The Federation of Unions of South Africa’s (Fedusa) secretary general Dennis George has been placed on special leave following allegations that he personally benefited in the controversial Ayo Technology Solutions listing deal.
Fedusa released a statement on Wednesday inviting media to a press briefing where the union’s president Godfrey Selematsela is expected to address reports about the union’s acquisition of Ayo shares and George’s involvement in the deal.
George confirmed to the Mail and Guardian that he received a letter placing him on special leave but said it did not have a lot of details.
“I have been on long leave in December and January and then these journalists put this article out full of lies and I deny all of those things so I am also waiting to hear about this press conference,” said George.
It’s understood that the conference will deal with George’s suspension as the allegations against him are not being taken lightly.
The investment by the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) in Ayo, a company closely linked to Independent Media owner Iqbal Surve, has been in the media following revealing testimony at the judicial commission of inquiry into impropriety at the PIC over the past two weeks.
The commission, chaired by retired Judge Lex Mpati, heard how former chief executive Dan Matjila ignored PIC processes and unilaterally signed the irrevocable subscription agreement which committed the PIC to investing R4.3-billion in Ayo when it listed on the JSE in 2017.
The shares were bought for R43 each, a price which was flagged as overinflated by PIC employees who were working on the deal.
On Wednesday the share price was sitting at R19 per share.
Last week Amabhungane reported that Fedusa was part of a group of unions who were sold Ayo shares for R1.50. In the deal, Fedusa bought over eight million shares in Ayo where the net value of each share went up to R12.47 following the PIC’s multibillion-rand cash injection.
George is reported to be the sole director of Difeme Holdings, a company which was sold share’s for R1.50 as part of Ayo’s BEE pre-listing deal. According to the Amabhungane report, Difeme bought three million shares which resulted in a R900 000 payout to George when Ayo declared its first dividend of 30c per share in November 2018.
Ayo based the dividend payout on improved revenue in that year which would not have happened if the company did not have the pile of money from the PIC.
George came out strongly in support of Matjila after the testimony at the PIC and said that under Matjila the PIC managed to grow its assets to over R2-trillion. He also mentioned that Ayo, where he is a non-executive director, was in good state.
The South African Federation of Trade Unions said in a statement on Tuesday that if the allegations against George are true he should be “condemned” and asked to resign.
When asked if he would resign, he laughed and said: “No, no, no, remember Fedusa asked me to extend my contract for another two years.” George said his lawyers would be sending a letter to Fedusa soon.
The Federation of Unions of South Africa says the union’s secretary-general Dennis George has been suspended to give the union room to investigate the allegations against him.
“In any employment set up, it’s always fair that you first do your investigations and when you are informed that you can take other processes that are provided by the law,” Godfrey Selematsela, president of Fedusa told the media on Wednesday.
The union has established a task team which will appoint an external investigator to conduct an independent investigation. The union expects to have the final report of the internal and external investigation by either February 25 or 26 which will determine George’s future.
Selematsela said the union not aware of George’s personal involvement in Ayo and had learned about the matters after the reports in the media emerged.
“From the leadership, we just learnt this from the media last week when we saw a statement and we were all taken by surprise that’s the first time we knew about that,” Selematsela.
Selematsela distanced Fedusa from reports that the union had also bought Ayo shares at a substantial discount. He said no authorising structure of Fedusa at any level had given a mandate for the purchase of any shares in a company.
The union’s Selematsela said the attempt to link Fedusa to Difeme Holdings, a company associated with George in his personal capacity, was incorrect as “the two entities have nothing to do with each other”.
“Fedusa has never been as strong and resolute in calling for clean governance,” said Selematsela.
Fedusa has affiliate unions in the health, hospitality, textile and motor industries.