Union uproar over 'missing' BEE shares

The president of the National Council of Trade Unions (Nactu), Joseph Maqhekeni, and its general secretary, Manene Daniel Samela, were part of a company that bought shares for their private benefit while claiming to represent the South African Chemical Workers’ Union (Sacwu), an organisation in which they held office at the time, according to a forensic report.

The forensic investigation, conducted by D&K Management Consultants, was initiated by former Sacwu employees in 2008 after unsatisfactory explanations were given by Maqhekeni and Samela, who were president and general secretary of Sacwu at the time.

The report shows that in April 2008 five shareholders incorporated a company named Nactu Investment Holdings Inzalo (Pty) Ltd to buy shares in Sasol’s black economic empowerment (BEE) initiative, Sasol Inzalo. Apart from Samela and Maqhekeni, the other shareholders were Zingisa Thoko Obisanya, Maphindela George Sabelo and Makhosonke Albert Masuku, former president of the Nactu-affiliated Building, Construction and Allied Workers’ Union.

In June 2008 Sasol made more than 300 000 new shares, worth R24-billion, available as part of the initiative.
Individual shareholders and “selected participants represented by groups”, in this case trade union investment companies, could buy shares. Nactu Investment Holdings Inzalo, claiming to be acting on behalf of Sacwu members, was one of the groups accepted.

The company is believed to have bought shares worth at least R79.18-million, which could not be traded until September 2011.

Shares moved?
But according to the report, an “exhaustive” search of the Sasol share register conducted in 2011 did not reveal a shareholder named Nactu Investment Holdings Inzalo, or Sacwu, Maqhekeni or Samela, which meant the shares were held in another name—and could mean the shares were moved after they were secured.

Subsequently it was revealed that the shares were held under the name of Kasimira Trading 20.

Sacwu’s deputy president, Mathews Diale, said a meeting was held with Maqhekeni and Samela in 2008 but Sacwu had received “distorted information”.

“They are saying Sacwu did not have the financial will so they, as Nactu, acted on Sacwu’s behalf,” Diale said.

“Nobody mentioned in 2008 that they were buying shares. The issue is not yet clear as Nactu is now saying that Sacwu was never in the picture and yet Sacwu’s name was mentioned in the deal.”

Diale said that, because of divisions in Nactu’s national executive committee, the two men were allegedly able to “use some comrades” to erase their tracks.

“We raised a concern with Sasol to tell them that there were objections regarding the shares,” Diale said, adding that Sacwu’s national executive committee would meet this weekend to decide what to do.

‘People bent on destroying Nactu’
Samela this week admitted that Nactu Investment Holdings Inzalo had bought the shares and said the company was still holding them. He described the report as a propaganda tool by “people bent on destroying Nactu” and said all proceeds from the shares would go to the workers.

He first stated that all workers were briefed about the shares in 2008 but later said: “I had a meeting with comrades in 2008 where I said I was willing to clarify issues, but that offer was not taken up. They started firing people.”

Manene said those registered as the shareholders of Nactu Investment Holdings Inzalo were put down as directors. They had to raise the money to buy the shares from other parties, because Sacwu did not have the “financial will” to raise the required funds.

In 2008 Maqhekeni and Samela lost their positions at Sacwu after an election. Maqhekeni was replaced by Mosehla Mampho and Sofonia Mkhwanazi came in as acting general secretary.

But according to sources linked to the union, the influence of the two men persisted because Maqhekeni was a branch executive committee member for the Vaal region. They claim this could account for the continuing lack of transparency regarding the shares.

Sacwu has been mired in financial difficulties for years.

Maqhekeni did not respond to questions and referred all queries to Samela.

Insiders have also accused the two men of running Nactu into the ground and obstructing all attempts at sound administration.

Mass exodus
Nactu, once the country’s second-largest union federation, has lost hundreds of thousands of affiliated members, especially in the construction sector.

It has also drastically downscaled operations and the administration of the entire organisation, which has 17 affiliates, is being handled by one full-time employee. But Samela said that only two staff members had been retrenched and the others had been absorbed by their affiliated unions.

He acknowledged that Nactu had suffered astounding losses, with the Building Construction and Allied Workers’ Union losing about 200 000 members since the 2010 World Cup and the SABC terminating its collective agreement with the Media Workers’ Association of South Africa.

Kwanele Sosibo

Kwanele Sosibo

Kwanele Sosibo studied journalism at Durban's ML Sultan Technikon before working at Independent Newspapers from 2000 to 2003. In 2005, he joined the Mail & Guardian's internship programme and later worked as a reporter at the paper between 2006 and 2008, before working as a researcher. He was the inaugural Eugene Saldanha Fellow in 2011. Read more from Kwanele Sosibo

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