Nhleko named in bogus union claims

Police Minister Nathi Nhleko has been named in a civil case involving the alleged use of intelligence resources to establish a rival trade union to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

Earlier this year, Rapport and City Press revealed that Thebe Maswabi, one of the founders of the Workers Association Union (WAU), was suing President Jacob Zuma, State Security Minister David Mahlobo and other defendants for R120 million. 

Maswabi alleges that Zuma hatched a plan to establish a new workers union in 2013 to "bring stability" to the violence-ridden platinum belt in North West. Maswabi alleged that agents of the State Security Agency (SSA), on Zuma's instruction, had provided him with money and vehicles in order to establish the WAU, but that the payments later dried up, leaving him in debt.

The case was put on the court roll last on 9 December, but was postponed to next year. Maswabi's claim has since been adjusted and he is now claiming R114 million from the defendants.

Email exchanges

According to Maswabi's particulars of claim, an "unknown member" of the SSA facilitated a meeting between him and Zuma at the Union Buildings in Pretoria in September 2013. The alleged meeting was also attended by five other would-be members of the new union.

"The second plaintiff (the WAU) was formed in October 2013 and immediately commenced its operation even though it was registered in February 2014 through the intervention of the first defendant (Zuma) and the Director-General of the Department of Labour," read the particulars of claim filed at court.

Nhleko, whom Zuma would appoint as the new police minister three months later, was labour DG at the time.

Maswabi's court papers also include copies of e-mail exchanges between him and senior officials in the department of labour, that appears to show how department officials assisted Maswabi in getting the WAU officially registered as a new trade union.

"Morning Chief, You where (sic) supposed to send me something to look into, like minutes of other union to copy on it. Pleas (sic) help coos (sic) this one is not what I want. We are running out of time boss," Maswabi had e-mailed Thembinkosi Mkalipi, the department's chief director of labour relations, in February 2014.

The court papers show that Mkalipi had sent Maswabi several e-mails after his initial e-mail, though the contents of these e-mails are not included in the court documents.

News24 has sent Nhleko's office detailed queries about his alleged involvement as labour DG in helping to set up the WAU.

"Since the matter is currently before the courts, the Minister . . . would prefer not to comment at this stage. Instead he wishes to allow the court process to unfold until it reaches finality," said Sandile Ngidi, Nhleko's spokesperson, in an e-mail.

The WAU's "Registration of a Trade Union" application form, stamped by the department in January 2014, includes a cellphone number which can be traced to Monde Gadini, husband of Bonisiwe Makhene, Zuma's legal adviser. Gadini happens to be a SSA operative with links to the so-called Special Operations Unit (SOU), a shadowy division of the SSA which has been linked to other politically-motivated operations. 

The department of labour did not respond to News24's queries.

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