‘We will not be pushed out of Cosatu’ – Samwu

The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) has hit back at allegations levelled against the union by trade union federation Cosatu.

Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali reportedly claimed that leaders of Samwu are running away from members and not accounting for the use of union money.

Ntshalintshali told The Star that the leadership of Samwu, the country’s biggest municipal union, were refusing to co-operate with the federation.

“We tried to set up a task team outside of the Cosatu national office-bearers and included leaders from other affiliates to deal with this issue, but the national office-bearers of Samwu are refusing to co-operate. We can only consult them, but we have no legal power to intervene,” Ntshalintshali said.

To Ntshalintshali’s allegation, Samwu general secretary Simon Mathe simply said: “He is lying.”

Mathe told the Mail & Guardian that he has personally written to Ntshalintshali on this matter and has explained that scheduling clashes have meant that on certain occasions Samwu leadership has been unable to meet with Cosatu.

But, he said, Cosatu has not attempted to accommodate Samwu when union leadership has expressed that it was unable to attend certain meetings.

Mathe also called accusations that the union has not accounted for its use of money a “fallacy”. He said the union has its financials audited and submits its financial statements to the labour department every financial year.

In his organisational report to the federation’s provincial elective conference in Soweto last week, Gauteng Cosatu secretary Dumisani Dakile indicated that currently none of Samwu’s leaders and members are eligible to contest for positions in Cosatu because the union has failed to pay fees due to the federation for years.

“The union, as we report to this congress, has not been in good standing for the past three years. Various promises have been made to pay but nothing is forthcoming. Samwu leaders are directly affected by this crisis in that they cannot stand or contest for positions in the federation,” Dakile said.

On the issue of not paying subscription fees to the federation, Mathe said Cosatu’s treasury ordered Samwu to pay R3-million to retain their voting rights at the federation’s congress — a request Samwu acceded to, though the union has not heard back from the federation after paying the R3-million.

Mathe told the M&G that Cosatu is using notions of internal conflicts and allegations of member purging as a means of ridding the federation of a certain faction of the union, calling Ntshalintshali’s allegations “grandstanding”.

Mathe said that, though there seems to be an expectation that the union would leave Cosatu to join its competition, the South African Federation of Trade Unions, there is no such intention from the union’s leadership.

“No matter what they say or do, we will stay,” he said.

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Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.
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