Numsa deputy Ntlokotse says suspension was a bid to silence her on 3SixtyLife scandal

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Numsa members demonstrating in this file photo.
Numsa members demonstrating in this file photo.
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  • Numsa official Ruth Ntlokotse said she was suspended by the union for not toeing secretary-general Irvin Jim's line.
  • She said she was being targeted for demanding accountability regarding the non-payment of claims by Numsa's 3Sixty Life to members.
  • Numsa has denied that Ntlokotse is being targeted and said a provisional curator found the prudential authority may have handled 3Sixty irrationally.
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Suspended National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) second deputy president Ruth Ntlokotse said the union's leadership was targeting her for pursuing office at Numsa's home federation and demanding accountability for the management of members' funds. 

The conflict at Numsa comes ahead of the union's elective conference, set to take place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre later in July.

On Wednesday Numsa secretary-general Irvin Jim told reporters during a briefing that Ntlokotse was suspended for acting outside of the national office bearers' collective. While he did not get into the finer details of her suspension, he denied suggestions that Ntlokotse was being targeted for not toeing his line in the union.

In May Ntlokotse contested for national leadership at Numsa's home federation, the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), and was successfully elected as the federation's president at its conference.

Ntlokotse will now serve alongside Saftu secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi, a long-time friend of Jim's, who now is at odds with him on whether the federation should align itself with a political party or establish a party to contest political power. While Jim considers this beneficial, Vavi believes Saftu should not sacrifice its independence.  

READ | Numsa to hold conference, elect new leadership in late July

Also at issue is the provisional curatorship storm around 3Sixty Life, a subsidiary of the Numsa Investment Company. Jim went to the courts to stop its curatorship over governance challenges last year to halt the curatorship, but detractors of Jim said the secretary-general did this with no mandate from the union.

Speaking during a recent interview on SAfm, Ntlokotse said Numsa's special committee suspended her because she chose to contest the position of Saftu president against the union's wishes.

"The first reason I am being suspended is standing in this recent Saftu congress against the wishes of Numsa. And I must indicate upfront that I have exercised my democratic right and it was not the first instance that happened at Numsa. There were instances that happened before and there were no consequences," said Ntlokotse.

Ntlokotse said she was also being targeted because she demanded that non-payment of Numsa member claims to 3Sixty Life, which Jim denied.

"[In] December 2021, the high court issued a provisional curatorship to one of the subsidiaries of our investment company. Subsequent to that, the general secretary of Numsa deposed an affidavit which supported the wrongdoing of the company. He was saying that there were no workers who complained about non-payment of claims from 3Sixty.

"I wrote a letter saying that it could not be correct that we claim there were no complaints of unpaid claims after receiving a multitude of complaints of our members. I have a conviction that I cannot defend the investment company at the detriment of workers' interests," Ntlokotse said.

READ | Irvin Jim claims Numsa is target of 'propaganda attack' as union suspends official

Ntlokotse said she has received death threats and harassment since raising her concerns about 3Sixty Life.

Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola told Fin24 that Jim was mandated by the leadership collective to depose an affidavit to defend 3Sixty Life.

"This is because workers' investments had to be defended. Allegations have been made that the general-secretary is defending corruption at 3Sixty Life and that is not true," said Hlubi-Majola.

Hlubi-Majola said a provisional curator found that the Prudential Authority may have acted "irrationally" for placing 3SixtyLife under curatorship.

"We are waiting for a final outcome from the court on the curatorship. Therefore for anyone to claim that there is no accountability or that there is corruption at 3Sixty life is not being factual. They are making baseless claims with no evidence. We will not say anymore. There is a disciplinary process and we are respecting the process," she said.

Jim has dismissed the emergence of social media groups questioning the incumbent Numsa leadership as "propaganda" aimed at influencing the upcoming conference.

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