THE South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) has split for the second time in three years, prompting the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) to set up a task team to deal with the bitter fights within many of its affiliates.
The Chemical Energy Paper Printing Wood and Allied Workers Union and the South African Municipal Workers Union are also facing deep divisions, mainly over the former’s R4bn investment company and a R50m corruption scandal in the latter.
Former Satawu president June Dube resigned on Wednesday following his suspension by the union in August. On September 24, he was elected to lead a breakaway union known as the Democratic Transport and Allied Workers Union (Detawu).
The latest split in the 150,000-strong union follows a 2012 breakaway by then president Ephraim Mphahlele, who formed the National Transport Union, which replaced Satawu as the majority union at South African Airways.
The Satawu breakaway is the fourth in a Cosatu-aligned union in the last year.
Satawu has been in the throes of factional battles since late 2013, mainly over control of investments and union funds.
The squabbles took a violent turn in April when the union’s Gauteng secretary Chris Nkosi was shot and killed and Mr Dube’s home was petrol-bombed.
Cosatu spokesman Sizwe Pamla said the federation had discussed the issue of affiliates experiencing problems at a special central executive committee meeting this week. Its leaders were expected to announce their decisions today.
Mr Pamla said the Cosatu national leadership had set up a task team drawn from its central executive committee, which would intervene in troubled unions.
The team would be empowered to take decisions, intervene and report back to the committee. This would prevent factions from accusing Cosatu’s national office bearers of taking sides, which was partly why intervention by the federation had failed in the past.
Satawu deputy general secretary Nicholas Maziya said yesterday the formation of another rival union would make Satawu “more resilient” and would result in its members “closing ranks”.
Detawu general secretary Vusi Ntshangase, who was dismissed as Satawu’s Mpumalanga secretary in August after facing allegations of sexual assault, said yesterday the union had about 2,700 members. Detawu has lodged an application with the Department of Labour to register the union.
Mr Ntshangase said the union was hoping to affiliate to Cosatu. However, the federation was unlikely to agree to this due to a policy of “one union, one sector”.
He said if the union’s attempt to affiliate to Cosatu failed, the leadership would consider their options, including a new federation the National Union of metalworkers of SA had been working on setting up.
Mr Maziya said Satawu would oppose any attempt by Detawu to affiliate to Cosatu.
He said Detawu’s “true agenda” was to use the Cosatu brand to recruit more members.