Infighting within Samwu leads to its medical aid board being placed under curatorship

2018-05-18 19:42


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 Infighting within the South African Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) has led the Western Cape High Court to rule that the Council for Medical Schemes (CMS) must place the board of the South African Municipal Workers Union Medical Aid Scheme (Samwumed) under provisional curatorship.

"The Council for Medical Schemes submitted that the strife between the warring factions has resulted in material irregularities which have paralysed Samwu's management, including its ability to hold scheme meetings," reads a statement issued by the council, dated May 9, 2018.

While Samwu president Pule Molalenyane on Thursday denied that the union was in a "state of paralysis" and described the claim as a myth, the CMS has concluded otherwise.

READ: Samwu president clarifies issues around VBS bank loan, slams Media24

Molalenyane addressed the media at the union's Johannesburg office where he clarified matters around a R11.8m loan taken by the union at the controversial VBS Mutual Bank.

He also rejected a News24 report in which sources claimed that the union was struggling financially to the extent that it had failed to pay for its phone lines and its website and that rent at some buildings had not been paid.

READ: Samwu in a state of paralysis - former Gauteng chair

Part of why the scheme was placed was under curatorship had to do with interference with the board.

Members' expulsion

A source, who asked not to be named, said: "In 2016, when our fight started, that's when problems started. Pule Molalenyane wanted to get rid of those people who were not agreeing with him. He said that they must be taken out and he sent his own list of people from his faction."

The woman claimed that Molalenyane's faction wrote a letter to the CMS administrator but that the administrator did not agree with what was proposed.

"So, the next thing a letter to expel the former national treasurer was sent... the faction of [Molalenyane] made it impossible for the board to sit. Both parties were claiming to be members of the board."

Former member of the board of trustees Nkhetheni Muthavhi, speaking to News24, said: "After we had been expelled, the faction that is in leadership now wrote to the scheme informing it that some six board members had been expelled."

Muthavhi said his faction wrote a letter asking Molalenyane to prove that due process had been followed in the expulsion of the members.

"Then the Council for Medical Schemes wrote a letter saying the union's medical aid board was not properly constituted and told us they were taking the matter to court on an urgent basis."

'Material irregularities'

Western Cape High Court Acting Judge P Andrews placed the scheme under provisional curatorship on May 1 and ordered that Duduza Khosana be appointed as provisional curator.

The two key issues that the court had to determine revolved around whether the board of trustees of the scheme was properly constituted, and whether the council had established if there was cause to warrant the appointment of a curator.

The council submitted that the medical aid scheme was closely associated with the trade union and that it had been affected by the internal strife that arose within Samwu in 2016.

"The CMS submitted that the strife between the warring factions has resulted in material irregularities which had paralysed Samwu's management, including its ability to hold meetings.

"The regulator further indicated that the continued participation in the board of trustees' decisions by the trustees whose membership [was] terminated on May 4, 2016, gave rise to a situation where Samwumed was unlawfully managed for approximately 20 months."

On Friday the council's legal unit said the case would return to court on July 30.

"Depending on what the court decides on the day, the curatorship may be confirmed as final on this day and will continue until such time as all the issues at the scheme have been sorted out. The registrar will then apply to the same court for the upliftment of the curatorship."

Molalenyane will be 'exposed'

The council explained that the board of the scheme should consist of nine members who are elected from the members of the scheme, nine union representatives of Samwu appointed by the union's central executive committee and one pensioner elected at the annual general meeting.  

"The appointment of a provisional curator effectively replaced the board so that the scheme can be managed properly."

The council said the scheme would continue to function as usual with the exception of the provisional curator who steps into the shoes of the board of trustees.

"Samwumed and the CMS have parted ways. The scheme remains a regulated entity over which the CMS has jurisdiction. The CMS has to ensure that the interests of beneficiaries of medical schemes are protected at all times."

A senior leader in the provincial structures, who also asked not to be identified, said while Molalenyane might deny everything "he would be exposed".

"He will lie, lie and lie and deny that the union is in a state of paralysis. The fact of the matter is that even the office that I am sitting in Ekurhuleni and in Tshwane, the phone lines are not working, there is no internet and rent has not been paid for the Tshwane building."

'There was never interference'

He said: "The problem is that [Molalenyane] is not a member of the medical aid scheme but he wanted to control the scheme. People said they would not be controlled by someone who is not using the medical aid." This apparently created a lot of conflict within the board.

"By virtue of being president of the umbrella union, he wanted to control the scheme of the union."  

Samwu secretary general Simon Mathe denied that Molalenyane interfered with the medical aid board.

"Why do you believe all of these lies? Samwumed is independent from Samwu. We know that Samwumed is under provisional curatorship."

Mathe said: "There was never interference by the president. The union is not paralysed, it continues to function. The issue here is that there are people who have been expelled who are trying to create anarchy within the union. Tell them to stop being personal."

Read more on:    samwu

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