Vavi is damaged goods… for good
My message was simple: “Bad news happens to everyone. It is a matter of when, not if.”
I added that at some point, the spotlight will fall onto you, even if you are innocent. Even if you acted with best intentions.
Inadvertently I went on to say: “Ask a guy who has been wrongfully accused of rape.”
At the time of writing this blog, the woman who first made the shocking accusation that Cosatu General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi raped her, had withdrawn the charges. Unless she changes her mind, for now, Vavi is innocent of rape.
But the damage is done and dare I say forever. He will forever be remembered as that Vavi once accused of raping a young woman. And when this memory is evoked, not many will bother to add “wrongly” before “accused”, and very few will qualify the assertion and emphasise that the charges were subsequently dropped.
Who will forget November 2005 when then as former deputy president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma was accused of a similar crime. He was acquitted months later. He actually went on to defeat his adversary Thabo Mbeki in 2007 to become president of the governing ANC. The rest is history.
But to this day, the shadow of this rape accusation follows Zuma wherever he goes. Its yoke is even heavier than the one related to his former financial advisor, Shabir Shaik who was tried and found guilty of corruption.
Like Vavi, Zuma was never found guilty of rape, but to this day, he remains unforgiven by many people for the very association with a crime so rife in this country.
In the eyes of many, a leader of the stature of Vavi (and indeed Zuma) should not be mentioned in the same line as the word rape – whether guilty or innocent. The very association is abominable.
We live in a constitutional democracy, and I refuse to hang people on a kangaroo court verdict. If the court of law did not pronounce you guilty, or as the case may be with Vavi where the accuser withdraws the charges, there is absolutely no basis for us to crucify the accused.
The notion of innocent until proven guilty, although too heavy to adhere to even by the very liberal democrats and the constitution-punching purists, cannot and should not be sacrificed at the altar of expediency.
That said, Vavi is damaged goods.
Where Zuma admitted to having sex with an HIV-positive woman (later to take a shower to diminish chances of contracting the virus) Vavi admitted to unprotected sex in the office.
Where Zuma admitted to having sex with a daughter of a friend and long-time comrade, Vavi, it would appear, abused a position of power not only by sleeping with a junior employee of the federation he leads, but also by appointing her in the organisation in the first place.
Where Zuma rallied the ANC (or at least some factions of it) to stand by him and even vilify the accuser, Vavi used Cosatu’s resources and name to deflect accusations against him.
Like Zuma before him Vavi also claimed a political conspiracy. Like Zuma before him Vavi played victim. I hope unlike Zuma, that one day, Vavi proves this conspiracy, lest he leaves us guessing about who indeed was the liar.
Responding to a tweet I posted shortly before writing this piece, a friend and editor of a leading Sunday newspaper suggested that Vavi should “show leadership and resign”. I don’t know about that.
After all, like Zuma before him, Vavi may live to survive and defeat his “adversaries” (and the supposed handler of his accuser) and have the last laugh – just like Zuma. Maybe if we were in another country, but the here at home, leaders do not resign, they get forced out.
I do not hold any brief for Vavi. In fact, I think he was just too stupid to allow himself into a situation of this nature, what with every knife in the rack out for him. He had no business exposing himself (pun intended) to such unnecessary danger.
But I tend not to pass moral judgements on others. I leave that to their consciences and God, whoever they perceive Her to be.
What I know though is that in the court of public opinion, a harsh judgement of “guilty as charged” has been passed on Vavi. And as his sentence is the albatross around his neck that is the tag he will carry for life.
Just like Zuma before him Vavi will be ridiculed the next time he makes a statement about HIV/Aids and protective sex.
Like Zuma before him Vavi will be laughed at when he extols the virtues of honesty.
Like Zuma – innocent or not – Vavi will never be trusted by many, again.