The Food and Allied Workers Union. (Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius)
The Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) has fired its deputy general secretary, Moloko Phakedi, a week after the labour court dismissed his attempt to halt a disciplinary hearing against him.
Phakedi, who is also the deputy general secretary of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), was dismissed with immediate effect on June 19 after being found guilty of gross misconduct by the hearing.
Phakedi and former general secretary Katishi Masemola, who was also dismissed by the union, have been involved in a battle in the union and in the labour court with a rival faction headed by its president, Atwell Nazo, and its deputy general secretary, Mayoyo Mngomezulu, since 2017.
Fawu is the second largest affiliate of Saftu, which was founded by unions that broke away from the Congress of South African Trade Union (Cosatu) in 2017. Phakedi was elected as Saftu’s first deputy general secretary, with Fawu agreeing to pay his salary until the newly launched federation had the capacity to do so.
But Phakedi has tried to retain his post at the affiliate as well as his federation post, sparking a backlash from the union’s other national office bearers.
Masemola, who was dismissed by Fawu last year, is also the subject of a forensic inquiry into the write-off of nearly R20-million by the union’s investment arm, Basebenzi Investment Group, where he acted as chief executive for nearly a decade.
Phakedi was charged with gross misconduct for “unlawfully holding out” to be the deputy general secretary of Fawu after having taken up the Saftu post and for entering into an agreement with Masemola and reinstating him as general secretary.
Phakedi was also charged with unlawfully suspending and dismissing Mngomezulu; for irregularly signing off on payments for his salary after he had earlier been suspended; and for “openly defying” the elected leadership of the union.
Nazo told Mail & Guardian on Monday that Phakedi had been dismissed after the outcome of the disciplinary hearing, chaired by Nazeer Cassim SC.
In his findings, Cassim recommended summary dismissal of Phakedi, who had “‘misconstrued himself in serious respects”.
Cassim found that Phakedi had unlawfully contacted the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) without authority to effect a settlement between Masemola and Fawu, a move he found to be “sinister”.
Nazo said the union now saw the matter as closed.
“It is up to him what he does, whether he accepts or he goes to the CCMA or the labour court,” Nazo said.
Nazo said Masemola “‘remains dismissed by Fawu” and that the forensic investigation into the Basebenzi write-off would continue.
Fawu, he said, was “united” and would go ahead with an elective congress once the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions were relaxed.
“Congress has to take place. The only snag we have now is the Covid thing. It has been a stumbling block to a number of meetings we need to hold towards congress,” Nazo said.
Phakedi said he was consulting lawyers to look at the best way to challenge the decision.