Samwu's term of office extension faces opposition from members

Some members of the South African Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) intend challenging the amendment of the union's constitution to extend the term of office for leaders from three to five years.

News24 has seen a document from the Department of Labour addressed to the union's general secretary Simon Mathe, which states that the department received the trade union's application for the replacement of its constitution.

The department informed the union that the application was approved on April 25.  

At least three senior Samwu members told News24 that they were not happy with the manner in which the replacement of the union's constitution was handled.

A well-placed Samwu member, who asked not to be named, said: "On the 25th of April the national leadership extended their term of office from three years to five years. Meaning that shop stewards that were elected in 2014 will be in positions of leadership for the next eight years.

"This is unconstitutional because you can't extend the term of office retrospectively," said the man.

'If they vacate office, they cannot continue looting'

He said his region was planning to take the leadership to court to challenge the process as it believed it was not properly conducted.

"We had a congress in 2015 where Pule Molalenyane was elected. We knew about the amendment of the constitution but the agreement was that the current leadership would complete its agreed three-year term and then we go to the elections and, only then, amend the constitution."

The new constitution allows leaders to serve a term of five years.

"I think they have done this because they do not want to vacate these positions of power. If they vacate office, they cannot continue looting the finances of the union... They will not have access to the union's funds."

He said the Gauteng province called for a special national congress where the union's leaders were meant to account for the state of Samwu's finances.

"Instead we received suspension letters for calling for the congress. They are lying when they say that the organisation is functioning well, nothing is in order. The finances are in disarray, under their leadership there will be no union in the years to come."

Union run 'like a spaza shop'

Another Samwu member said: "We understood that the leadership had to complete its term before the amendment is affected. The decision was prematurely taken. Members on the ground expected us to finish our term last year.

"The process of electing regional and national leadership was disturbed because there were no elections."

The man strongly believed that the election programme would not be run due to the union's financial woes.

"The current leadership is running the union like a spaza shop. When you complain about issues, especially finance, you get an expulsion or suspension letter."

Another member said: "We really do not have a problem because it was a congress resolution that we extend the term of office to five years so that it can be in line with municipal elections.

He said once the constitutional amendments were completed, the shop stewards were meant to go into an election so that the newly elected shop stewards would then serve a new term of five years.

Meeting scheduled

"The challenge that we are having is with how the resolution was implemented which means that the current leadership, in all structures, would now have an eight-year term."

Former Gauteng chairperson Nkhetheni Muthavhi said he could not comment on the matter at this stage because a meeting had been scheduled between him, former general secretary Walter Theledi and the Department of Labour to discuss this matter.

"We will be going there on Wednesday to raise our concerns around the legitimacy of the letter that was sent to the department about this matter."

Mathe said a resolution was taken in 2015 to amend the constitution.

"The proposal of the constitutional amendment was submitted by all provinces and the Department of Labour approved the amendment."

Mathe said all members agreed that the term of office be extended.

"This decision was taken by everyone before all of this anarchy they are creating. The matter was agreed upon even before we took office. There is nobody that can reverse a congress resolution.

"It is mischievous now to say they are not happy. Those that want to challenge the amendment must challenge it but they were there and took part in the decision-making."

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