Joseph Mathunjwa, president of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), has accused big business and politics of being behind this week’s decision by the department of labour to issue a notice of its intention to deregister the union.
The union has 60 days to respond to the decision.
Amcu held a central executive committee meeting on Friday in Kempton Park, after which Mathunjwa, addressed a press conference.
He said the 60-day notice, which was gazetted on Wednesday, was a political attack on the organisation by the state.
“We find it strange that the state is so harsh on us while being so soft on mining houses for their noncompliance of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act,” said Mathunjwa, adding that recent activities by the union – including submitting audited financial statements and holding regular mass meetings – indicated that it was a genuine union.
Mathunjwa said Amcu had told the registrar of labour relations, Lehlohonolo Molefe, in August that it would hold its national congress this year. He said the organisation also later decided to hold a congress in May this year, but the lengthy Sibanye-Stillwater strike, which affected two of its regions, disrupted those plans.
Mathunjwa said Molefe was not communicating in good faith as there were several inconsistencies in how he was handling the matter. He also suggested that Molefe had leaked information to the media about the notice.
He said the national executive, which is the highest decision-making body according to the union’s constitution, had decided to postpone Amcu’s national congress to September, adding that this was communicated to Molefe.
WHITE MONOPOLY CAPITAL
“The timing of the notice is suspicious and you can see there is a hand of white monopoly capital because they are trying to protect their interests,” he said.
He also mentioned that although Neal Froneman, the CEO of Sibanye-Stillwater, was obsessed with regime change in the union, he was not sure if Froneman was behind the alleged attack on the union.
Mathunjwa said the union had handed over the matter to its legal team and would be meeting with Molefe on Tuesday.
Speaking to City Press, Molefe dismissed any suggestion of political interference and said the union had deliberately engaged in delay tactics, and even at some point, had told him to
He pointed out that Amcu had not held a congress since 2013, saying it was supposed to have one every five years. On following up about this last year with Amcu, Molefe said the union had committed to giving him a detailed update on the matter before end-2018.
“When we did a follow-up in February this year, we were told to back off and that it was unheard of that a registrar takes so much interest in a union,” said Molefe. “Then earlier this month, Amcu sent us a letter, saying they will only be able to hold a congress in September.
“But according to their own constitution, they are supposed to hold regional congresses six months before the national congress, and if you calculate this, it is highly unlikely that they will conduct the national congress in September,” Molefe said.
He said the union had deliberately strung his office along the whole of last year.
“The notice that will come next, should submissions not be made within 60 days, will be a notice of cancellation – and unfortunately, there will not be an opportunity to make representations again.”
Molefe added that several unions had been deregistered for noncompliance before.
Justin Ramages, a labour law specialist at TRG Attorneys, said it was crucial for the union, or any interested party, to make a meaningful representation in support of not being deregistered as the alternative would be problematic for the union’s members.
Ramages said that, should the union get deregistered, its members would have to find alternative means of being represented in negotiations, including joining other unions. “The other unions do not automatically inherit the members,” he said.