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SAFTU appalled at evidence of ‘union capture’ by corrupt government

The South African Federation of Trade Unions is appalled by the award of R7 million of tax-payers’ money to Thebe Maswabi, and even more disgusted by the reason for the payment – to pay him for founding a “covert” union with the aim of splitting and weakening the trade unions in the mining sector.

‘Union capture’ can now be added to the charges against the Zuma faction of corrupt looters.

Maswabi, a former branch chairperson of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), claims that his bogus ‘union’ – the Workers’ Association Union – was financed by government, and its sole aim was to destabilise AMCU which was recruiting hundreds of members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in the platinum belt.

City Press reports that Maswabi has asked the North Gauteng High Court to enforce a settlement agreement he reached with President Jacob Zuma, signed in April last year, under which Zuma and six government departments agreed to pay R7m to settle Maswabi’s original claim for R120m in return for his attempt to form the ‘union’ on Zuma’s instruction in 2014.

Maswabi alleges that he held meetings with Zuma on how the union would operate and the president had assured him that everything would be taken care of financially. Millions of rands in cash were deposited into his bank account by secret service agents, he was provided with any car he wanted and he was reassured that bodyguards would be provided.

But when the plot was seen to be failing the funding suddenly stopped, and Maswabi was left with huge debts and says Zuma stopped taking his calls.

He therefore sued the government for R120 million. Now he and the government have agreed to the R7 million out-of-court settlement, but this means that Maswabi’s claims will now never be tested in court and the government will not have to testify.

What makes this case even more alarming is that part of Maswabi’s job was to work with state intelligence to spy on AMCU members, and City Press alleges that it has seen an agreement that State Security Minister David Mahlobo will continue “once the legal action was settled”.

The document submitted to the court, marked “SECRET” at the top of each page, states that Mahlobo will facilitate the payment and that he “agrees to use the services of Maswabi as and when required” after Maswabi has “issued a notice of withdrawal of the court action against all defendants. Mahlobo will enter into a separate service-level agreement with Maswabi and will be subjected to the regulation that guides the State Security Agency environment”.

SAFTU is taking legal advice on whether to lay a criminal charge against Zuma and Mahlobo for illegally using R7 million of public money. We need to know whether Maswabi’s appointment was made in accordance with the Public Finance Management Act and whether there was a transparent tender process.

In particular we need to know whether this is an isolated case or just one example of similar moves to foster disputing and division, in, for example COSATU.

It is absolutely intolerable that state should be employing people to disrupt and fracture the trade union movement and to spy on union members. It further Strengthens SAFTU’s demand for the resignation of Zuma, Mahlobo and the entire cabinet.

This scandal also reinforces how right SAFTU has been to insist on the federation and its affiliates being totally independent of both the state and employers. The only guarantee of this independence is democratic workers control by the membership, so that any future moves by the state to infiltrate their agents into the movement will be frustrated by the members.