Irvin Jim, the general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) has launched scathing a attack against ANC deputy general secretary Jessie Duarte. Jim’s extraordinary salvo, probably the most violent such attack, overtly extends to the broader ANC leadership and he uses an us and them language.
Jim’s statement issued today is styled as an act of defense against snipes directed at the troubled general secretary of the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) Zwelinzima Vavi. The Cosatu leader, Vavi, has been accused of raping an employee of the trade union. He has rejected the rape accusation but has admitted having sex with the Cosatu employee which still lives him with an adulterous embarrassment. Vavi faces possible censure from his colleagues at Cosatu. Vavi and his supporters allege that the whole saga was engineered for political gain given that his adversaries have been gunning for his head for a while. Things may never be the same again after the statement issued by Jim today.
Here follows the statement posted on the NUMSA website:
Comrade Jessie Duarte wrote to the City Press, “Don’t mask exploitation with claims of conspiracy”, Sunday August 05, 2013, in reference to the allegations of sexual harassment against Comrade Zwelinzima Vavi, general secretary of Cosatu.
The accuser has since dropped the charge at Cosatu. Comrade Duarte makes several very serious unfounded and defamatory accusations against Comrade Zwelinzima Vavi. These accusations actually border on criminal libel.
She accuses Vavi of engineering an abusive power relationship with the female colleague by fraudulently employing her in expectation of sexual favours in return. She has not bothered to establish whether the appointment was sanctioned and approved by the Cosatu National Office Bearers.
She vehemently dismisses any possibility of a conspiracy and boldly states that:
“This is not a conspiracy, there is no conspiracy, and there is only one reality in the sad drama that has caused smirks and contemptuous comments on the social media platforms. A man in a powerful position engineered a job for a woman and assumed that sex would be his payment”.
She then concludes by exhorting women to rise, and I guess, defend themselves against the Vavis of this world.
In case you do not know who Jessie Duarte is, this is the woman who is the current deputy secretary general of the African National Congress (ANC), whose current national leadership is extremely unhappy with Vavi’s unfailing denunciations of widespread ANC government corruption, failure to transform the education and health systems inherited from our apartheid past, e-tolls, labour brokers, collapsing local government, among many other failings of the ANC in the past 18 years.
Crucially, Vavi has consistently railed against the ANC’s failure to radically implement the Freedom Charter, and today, on behalf of Cosatu, Vavi has condemned the NDP as simply another version of the abominable GEAR policy which led to the massive shedding of jobs and the destruction of our manufacturing base.
Jessie Duarte’s position, as the Deputy Secretary General, is the second most powerful, organisationally, in the ANC. From our analyses of her article in the City press, she has, logically, a responsibility to contribute to the destruction of Vavi, the most vocal critique of the policies of the African National Policies, even as Vavi heads the largest formation in the ANC led tripartite Alliance.
With all this in mind, only a fool, and a fool of a very special kind, would be stupid enough to dismiss the possibility of conspiracy behind the sexual harassment charges against Vavi.
Duarte wants us to ignore that the accuser herself and her husband made a demand for R2m from Vavi, in exchange for them to let the matter go away, and the accuser alleged a third force was willing to give her R1m to get Vavi nailed to the cross. Jessie completely disregards these facts and evidence from the accuser. Why? What is Jessie in a hurry to cover up by reducing this sordid affair into “an abusive power relationship”?
Could this in fact be the retreat of evil forces whose scheme to destroy Vavi has backfired? Why would the Deputy Secretary General of the ANC automatically want the General Secretary of Cosatu to be crucified and destroyed without giving the General Secretary of Cosatu a hearing first?
We ask of Duarte, would consistency, perhaps, defeat conspiracy theories?
The ANC of which Duarte is a leader is not immune to sex scandals.
We have, over the many decades, lived with scandalous sexual behaviour by senior leadership in the national liberation movement involving men entrusted with executing and leading our National Democratic Revolution. Today we hear from the grapevine of present day leaders who have been deceiving their wives or partners by having sexual encounters with fellow Comrades or office staff or subordinates.
We expect the same critique to be publicly advanced by the likes of Cde Duarte and the ANC Women’s League. Where were they during the allegations of rape against JZ 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 the trust of the family with whom there had been fraternal and comradely relations in exile when the complainant was but a mere child.
And while we are on this subject, where exactly is the poor woman in question, in the JZ saga?
In dealing with matters of consistency, it is to be noted that COSATU, under the Stewardship of Zwelinzima Vavi, responded in a very principled fashion to the JZ rape saga when the following press statement were released by Cosatu on 5 May 2006;
“The Congress of South African Trade Unions welcomes the apology by ANC Deputy President Jacob Zuma for having unprotected sex with an HIV-positive woman. COSATU has repeatedly urged everyone to abide by the ABC rules to prevent being infected by HIV – Abstain, Be faithful, Condomise. We regret the fact that Jacob Zuma broke these rules and we agree with Judge Willem van der Merwe that “It is totally unacceptable that a man should have unprotected sex with a person other than his regular partner and definitely not with a person who, to his knowledge, is HIV-positive”. COSATU however fully accepts Jacob Zuma’s apology and his admission that he “should have been more cautious and more responsible”.
We applaud his commitment to join the war against Aids, a pandemic that affects one in seven adults in South Africa and threatens the lives of countless thousands unless we unite to defeat it, and we look forward to campaigning together with him to win this war against HIV/AIDS.”
As for talk about “an abusive power relationship” we believe Duarte should not insult our intellect and memory. Duarte was forced to vacate the position of MEC for Safety and Security of the Gauteng Government in 1998 over allegations of driving an official government car without a driver’s licence; failure to report an accident on time; unauthorised payment of an air ticket for a non-governmental person; employing consultants without properly checking their qualifications; and general accusations of corruption and mismanagement, among others.
The 1998 Moerane Commission found that while acting as Gauteng Safety and Security MEC, Duarte had been guilty of mismanagement and maladministration, and that she had abused state funds by buying oversees air tickets for a friend, had grossly overpaid an unqualified administrative assistant, and had used a state vehicle even though she had never even obtained a driver’s licence. Her assistants then tried to cover up an accident she had while driving the vehicle.
The gentleman whom she was accused of having bought unauthorised air tickets to Portugal was widely rumoured to be her lover, at the time. Are we to conclude from this, without first hearing first hand from Jessie, that she too engineered “an abusive relationship” for herself? We think not.
History is littered with instances where sex was used as a tool to defeat political opponents. Ask Catholic Bishop of Harare, Pius Ncube, for proof! What is crucial here is the exploitation of a sex scandal for political purposes, especially in instances in which one party openly apologises for infidelity, as Vavi has done.
Selective morality and gender activism in some instances when the person that is the subject of scandalous behaviour is not from my faction cannot be tolerated in a society that has been subjected to the brutality of colonialism, apartheid and patriarchy. In any case morality is not neutral nor is it devoid from class, cultural and religious underpinnings.
We reject with the contempt it deserves the portrayal of woman, whatever their position, as mindless morons incapable of moral judgement when confronted with power, and thus deserving to be adjudged innocent in all sexual allegations, including rape. We hold as a fundamental tenant of any civilised society the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, even as we hold all law to be class based.
More than anything else, Jessie Duarte’s column confirms to us the exploitation for political purposes of the allegations of sexual impropriety by Vavi. Duarte has a bone to grind with Vavi, for her party. And for this, she is shamelessly willing to see him crucified even for an offence he has not been found guilty of.
As for the serious criminal allegations she makes against Vavi, we leave it to Vavi to decide how to deal with her.