Labour department deregisters 'bogus union' linked to Zuma

(File, Department of Labour)
(File, Department of Labour)

The labour department has cancelled the registration of a labour union linked to President Jacob Zuma and covert agents of the State Security Agency (SSA).

According to a notice published in the Government Gazette on Friday, Malixole Ntelki, the department's acting registrar of labour relations, has cancelled the registration of the Workers Association Union. 

This follows reports that the union was allegedly established on the instruction of President Jacob Zuma, and with the help of agents from the SSA.

Thebe Maswabi, a founding member of the union, is currently suing Zuma, State Security Minister David Mahlobo and several other Cabinet ministers over their role in the union's formation.

In court papers lodged at the North Gauteng High Court, Maswabi alleges that Zuma personally instructed him to help establish the union in 2013.

At the time, a strike in the platinum sector was doing considerable damage to the economy. The Workers Association Union's founding members were allegedly also instructed to spy on the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), a union that is not aligned to the ruling ANC, and to try and weaken Amcu by poaching its members. 

According to the court papers, Zuma allegedly assigned agents from the SSA to help Maswabi establish the Workers Association Union. He allegedly initially received large amounts of cash from the SSA agents to pay the rent for the union's offices, among other expenses, but the payments later stopped, leaving Maswabi in debt.

An investigation by Rapport and City Press found evidence that suggested Maswabi may have been telling the truth. A cellphone number on the union's original registration document at the labour department was traced to Monde Gadini, a known SSA operative and the husband of Bonisiwe Makhene, one of Zuma's legal advisers.

The department has since launched an internal investigation into the role Thembinkosi Mkalipi, the department's chief director of labour relations, played in the union's registration with the department.

Mokgadi Pela, the labour department's acting spokesperson, says the office of the registrar of labour relations is in the process of deregistering several labour unions that do not comply with statutory requirements or which are deemed to be no longer operational. 

"With regards to the trade union in question ... the intention to deregister [the union] was published sometime in September 2016 and representations were not submitted [to challenge the deregistration], hence it was deregistered," says Pela.

It is not clear whether the department has concluded its investigation into the union's formation.

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