Samwu: Former leaders tried to get private firm to collect subscriptions

Samwu has suffered serious reputational damage over the past decade, with its former leaders accused of defrauding the union and abandoning their core mandate.

South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) general secretary Koena Ramotlou. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The recently dismissed leadership of the South African Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) tried to get a private company to collect subscriptions on its behalf, according to newly elected general-secretary Koena Ramotlou.

Not only would the decision have gone against the Labour Relations Act, but it is one of the reasons the collective was fired from the union last week by its central executive committee.

Samwu has suffered serious reputational damage over the past decade, with its former leaders accused of defrauding the union and abandoning their core mandate.

Ramotlou said that among the new leadership’s duties is to restore the union, which has lost over 60,000 members in the past few years and tainted its image as leaders fought with members over the control of the union.

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Ramotlou told Eyewitness News that the central executive committee was alarmed by the proposal by the leaders to acquire a service provider to collect money for the union from its members.

“It’s a risk with members’ money, where you are taking them to a different private company. You don’t know how much was sent in there, how much you’re going to be given or how the interest is collected.”

The former leaders also got the union blacklisted by the Congress of South African Trade Unions after failing to pay subscription fees for years, forcing the labour federation to stop its members from taking part in its congress in 2018.

This is among the first things the new leadership want to address in their pursuit for a worker-controlled organisation that will not fall into the same trap of dysfunction again.

As Samwu leaders work on restoring the union, they will also have to face competition from splinter unions which were formed by its former leaders and members when relations soured.

(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)