Inside Labour | Fedusa’s probe into Dennis George is complete

Terry Bell. Picture: SuppliedPHOTO:
Terry Bell. Picture: SuppliedPHOTO:

The investigation into Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa) general secretary Dennis George is complete and the outcome will be presented at the federation’s management committee meeting on Tuesday.

Although reported as a probe into allegations of corruption, it is more an attempt to ascertain whether George was less than truthful and acted against the interests of the federation and the labour movement.

The investigation was commissioned by Fedusa after it placed George on “special leave” on February 1.

This followed reports that George had, through a company of which he is the sole director, bought shares in Ayo Technology Solutions, a company in effect controlled by media mogul Iqbal Survé.

He had also, apparently without informing the federation, become a nonexecutive director of the company.

Having reached the age of 60, George is officially retired, but he has an additional contract with Fedusa until 2020 to enable a “smooth transition” when a new general secretary is appointed.

This appointment is expected soon.

George’s actions have caused considerable anger, particularly within Fedusa’s largest affiliate, the Public Servants Association (PSA).

George took on the Ayo directorship and bought shares at a greatly discounted rate at the time the PSA was protesting about the R4.3 billion purchase of Ayo shares by the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), which manages government employee pension funds.

The PIC bought the shares, using pensioner funds, for R43 each, but George admits that his shares cost R1.50.

His admission followed media reports about the share purchase, which Fedusa president Masale Selematsela maintains was not communicated to the federation or any of its affiliates.

“I heard about it from the media,” Selematsela said. He also first heard about George’s directorship, which began in August, from news reports in October.

When questioned about the reports, George reportedly said he would be notifying the management committee at its meeting in November.

Fedusa general secretary Dennis George. Picture: Michelle Bao

“He did this, but there was no mention of shares,” said Selematsela.

In the wake of the furore that erupted following reports about the share deal, George and Survé responded angrily; Survé maintaining that George had been maligned by the media.

Both maintained that the share deal was a generous gesture aimed at assisting trade unions and BEE.

George also claimed that he was merely “warehousing” the shares. He was holding them in trust until Fedusa established its own investment company. At that stage, the shares would be transferred.

He and Survé also pointed out that the Cosatu-affiliated Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (Sactwu) was given a similar deal.

Sactwu already has about R200 million invested in Independent Media Group which, to the annoyance of the PSA, has failed to meet its repayment commitments to the PIC.

However, unlike Cosatu and most of the unions affiliated to the ANC-aligned federation, Fedusa has not established an investment company.

And, according to Selematsela, there are no plans to do so, although there have been discussions about establishing an investment arm.

But many unionists feel that it is contradictory to buy into a system based on the exploitation of labour.

At the same time, it is generally accepted that, in the absence of any alternative, worker pension funds should be invested as profitably as possible within the present system.

This is the basis for the PSA’s demand for worker supervision of investment decisions made by the PIC.

This demand may be reinforced on Tuesday.

More importantly, whatever the decision about George, the question will be whether the share transfer offer is rejected as a potential bribe or accepted as a contribution to a soon to be established Fedusa investment company.

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