SAFTU’s National Executive Committee (NEC) held its first quarterly meeting on the 24th– 26th March 2022. The NEC is constituted by the six National Office Bearers of the Federation, a minimum of two delegates to a maximum of six delegates depending on the size of membership of each affiliate and two delegates from every province.

All SAFTU NOBs, affiliated unions and provincial leaders were present in the meeting.

The NEC discussed the recent two weeks of turmoil that engulfed the federation. This followed the decision of the National Office Bearers of the Federation to suspend the General Secretary.

Every day since this decision, which was wholly unconstitutional, the federation that is seen by many workers in our country and elsewhere as a militant alternative and a campaigning Federation, hogged the headlines for all of the wrong reasons.

Following an intense and robust discussion amongst the delegates which lasted for many hours on the constitutionality of the NOB’s suspension of the General Secretary, a motion was moved to suspend the four NOBs that orchestrated such suspension. Following further deliberations on the motion and consideration of other alternatives, the matter was put to a vote. The overwhelming members of the NEC decided to place four of the NOBs on suspension immediately.

The view of the NEC is that the four comrades wilfully and deliberately usurped the powers of the NEC and acted ultra vires in suspending the General Secretary. In the process they brought the federation into disrepute. For two weeks, the Federation was subjected to ridicule and utter embarrassment.

The NEC furthered viewed the suspension or intent to suspend as mischievous and malicious act that sought to portray and smear the SAFTU General Secretary as corrupt.
Fourteen SAFTU affiliates wrote letters to the President to request an audience with the President, so that they could be taken into confidence by the NOBs. All these letters were ignored. The President would not even acknowledge the receipt of these letters, yet, continued to appear on almost every news channel defending the suspension or intent to suspend, despite being told that the NOBs do not have such powers, neither in the
constitution nor in policy, to suspend each other.

In terms of the SAFTU constitution, the power to suspend the National Office Bearers exclusively resides with the National Executive Committee.

According to Clause 3.3.5 which deals with the powers of the NEC, the SAFTU NEC may: “suspend any office-bearer or official of the Federation for sufficient cause until the matter is decided at the next meeting of the Central Committee.”

Furthermore, chapter 9 of the SAFTU constitution under clause 1.2.1 states that the NEC may:
Demand the recall of any National, Provincial, local office bearers or who serve on any outside body if such is demanded by two-thirds of the affiliates, if: The member violates the constitution of the Federation or in any way brings it into disrepute; If the Federation consider that the person is working against the best interest of the working class.
The powers of the NOBs are regulated in the constitution.
Clause of 6 (6.1.1) states as follows:
The National Office Bearers have powers less than those of the National Executive Committee in principle.

In this NEC meeting, the National Office Bearers were given ample time to explain themselves regarding their conduct.

Even when the President later apologised on behalf of the NOBs as a collective, his apology lacked an appreciation of the extent to which the federation has been embarrassed and its image damaged by their actions.

The NEC also considered the turmoil in the context of a leadership crisis of disunity that has gone on for four years. The NOBs have been given an opportunity after another, to lead the federation into a different direction than the one of squabbles.

Dozens of hours have been spent and resources of the organisation wasted in facilitated discussions to get everyone to understand the constitution, the roles of each NOB member as per the constitution; yet even before the ink dry, the organisation is placed back to square one due to these actions.

For four years, the young federation could not be what it promised its members to become: an independent but not apolitical formation that is truly democratic, campaigning, militant
and fighting.

For example, workers at the State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) including Denel, PetroSA and everywhere else affected by capitalists’ restructuring of their enterprises to streamline them for maximisation of profit, have been left on their own as the leadership of the Federation paralysed our movement. The attacks of the working class continues unabated as the organisation is defocused by internal leadership meaningless squabbles.

Instead of taking its commitment to the Working Class Summit in 2018, the paralysis had cut deep such that it prevented the Federation to play its historic role: to catalyse the unity of the working class movement and take lead in the campaigns against austerity cuts.

The federation that promised a new beginning has as a result been left to look just like the others. The membership of the federation has stagnated as leadership prioritised battles against each other, instead of building the federation quantitatively and qualitatively.

Quantitively, SAFTU had set out to recruit and organise the unorganised workers, who now constitute 77% of the total workforce, so as to grow and strengthen its position at the shopfloor and politically.

Qualitatively, SAFTU had set out to groom a cadre guided by principles of anti-corruption, and whose level of class consciousness grows to the point of rendering a wholistic critique of the political-economy of capitalism and other preceding historical epochs. This would not only allow our members to transcend the misogynistic, narrow nationalistic and other forms of bigotry, but will make such a trade union cadre an active militant fighter for a progressive society. A militant trade union cadre who instead of serving his/her interests, puts those of a just society at the helm.

Though having been delayed by the internal squabbles, these objectives are not altogether lost to the Federation.
The past two weeks of terrible publicity, that has undoubtedly damaged the image of the Federation, was one battle front in which the NEC sought to realign and steer the Federation towards its central objectives.

It was from this background that the NEC decided to place its President, Mac Chavalala; the 2nd Deputy President, Thabo Matsose; the National Treasurer, Motshwari Lecogo and the Deputy General Secretary, Moleko Phakedi on immediate suspension in line with clause 3.3.5 of constitution.

The NEC vowed to defend this decision to the last court of the land if it needs be, as some who defended the right of the NOBs to suspend each other threatened to take the Federation to court.

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