No end to Fawu’s factional fight

The tit-for-tat factional battle for control of the Food and Allied Workers Union has taken yet another twist, with Fawu suspending its deputy general secretary, Moleko Phakedi, on Tuesday, hours after he was reinstated by the labour court.

The union’s national office bearers immediately placed Phakedi, who is also the deputy general secretary of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), on suspension with full pay, pending an investigation into his alleged violation of Fawu’s constitution.

In response, Phakedi’s faction has convened its own, parallel meeting of the union’s national officer bearers and has called on union staff and members to “ignore” the rival grouping, which, it claims, is acting with no mandate.

Fawu’s president, Atwell Nazo, said in a letter to Phakedi on Tuesday that, although the court had ruled that he had been unlawfully dismissed, he was now being suspended.

Nazo said Phakedi had violated Fawu’s constitution by “conducting yourself in a manner which intentionally causes division”.


Nazo said Phakedi had acted “with no authority” when he issued letters of suspension to himself (Nazo) and deputy general secretary Mayoyo Mngomezulu, and had continued to violate Fawu’s disciplinary codes in doing so.

In October, Fawu stopped Phakedi’s salary and stripped him of his powers, arguing that his secondment to Saftu prevented him from occupying the post of deputy general secretary. Fawu, which is an affiliate of Sadtu, also argued that the agreement that it paid him while he worked for Saftu had expired and that Fawu was no longer compelled to fund his salary.

Nazo instructed Phakedi to hand over all union resources and make himself available to participate in the investigation. The investigation would “establish whether there are grounds for disciplinary action”, which could result in Phakedi being dismissed from Fawu.

Fawu had previously dismissed Phakedi, who was then reinstated by the labour court. It then stripped him of his powers and stopped his pay, and went to the court seeking an order confirming this. But, in its judgment on Tuesday, the labour court in Johannesburg dismissed Fawu’s application and instead issued a declaratory order confirming Phakedi as an employee of the union.

It also ruled that Fawu should allow him all of his contractual rights as an employee.

In its judgment, the court said the matter was “one of those union cases involving union factions which play themselves out in the courts”.

“Clearly, by launching this application on such feeble grounds, the applicant was trying its luck. However, in the process of trying, they have put a man without a salary to enormous expense. In my view, this application was frivolous and vexatious,” the judgment read.

The fight between the faction led by Phakedi and former general secretary Katishi Masemola, who is also challenging his dismissal from the union, and a grouping led by Nazo and Mngomezulu, has brought the union to its knees.

It narrowly escaped being deregistered as a trade union last year because of delays in submitting its financial statements to the registrar — a delay caused by fighting between the two groupings,which began with the launch of Saftu in 2017.

The fight has resulted in Masemola, Phakedi and their supporters, including KwaZulu-Natal secretary August Mbhele and Eastern Cape secretary Mthunzi Madondo, being dismissed.

Masemola, who had acted as chief executive of Fawu’s investment arm, Basebenzi Investment Group, for nearly a decade, was fired for misconduct over a R19.2-million write-off and for allegedly using an additional R20-million of union funds to cover its operating expenses without authorisation.

But Masemola has denied wrongdoing and has challenged his dismissal at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, as have Mbhele and Madondo.

Masemola said the Nazo-Mayoyo faction was trying to get rid of Phakedi, who was elected at the
2016 Fawu congress, so that they would “run the affairs of Fawu
with no authority of congress mandate”.

Masemola said neither Nazo nor Mayoyo had mandates from the union and urged Fawu members and staff to “ignore” them.

He said their four “frivolous” attempts to bring court action against Phakedi had failed and that the court had ruled that should they make another application, they should pay for it from their own pockets.

Phakedi, he said, would be convening a meeting of the union’s national office bearers in due course to look at how to rebuild Fawu.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller.

Related stories

Labour battle: labour brokers back in court

Some believed a 2018 Constitutional Court ruling would spell the end of labour broking. It didn’t

Sticking it to the boss is not so simple, according to an expert

Experts disagree on the meaning behind carrying sticks during strike action, a debate that will be aired at the CCMA on Wednesday

Carrying ‘weapons’ while striking is still a sticking point

An upcoming CCMA case will consider whether workers carrying sticks at a strike is an act of intimidation or a call for unity

Political interference mounts over SABC retrenchments

The SABC says it needs to cut R700-million to survive. But senior politicians have allegedly interfered to stop retrenchments from proceeding

SABC staff ready to join picket line

The national broadcaster has rejected claims that it did not follow correct retrenchment and audit processes

Reinstated Ingonyama Trust managers hit with retrenchment notices

The effect of Covid-19 and the land reform department’s freeze of R23-million because the ITB didn’t comply with budget submissions are cited as some of the reasons for the staff cuts
Advertising

Subscribers only

SAA bailout raises more questions

As the government continues to grapple with the troubles facing the airline, it would do well to keep on eye on the impending Denel implosion

ANC’s rogue deployees revealed

Despite 6 300 ANC cadres working in government, the party’s integrity committee has done little to deal with its accused members

More top stories

The Nigerian government is killing its citizens — again

‘Nigeria kills its people. Nigeria has always killed its people.’

Finance probe into the Ingonyama Trust Board goes ahead

The threat of legal action from ITB chairperson Jerome Ngwenya fails to halt forensic audit ordered by the land reform minister

Ailing Far East Rand hospital purchases ‘vanity’ furniture

Dr Zacharia Mathaba, who purchased the furniture, is a suspected overtime fraudster and was appointed as Gauteng hospital chief executive despite facing serious disciplinary charges

Institutions of higher learning should commemorate their casualties

The bust of Matikweni Nkuna at Tshwane University of Technology is an example of how we should honour those who fought for equal access to education
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday