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Samwu leaders sacked after years of corruption claims

In a vote of no confidence motion, five provinces are said to have voted to get the leaders of the country’s biggest municipal trade union removed from office.

Picture: @SAMWUnion/Twitter.

JOHANNESBURG - National leaders of the South African Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) have been shown the door by delegates at a central committee meeting taking place in Bloemfontein.

In a vote of no confidence motion, it's understood five provinces voted to get the leaders of the country’s biggest municipal trade union removed from office. Three other provinces opposed the motion, while one abstained.

Eyewitness News understands its deputy president, John Dlamini, resigned from his post shortly after the meeting got under way.

The union has been embroiled in a scandal over theft of money and damning financial irregularities for years.

EWN reported last month that the Labour Registrar had applied to the Labour Court to have the union placed under administration.

The trade union’s general secretary, Simon Mathe, claims he was not removed but opted to resign earlier on Thursday, but sources say this was prompted by the motion for the collective’s removal.

Deputy general secretary Moses Miya was removed in absentia following his suspension from the organisation. He appeared before the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court in Johannesburg on fraud and theft charges in 2015.

FINANCIAL MISMANAGEMENT

The dismissal of the leaders is the boldest move the union’s shop stewards have made since the allegations of corruption and theft by its leaders first surfaced over a decade ago.

In the past few years, some of the union’s former leaders and some among the group that was dismissed earlier were arrested over the disappearance of close to R160 million from Samwu’s coffers.

Last month, Labour Registrar Advocate Lehlohonolo Molefe said there was a strong case to be made against the union and its leaders after he discovered serious financial irregularities, including that the union had received a loan from the now-defunct VBS Mutual Bank.

Molefe called Samwu to explain why it failed to repay a R12 million loan it received from VBS Mutual Bank. Almost R2 billion was stolen by the bank’s directors, senior executives and well-connected politicians. At the time, Mathe said Samwu repaid the loan.

"That is why even the curator of VBS is not complaining because that loan has been serviced through debit [order]. That's why I'm saying that the registrar is just politicking," Mathe said.

Molefe said that infighting and poor financial controls remained the greatest threat to trade unions.

In an exclusive interview with EWN, the registrar painted a bleak picture of the state of employers’ associations and bargaining councils.

The registrar regulates labour related organisations in the country in accordance with the Labour Relations Act.

At the core of all challenges faced by unions and the other labour relations organisations, was the pursuit of money and power, according to Advocate Molefe.

The country’s trade union movement is worth billions of rand and has accumulated even more wealth through the establishment of investment companies.

But, as Molefe explained, these riches rarely trickle down to members.

“At the core for me, is for everyone to have control over the union, the finances of the union and how it is run. There is just self-interest.”

He said the upheavals and ethics crisis in society had influenced the state of affairs in these entities.

Last month, Molefe applied to the Labour Court to have Samwu placed under administration for, among other things, failing to account for the use of funds.

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