All there is to know about co-ops

2017-12-14 06:00
Nkutsoe ‘Skaap’ Motsau

Nkutsoe ‘Skaap’ Motsau

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We can no longer afford to have a coterie owning and controlling the means to all livelihood whilst the rest of us only eke out a living as toilers.

Let me make bold to say that by phasing out companies organised along capitalist lines and replacing them with cooperatives would eliminate corruption.

The titanic financial corruption scandal involving Steinhoff, the giant German multinational furniture manufacturer, has exploded before our eyes.

It is said that Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste- himself a multibillionaire- has resigned since the scandal erupted.

He is said to have used or played with the funds that the people invested in the company in a pyramid-like scheme.

The company lost hundreds of billions of rands in one day. Put in figures, it resembles something like R100,000,000,000.

As a result, the company’s shares in the JSE fell from R55 to R10 a share. The Public Investment Corporation, which is in charge of the pension funds of the Public Servants Association (including the Government Employees Pension Fund, the Unemployment Insurance Fund and others), invested some of the funds in Steinhoff.

They have lost about R12.5 billion, in figures, that equates to: R12,500,000,000!

You can imagine lifelong savings going down the drain just like that.

But I am not talking about this, at least not now.

In a cooperative, the members, who happen to be its workers, have equal say and each has one vote, and the decisions of the company are taken democratically.

The members meet regularly (say, once weekly) to make decisions about what, how, where to produce, remuneration scale and how to invest the profits.

They collective hires the manager or CEO and posit set goals.

The manager or CEO accounts directly to them, in a meeting, but may not vote when decisions are taken.

They can fire the manager or CEO if they do not achieve the goals that have been set.

They collective also determines the salary of the manager or CEO, which may not be seven or eight times higher than the salary of the lowest paid members. The company is wholly owned and controlled by its members.

Members get schooled on how to run the cooperative and its function before it is established.

Once the cooperative is up and running, the members are compelled to attend all its meetings and are expected to be active participants in all its activities.

Unlike in private companies, the manager or CEO of a cooperative does not have the powers to hire or fire.

The decisions of the cooperative are taken democratically.

The members also decide which technology should be used for production or services.

This decision is not made for them by the manager or CEO or the board of directors.

The members decide how to divide the profits.

What happened to Steinhoff is most unlikely to happen in a cooperative.

How’s that for your take. Share your ideas or remarks to: nkutsoeum@gmail.com.

  • Motsau is the Chairperson of Azanian National Liberation Army’s Military Veterans Association.

, The views expressed here are those of the author alone.

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