A Cosatu employee (whose name is being withheld for ethical reasons) has lodged a grievance with the federation claiming she was raped by general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. She claimed that on January 25 this year Vavi came to her office at Cosatu House, grabbed her, locked the door and forced himself on her.picture; Getty Images
A Cosatu employee (whose name is being withheld for ethical reasons) has lodged a grievance with the federation claiming she was raped by general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. She claimed that on January 25 this year Vavi came to her office at Cosatu House, grabbed her, locked the door and forced himself on her.
Vavi issued a public statement at the weekend confirming he had intercourse with the employee but denied rape.
He in turn laid a complaint of blackmail and extortion against the woman and her husband at the Sandton police station, claiming the couple had demanded R2-million to let the matter "go away". In response to the woman's grievance, Vavi responded with a detailed statement on his twitter account as below:
Press Statement by Mr. Z. Vavi re allegations of misconduct made by a member of staff
27 July 2013
This is an extremely intimate, private, personal and delicate matter that requires great sensitivity and maturity to manage on my part. It involves the dignity and lives of private individuals. We all have the constitutional responsibility to defend each other’s dignity and integrity.
There are two families and children on both sides involved in this extremely delicate matter. Their interests are foremost in my mind as we go through this period.
I have engaged lawyers, and I am ready and willing to appear before any legitimate body to clear my name. I vehemently deny the allegations made against me by the staff member concerned.
While I fully appreciate the media value and interest in this matter, I, on behalf of both families, am appealing to the media and the public to give us the privacy which we all deserve, as we work through this matter.
I am also fully aware that because of my work and life, this matter obviously offers a goldmine for those fishing for sensational stories.
For years now I have been dealing with consistent threats to my life, political assaults and efforts to destroy my contribution to the struggle of the working class and the poor in this country. Lately as we all know, these efforts to destroy me have intensified. I am unable not to view this matter in the same light.
I choose to fight to defend the right to human dignity of all those involved in the two families.
No further statements will be issued by either my wife of myself, nor will we be available for contact by the media in any form except through our lawyers.
Tuesday 23 July 13
Zwelinzima Vavi: Response to “Formal Grievance against COSATU General Secretary – sexual harassment in the workplace”
1. I herewith respond as set out hereunder to the “Formal Grievance” letter dated 15 July 2013, addressed to the COSATU Deputy General Secretary and COSATU Administrative Secretary, by the “Complainant”.
2. I have been advised that it is not necessary in this response to deal in detail with each and every factual allegation, nor to belabour this response with all the documentation available. Same will be available when required at the relevant time and forum.
3. The documentation annexed hereto, so I believe, will be conclusive to show that the complainant is not truthful in her allegations against me and that it will show up her true agenda.
4. Since about October November 2012, complainant and I became attracted to each other. A spontaneous relationship developed between the two of us, and prior to 25 January 2013, the relationship consisted only of kissing and hugging each other.
5. I categorically and emphatically deny that I “grabbed” the face of the complainant at the Parktonian hotel. The truth is that on that day we kissed just as on other occasions. She does not reveal that the last time we kissed was the last time I saw her in my office, on 28 June 2013. All our encounters were encounters between two consenting adults who clearly had feelings for one another.
6. I categorically and emphatically deny that on 25 January 2013 I went to complainant’s office, “grabbed” and kissed her, forcefully fondled her private parts and raped her. The truth is that on that day she came to my office at least three times for reasons related to work. We had intimately kissed in my office on each of those occasions. Round about midday in her office I also kissed her and that kissing eventually led to us making love. I did lock her office door but only to ensure that no one else could come in. Brief intercourse took place whilst we were standing. At no stage did she ask me to stop. After that I asked her affectionately if she was okay, and when she assured me that she was okay I left the office.
7. Later that day I received a shocking text message from her saying “that was not consensual…”. It was followed by another one stating, “Now I am starting to feel that you hired me, merely based on my looks, I’m not ok. but I’ll be fine. I am sorry if I gave you ideas…”. I responded to these by just stating that “You are so wrong”. Her response to this was simply: “I’m worried, please tell me I don’t have a reason to, then I’ll let it go…”. Her worry related to the issue of HIV.
8. I called her and assured her that she had no reason to worry about HIV infection from me, as I had been taking regular tests. We agreed that she should go for a test the coming week. We proceeded to exchange 61 text messages that day, talking about work and joking and laughing about other matters such as her children and wishing each other good night at the end of the day. (Text messages numbers 6 to 67).
9. Once I gave her the assurance that she will be fine with regard to HIV she proceeded to interact with me as she had done before. Since 25 January 2013 we have had over 370 text message exchanges that indicate a very normal relationship throughout. Not one of those text messages shows a grain of anger towards me. I am attaching some of the most important ones to this statement so that their tone and content can be read. (Annexure “A”)
10. A week or so after 25 January 2013 complainant came to my office to ask me whether during the encounter on 25 January 2013, I did not hear her saying “NO”. I told her that if she had uttered those words I would definitely not have proceeded. She further asked me whether I did not notice that she was not very happy at the end and whether I was not worried that she might have been HIV positive on 25 January. I told her that she had been worried about not having thought of HIV before the sex, to which she did not reply.
11. Sometime prior to June 2013 complainant came to my office again to make a claim that my office was certainly bugged. She claimed that she was receiving calls from “some people” who would not reveal their identity claiming that they had taped the conversation between the two of us in my office which is referred to in paragraph 10 above. I refer to the sms’s in annexure “A”.
12. At a later date complainant claimed that the tape with our conversation was dropped in her home post box and that it was lucky that she, and not her husband, saw it first. For many days she promised to bring it to work so that we could listen to it, but she did not do so. At that stage I began to suspect that the tape story was just a lie. It is important to state that throughout these months since October / November 2012 up to June / July 2013, we were the best of friends, exchanging text messages and whenever she came to my office we would kiss as before.
13. On 11 June 2013 complainant sent me a text message claiming that her husband had found the tape.
14. Complainant also gave me two separate versions as to how her husband found the tapes. Firstly she said they had been sent to her husband’s workplace by “these people”, implying people that were working to destroy me. The next explanation was that her husband found it in her bag.
15. After complainant sent me the sms on 11 June 2013 I received a twitter from ... (husband of Complainant) – just saying that “you are a fucking dog”.
16. Later I received a whatsapp from ... (husband of Complainant) that inter alia threatened me should I hurt the complainant.
17. On 30 June 2013 very late at night I received a text message the complainant sent to me. This message was following a previous trend – friendly and presenting both of us as friends who were victims of “some peoples’” schemes.
18. My wife indeed later that evening received a whatsapp message that asked her to listen to a voice in private. My wife listened to this over and over in front of me. She got me to listen and after I listened carefully we concluded that the conversation between complainant and myself was not taped from a bug in my office as complainant had led me to believe, but the conversation was more than likely taped by the complainant in an attempt to get me to concede that the sexual encounter was not consensual. (It is important to note that this taped conversation took place prior to the complainant, according to her, having received the HIV test results.) Despite my wife’s anger, my wife immediately realised that I was being set up and told me so.
19. My wife then decided to play along with the complainant and her husband, and she and complainant and her husband had lots of exchanges on whatsapp, eventually leading to a meeting between my wife and the complainant on 1 July 2013. After the meeting, during which complainant was crying, she sent my wife a whatsapp which can be summed up as is set out in paragraph 20 hereunder.
20. In this whatsapp complainant tried her best to persuade my wife that I really loved my wife and that she should not leave me. She mentioned on more than one occasion in this whatsapp that she had hoped that “we can come to an understanding”. She told my wife that I needed treatment and assured my wife that she would never look at her with any less respect if she stuck by me. She ended it off by stating that it “makes better sense for us to work together on this and move forward.” To place her attempts in perspective I wish to point out that had my wife left me, her allegations would have been out in the open, and there would clearly have been no incentive for me to make any payment to ensure complainant’s silence.
21. On 2 July 2013 my wife received a whatsapp from complainant stating that her husband would speak to a lawyer and draft their demands and once they were happy with the documents, she would swear under oath on a legal document that she will not lay charges and that “we can all go on with our lives”.
22. In an email dated 2 July 2013, annexed as “B”, complainant again attempted to convince me that what had happened between us on 25 January 2013 was rape and not an affair. The impression I gained is that she manipulated her husband into believing that she was a victim of rape and that because of my profile and standing I would be so scared of this matter being reported or publicised that I would pay an amount to beat the alleged offer of 1 million rand referred to in the text message dated 11 June 2013.
23. On 3 July 2013 complainant sent a whatsapp to my wife stating that she and her husband had spoken the whole night and discussed options and that it would be better that my wife’s lawyer meet with complainant and her husband and do the paperwork.
24. On 3 July in the evening complainant phoned my wife and asked for her email address. My wife provided the address and asked complainant to advise her when she had sent the demands. At approximately 10:18 pm complainant informed my wife that she had sent the demands.
25. Interestingly, during the attempt to arrange a meeting between my wife and complainant and her husband, which they apparently had hoped that I would also attend, my wife sent a whatsapp message to complainant’s husband and urged him to listen to my side of the story, which was that there was a relationship between complainant and myself. Complainant’s husband angrily denied this and defended his wife who he claimed was being made out to be a liar. On receiving the whatsapp, complainant, in an apparent complete panic sent me five messages, including a whatsapp, urging me to read my email.
26. On 3 July 2013 I received a letter annexed hereto as “C”. This was the complainant’s demand for payment of 2 million rand. This letter convinced my wife and myself that I was being blackmailed to pay this amount. Our lawyers also saw it that way. My lawyers therefore sent to complainant and her husband a response on 9 July 2013, informing them that what they were trying to do is blackmail and extortion. (Letter annexed hereto as annexure “D”.)
27. The complainant has not responded to the letter of 9 July 2013. Neither did she go to the police to lay charges. In fact she succeeded in meeting with 3 COSATU staff members and although she attempted to have the 2nd Deputy President of COSATU also present, she did not attend. At this meeting she told the COSATU staff members Jane Barret, Zanele Mathebula and Gertrude Mtsweni, that she was taking the matter to the police because I was not cooperating to “close the chapter”. All 3 of them advised her apparently that she would not come out clean but nevertheless promised her to approach me to see if I would not agree to some settlement of the matter. When Jane and Zanele approached me I told them straight away that there was no way I would agree to any settlement, as I was not guilty of the allegations and was in fact being blackmailed. These discussions took place on 11 July 2013 and 12 July 2013.
28. In the meantime an email from the Administrative Secretary, Khanyisile Fakude addressed to complainant, came to my attention. This email was addressed to the complainant because she had not been to work since 1 July 2013 which is the day she had met my wife.
29. Complainant did not respond to Khanyi’s email. Instead she sent me an email dated 12 July 2013 in which she told me to sort out the matter as she was not at fault. (Copy annexed as “E”).
30. Zanele later informed me that she and Jane had met with the complainant on 13 July 2013. I was informed by Zanele that at this meeting the complainant was advised that her story was so full of contradictions that she might not be believed by anyone and that she would be subjected to unpleasant cross examination including about the exact nature of her relationship with me, for which there was ample evidence in addition, the letter of demand had created a serious risk of criminal charges of extortion, and was likely to undermine her claim of sexual assault. They advised her to return to work immediately, as she was running the risk of a dismissal for being absent without leave. If she really did not want to continue at COSATU (which she had indicated was the case) then it was important that she return to work and take control over her exit through resignation, which would enable her to ask for a reference.
31. Complainant did return to work, but instead of telling the truth, on 15 July 2013 she lodged the “Formal Grievance” per email annexed hereto as “F”.
32. In regard to some of the issues complainant has raised in her “Formal Grievance” – letter:
32.1. Page 1: third paragraph:
The reason I was worried and requested complainant to remove the relevant text messages is because I was afraid that if they were to have been picked up by my political enemies, those persons could take advantage of an alleged situation that was devoid of all truth. That is why I requested complainant on 26 January 2013 to delete the messages. Her replies are indicative of the truth of my version. See text message numbers 68.
32.2. Page :1 third paragraph:
In regard to complainant’s excuse for staying away from work being an alleged “state” and being “afraid” that it might happen again:
I refer inter alia to the sms’s of 11 June 2013, especially sms numbers:
79: “I do not even think I want to work at COSATU anymore …”;
84: “…Can we ask COSATU to change my number?”;
87: “My life whilst still at COSATU is not mine…”;
92: “Do you promise to protect me no matter what it takes?”
As stated there was only one brief sexual encounter on 25 January 2013 and a last kiss on 28 June 2013! Complainant was not afraid of me at all.
32.3. Page 2: first paragraph:
Complainant stated: “… because his wife found out and confronted him, not knowing what his reaction would be to this resulted in me not wanting to leave my home anymore.”
I refer in general to the text messages and other documents attached hereto. Her so called fear to leave her home is a blatant lie. She is clearly attempting to justify her staying away from work without leave. She probably stayed away expecting an “agreement” i.e. payment.
Even complainant’s second last sentence of the letter still contains a similar request to the ones referred to above viz. for a suggestion “that would suit all of us…”
33. I believe that complainant is attempting to extort money from me and in doing so is spreading these false allegations against me. I can however not exclude the possibilities that political opponents of mine have seized the opportunity in order to gain the maximum advantage over me and my position.