadership and cultural issues, Nomboniso Gasa, attacked Vavi on Twitter for using such a term to describe an adult woman. She tweeted: “I’m not going to accuse you of betraying your non-sexist beliefs. You’ve none. Even so @Zwelinzima1, some semblance of respect is good.”

And again Vavi apologised for his language and tweeted: “You are correct I got too emotional in that family meeting I should have not used that term it’s unpleasant – I am sorry to those hurt.”

The saying ‘there are no friends in politics’ might apply. As life seems to be throwing Vavi curve balls, the vendetta or feud remains between all these political figures.

Sinazo Mkoko, Helen Zondi, Ncumisa Siko and Pontsho Mantlhakga

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