Saftu president is in Numsa’s crosshairs as the union moves to discipline her

Members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa demonstrating in Johannesburg.

Photo: Gallo Images / Sharon Seretlo

  • The National Union of Metalworkers of SA is disciplining the president of its umbrella federation, Ruth Nlokotse, for misconduct.
  • This disciplinary notice and charges come after a bitter battle by Ntlokotse to have Numsa’s July conference and its results declared null and void in court.
  • Ntlokotse confirmed to News24 that he received the notice and charge sheets, but believes it is a bid to purge the answering machine union.
  • For more financial news, go to News24 company front page.

SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) president Ruth Ntlokotse is under fire in her capacity as a member of the federation’s largest and wealthiest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa). The union informed her that it would proceed with disciplinary proceedings against her for misconduct.

His charges come months after Ntlokotse launched a court challenge to ban Numsa’s elective national conference in July and an unsuccessful attempt to have the conference and its results declared null and void by the Labor Court.

In her court papers in July, Ntlokotse said she and other Numsa members were prevented from attending the conference as she planned to run for Numsa president. Instead, Andrew Chirwa was re-elected as Numsa president and Puleng Phaka was elected second vice-president, the position previously held by Ntlokotse.

But Ntlokotse was elected Saftu president at the federation’s national elective conference in May, after defeating Mac Chavalala for the post.

Since being elected Saftu president, Ntlokotse and Saftu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi have been at loggerheads with the Numsa leadership over control of Numsa, Saftu’s largest affiliate with more than 330,000 members. Saftu already lost the South African Police Union as an affiliate earlier this month.

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The disciplinary proceedings and charges are against the backdrop of a bitter feud between Saftu leaders and Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim as well as Numsa president Chirwa.

His charge sheet contains three charges. This includes failure to return union property after leaving its national office. She is also accused of writing an open letter opposing the handling of the trusteeship of 3Sixty Life as Numsa’s life insurance company and running for Saftu president, despite the union’s position that would support Chavalala for Saftu presidency.

In the letter to Ntlokotse, Jim said the union would act on the decision it made in October to discipline her.

“The union has decided to convene your disciplinary hearing before an independent Gauteng lawyer. The disciplinary hearing will be held on a date to be communicated to you in due course,” the letter said.

The letter said Numsa reserved the right to add to the disciplinary charges if any other acts of alleged misconduct are brought to the attention of the union before the hearing begins.

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Ntlokotse confirmed to News24 that he had received notification of the penalty proceedings as well as the charge sheet. She said the disciplinary proceedings were an attempt to purge the union of her and other members who have confronted Jim and Chirwa.

“I am not the only person. There are a number of workers who received letters explaining why they should not be paid,” said Ntlokotse.

Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola had no comment.

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