/ 16 November 2018

Axed branch leaders take on ‘dictatorial’ national leaders

The top six leaders of the Impala Bafokeng North branch of the mining union Amcu are contesting their dismissal in court
The top six leaders of the Impala Bafokeng North branch of the mining union Amcu are contesting their dismissal in court, saying they were trying to protect workers’ savings. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

Ousted branch leaders are taking their battle with the “autocratic” leadership of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) to court.

A notice of motion filed in the North West division of the high court shows that former leaders of Amcu’s Impala Bafokeng North branch have applied to the court to set aside their dismissal, which they say was unprocedural.

Ex-branch secretary Sizwe Nkosi, the first applicant in the motion, is joined in his application by

the other members of the former top six at the branch. The former branch leaders discussed their grievances at an unofficial meeting in Rustenburg last Friday. The six were accompanied by a small group of supporters wearing Amcu T-shirts.

Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa was in Johannesburg at the time, attending an event with the widows of miners who were killed at the Marikana massacre in 2012.

The branch officials said they were removed in October because they resisted instructions from the national office to transfer members’ retirement savings to the controversial Igula Umbrella Provident Fund.

In a statement read out at the meeting, the former branch officials allege that the Amcu leadership was insistent on the transferral of workers’ savings from the Impala Worker Provident Fund to the Igula fund.

READ MORE: Retirement fund fracas splits Amcu

Trustees of the Impala Worker Provident Fund who don’t support the transfer have been intimidated and dismissed, the statement said.

In July, the Mail & Guardian reported on how the decision to transfer the retirement funds had been hotly contested in the union. Internal battles sparked by the union’s allegedly dictatorial national leadership has made Amcu’s attempts to control the funds even more controversial.

READ MORE: Mathunjwa purges rivals in shake-up

Amcu has more than 200  000 members and represents the majority of workers in the platinum and coal mining sectors.

The demand to move workers’ retirement savings to the Igula fund would put what is reportedly more than R7-billion fully under the control of the union.

Another cause for concern for the former branch officials is that Mathunjwa has allegedly installed himself as chairperson of the fund, according to Amcu’s submissions to the Financial Sector Conduct Authority. “You can’t be the referee and play the game at the same time,” said axed Impala fund trustee Eunice Morake.

She told the M&G that she could not explain how Mathunjwa had managed to secure the position, saying that the rules of the fund state that the chairperson is supposed to be elected from the trustees of the fund. Amcu’s submissions to the Financial Sector Conduct Authority also show that Mathunjwa is not a trustee.

In his affidavit to the court, Nkosi said they fear another “VBS situation”. The former branch officials applied for an urgent interdict to stop their successors from holding any meetings relating to the transfer to Igula, but the matter was struck off the roll.

According to the former branch officials, in September the Amcu national leadership issued an instruction to members operating at Impala to make sure that workers sign up to Igula by the beginning of November. If they fail to do so, they would be removed.

“Nobody can question the national office … When you do so, you become unpopular. When you do so, you are removed from office. We were told that we must not ask questions,” Nkosi said, to nods from his colleagues.

The former branch leaders have aligned themselves with expelled Amcu deputy president Sanele Myeza. Myeza was dismissed earlier this year. He challenged his dismissal in the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation

and Arbitration last week on the basis that it was unprocedural. The case was postponed until January. “If we lose leaders like Sanele Myeza, who else can stand for the truth?” Nkosi asked at last Friday’s meeting.

Myeza has said he feared that his dismissal had to do with speculation that he was gaining support among Amcu regions to challenge Mathunjwa at the upcoming national elective congress. But Myeza has been clear that he had no such aspirations.

Amcu has not held a congress since its numbers swelled in the wake of the Marikana massacre. The congress was scheduled to take place in October, but was postponed.

The axed branch leaders and their supporters also want the government to determine whether or not Amcu has acted in accordance with its constitution in purging members and in delaying its congress.

If the department of labour finds that a union has not acted constitutionally, it can be deregistered. But there is no provision in the Labour Relations Act that allows an ordinary worker to apply to have a union’s registration reviewed.

Amcu did not respond to questions about the ousted branch officials and whether their removal was connected to the Igula fund, or to questions about the alleged autocratic leadership of the national office.