It is with great sorrow that the South African Federation of Trade Unions has learned of the passing away of June Dube, the President of the Democratic Transport and Allied Workers Unions (DETAWU).
We dip our banners in honour of a trade union activist and leader for over three decades who devoted his life to serving the workers and in particular to defending workers’ democracy and fighting corruption within the unions.
He was a member of the Transport and General Workers Union, which in 2000 merged with other smaller unions to form the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), where he served first as 1st Deputy President and was then elected as President in 2012.
He then became involved in a battle to save the union from corruption, financial crisis and splits, which threatened to lead to its collapse.
He, and other SATAWU leaders, were receiving death threats and, close to midnight on 13 April 2015, Comrade Dube was asleep in his Vosloorus home with his wife and three children when unknown men threw a petrol bomb into his lounge, shattering the window and setting the room alight.
When police arrived to investigate and take down statements, his phone rang and he was told of the news that SATAWU Gauteng provincial secretary Chris Nkosi was ambushed and shot five times through the door of his car when he was driving home.
There had been a split within SATAWU when members, led by SATAWU’s second President Ephraime Mphahlele, formed what later became the National Transport Movement (NTM).
Then later, on August 2015 the gang of thugs who have hijacked the union with such a colourful history, passed a vote of no confidence in him, using a hollowed out and domesticated Central Executive Committee. They humiliated and meted out a treatment not reserved even for the worst class enemy. Even when he was hospitalized after this, they continued to taunt him and make fun of his condition. This they did so to show what they do to people who stand up against corruption in the union.
This was the second President of SATAWU to be treated in that fashion. Before that, Ephraime Mphahlele was equally humiliated until he decided to leave SATAWU to save his health. His sin was to report the PRASA corruption to the Public Protector and lay charges of corruption against the then Group CEO of PRASA, Lucky Montana.
June Dube, with expelled and suspended members, left SATAWU to form the Democratic Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (DETAWU) because they were tired of tolerating what they considered to be undemocratic practices.
DETAWU held its founding National Congress on 24 September 2015 and elected its national leadership including June Dube as President.
“All our revolutionary efforts to save SATAWU from being turned into a business trade union, into a toothless dog have failed, we concede with bleeding heavy hearts,” said a statement after the first National Office Bearers meeting on 11 October 2015.
“It took us more than 2 years of hard fighting to cleanse the union from all sort of manner of wrong doings, including but not limited to:- autocracy, intolerance of descending views, purging of critical comrades within the union, broad financial mismanagement, non-adherence to the union constitution, violation and distortion of worker control, non-sitting of constitutional structures, pursuing of non-mandated positions by the secretariat, poor service to members, suppression of views, non-fulfilment of union commitment to its members, disregard of employment policies, patronage and many more.
“The union National leadership collective brings together a vast experience of trade unionism and a broader understanding of workers struggles… The union President comrade June Dube has been at the forefront of workers struggles for more than 3 decades and has been a COSATU Central Executive Committee member for more than 20 years now.
“He is not a Johnny come late in the struggle. He has been part of the T&GWU and former SATAWU prolonged merge talks. He has proudly led SATAWU at the national level from its inception until the day he was ejected from the union for being correct and defending the union constitution.”
DETAWU was one of the founding affiliates of SAFTU and Comrade June played a big role in building the new federation both before and after its founding congress in April 2017. He will be sorely missed. He was a member of the SAFTU political and ideological commission.
SAFTU sends its condolences to his family, friends and comrades at this difficult time.