Vavi on gangplank, Jim may go to court

Paul Vecchiatto COSATU has moved a step closer to expelling its suspended general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi after a forensic report nailed him over irregularities in the sale of the old and new federations' buildings. The Congress of South African Trade Unions is set to seek legal advice, after a forensic report – tabled at a special meeting of Cosatu's top brass held on Monday – also uncovered a conflict of interest regarding the employment of Vavi's stepdaughter, Ngema, to conduct work on the federation's office security system‚ acting general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said at a media briefing yesterday. Vavi, as a chief administrator, was in charge of appointing service providers. His fate in the federation is all but sealed as he is also facing nine charges linked to his relationship with a junior employee. He was suspended last August after his admission of an affair with the woman. "With regard to the purchasing of the new Cosatu House and the selling of the old Cosatu House. This also included the inflation if the price with regard to the new building‚" Ntshalintshali said. The report also found a "conflict of interest with regard to the business partnership" between the security company and Vavi's wife‚ Noluthando. Meanwhile, Irvin Jim‚ the general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA‚ has slated the decision by Cosatu not to hold a special national congress. He said‚ if necessary‚ court action could be the next step. Numsa‚ Cosatu's largest affiliate‚ and eight more of its 19 affiliated unions, had called for a special congress to discuss the state of the labour federation‚ a failure to implement resolutions‚ a failure of collective bargaining‚ and the election of Cosatu leaders. Yesterday, Cosatu said the committee had received a report on preparations for a special national congress from a meeting of affiliates' presidents and general secretaries held on January 14. However‚ the committee "raised problems" a congress would cause for affiliates including costs‚ a full programme of other events and election work for polls on May 7. "In this context the meeting decided to decline the request for a special national congress‚" it said. Speaking to the Cape Town Press Club yesterday Jim emphasised that the labour federation's constitution was clear on this issue. "Cosatu's constitution is clear: if two-thirds of the affiliated unions call for a special congress‚ the president of Cosatu must within 14 days give a date for the special congress and the agenda‚" he said. Jim said the courts would be the next stop‚ if necessary‚ though he would prefer to hold discussions with the Cosatu leadership and would also have to get a mandate from Numsa members. However‚ he insisted Cosatu's decision not to was against workers' wishes. – – Additional reporting by Natasha Marrian