Postal union falling apart

2013-05-05 10:00

An official circular claims Sapwu structures on the ground barely exist

The breakaway SA Postal Workers’ Union (Sapwu) which represents about a third of postal workers, is in disarray.

Among the cracks in the union is a purge of regional leaders, a court case challenging national leadership and questions about millions of rands being used to repay mysterious loans from founders – which other officials were never told about.

After a three-year battle with the SA Post Office (Sapo) and a trade union federation Cosatu affiliate, the Communication Workers’ Union, Sapwu finally sealed a new recognition deal in February.

Internal correspondence and letters from a lawyer show that regional leaders addressed a lawyer’s letter to Sapo chief executive Chris Hlekane and head of human resources Maphutha Diaz demanding that all payments of Sapwu members’ fees

be put in a suspense account. They also asked Sapo to stop all correspondence with the five national leaders and instead talk to the six regional heads.

This was done the same day Sapwu general secretary David Mangena sent out a letter suspending 14 regional heads from the union. The battle has ended up in the labour court, where regional offices want to boot out the national office bearers.

Malandela Radebe, Sapwu’s Wits-region treasurer, filed the affidavit and alleges that the national office bearers “appear to have installed themselves as (national executive committee) members for life”.

The crux is that the union initially appointed an interim leadership with a three-year term in 2009, but still there is no national congress or election. An official circular from Mangena claims the union cannot hold a congress because its structures on the ground barely exist – raising questions about Sapwu’s ability to function at all.

Of the six regional divisions of the union, three “have no branches” or are “comprised of only two and three comrades”, said Mangena.

The leadership battle flared up during the height of the unprotected postal strike this year, which ended with the dismissal of 588 postal workers, while the union was apparently unable to intervene.

In February, Sapwu’s national office bearers allegedly resolved to recoup R3.6?million they had lent to the union, by way of levies on members.

A year earlier, the loans had totalled R2?million, indicating that the founding members, all of them postal employees, have been continuously pouring money into the union. But Radebe’s affidavit reads: “I do not know if these expenses are genuine and I submit that it is irregular.”

The veracity of the financial statements is questionable, as the auditors note “all the accounting records and source documents” of Sapwu were stolen in a business burglary in December 2011.

Sapwu levies a R60 monthly fee on its more than 3?000 members.

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