How Numsa shop stewards splurged R200k

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A National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) report has pointed to the wholesale looting of workers’ money by shop stewards at an Eastern Cape transport company for what they called “stress relief” and the “drowning of sorrows”.

The report, leaked to amaBhungane, indicates that after Schnellecke Logistic Solutions management withdrew from overseeing the fund in 2009, leaving control in union hands, close to R200 000 was splurged on T-shirts, parties, hotel accommodation, alcohol and taxi fares.

It also finds that in 2011 nine stewards who feared being replaced at the Uitenhage firm awarded themselves R4 000 each, code-naming the payouts “licences”.

Numsa would not confirm the estimated scale of the loss or comment on the report, saying that it will only be presented to its regional executive committee next week.

The fund was set up in 2006, initially under joint union-company management, with the aim of supporting proper shop steward work. It was funded from a 1% “agency fee” deducted from nonunion employees.

The report finds this was in breach of Numsa’s constitution, which stipulates that all such deductions should be held by the union’s national office.

Section 25 of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) states that “no agency fee deducted may be used for any expenditure that does not advance or protect the socioeconomic interests of employees”.

The inquiry was conducted by an internal Numsa commission that included regional treasurer Zama Silo, regional legal officer Bonginkosi Zulu and Port Elizabeth local secretary Bandla Mtshiselwa.

Their report finds that:

  • Money plundered from the trust fund was used for “bosberaads” (the drowning of sorrows) and “stress relief” (the abuse and misuse of the agency fee).
  • In 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 the stewards’ council forked out R12 000 for “December farewell getaway parties” with “rooms, braai and booze” for stewards at the Formula One hotel in Port Elizabeth’s upmarket Summerstrand area. The report says that at one of these events “comrade Trevor moered comrade Louis (full names unknown) with an empty of Klipdrift (brandy)”.
  • Stewards paid themselves R100 to cover taxi fares after a night partying at the Waterford and Governor hotels in Uitenhage. “This was a decision of the committee,” the report says. It adds that “two or three got soccer tickets”.
  • About R120 000 was spent on T-shirts for a wage strike in 2010.
  • In 2011 members of “the old committee” made a lump-sum withdrawal and awarded themselves R4 000 each for what they code-named “licences”.

“We knew we might not come back,” a certain “comrade Nojokwe” is quoted as saying. “Anything about money we did not minute because we know we are making corruption. We took a position that we are going to deny it.” (more…)