Conflict of Interest, Inc: Mining unions' leaders were representing their members while in corporations' pay
GREG MARINOVICH SOUTH AFRICA 24 APRIL 2013 09:57
A Daily Maverick investigation has revealed a furtive conflict of interest, with mining houses footing the bill for top National Union of Mineworkers office bearers’ salaries. The hard-to-believe arrangement started in the late eighties as the means of protecting union leaders from the corporations, but it was retained over the years, creating a severe of conflict of interest. Unionists are being paid high salaries by the very people from whom they are supposed to protect their members. The 'arrangement' is just about to end, in spite of union leaders' unhappiness and an unpredictable labour and political backlash. By GREG MARINOVICH.
The unions have yet to be officially notified, but Daily Maverick has learnt that the top officials have been alerted to the termination of this agreement by the mining houses that pay their salaries, “as a matter of courtesy”.
After decades of following this underhanded practice, the mining houses that make up the Chamber of Mines have decided to cease paying the salaries of prominent unionists, including the NUM president Senzeni Zokwana (paid by Anglo Gold Ashanti), deputy president Piet Mathosa (paid by the BHP Billiton), as well as one or two elected office bearers of both Solidarity and UASA. (Apart from being NUM president, Zokwana is the chairman of the SACP and the ANC NEC member.)
The chief executive of the Chamber of Mines, Bheki Sibiya, told the Daily Maverick: “Yes, indeed I want to confirm that the practice has continued for a while. It was initiated at the behest of NUM who felt we had to help them with capacity building. These were our employees.”
NUM’s Zokwana said that the DM’s call was the first he had heard of the arrangement being terminated, adding that “those agreements are ended by union and companies; it will have to be debated - if Anglo (Gold Ashanti) wish to do that, that will have to be negotiated. It will not be between Anglo (Gold Ashanti) and myself – it will be between AngloGold and the union.”
The NUM began to look at its options, and wondered if any of its active and militant leaders would survive within the industry. Palane says that, back then, there was a strategy of either firing effective unionists or of hiring them into a managerial role. “Then once there, they lose touch with the workers. That is why you would find union leaders would be moved into management and then management would find a way of getting rid of them because management don’t forget what you cost them, what chaos you caused them.”
Palane concludes, “So it was an NEC decision. We were not going to allow the leadership of the union to be intimidated and victimised by management… for being militant.”
Over time, this position was extended to national, regional and branch leaders.
Despite the pitfalls of conflicted interests, NUM pushed the mines to pay unionists’ salaries. At the lower end, full-time shaft or shop stewards received a few thousand rands extra per month to bring them to a Patterson C level pay grade – roughly R12,000 to R14,000 a month. In addition they received a company petrol card, company cell phone and a company vehicle. Then there were the other perks – bosberaads or company get-togethers, international excursions, etc. Obviously, these unionists did not do another underground shift; they were freed from the arduous labour and conditions that had encouraged them to join the union in the first place.
The arrangement with the mines that were their original employers was that should shop stewards not be re-elected, they would return to their old jobs. This was not something anyone wished to do. Palane explains how he watched union values be eroded: “You are a full-time shop steward and you have a lifestyle change, you start driving a car. The danger was when people began to see material gains, the shop stewards lost touch with the rank and file.” Palane explains that they would do anything to resist losing those positions. “It was,” Palane explains, “now more a cabal.”
Zokwana defended the secondment practice: “I don’t think there is a conflict. The conflict would arise as soon as it overrides the organisation issues. The agreement is to ensure leaders are available at 24 hours to be available. The moment you are released on secondment you do not report to the employer but you report to the union, you are not under the control of the employer…
“There is nothing wrong; what is wrong is when the seconded individual forgets the instance of his secondment. That judgement call is made by the members (at the three-yearly elections) when they decide if you are serving the interest of business or their interests.
“The question is, is this person still relevant to lead us or not?”
One mining industry insider said “the arrangement was embarrassing for all of us.”
The salary was a Patterson D lower, which is essentially a supervisor’s salary, that Mathunjwa says gave him about R25,000 a month as a basic salary. The perks and expenses incurred in travelling to meetings called by management were often not paid, he said in an interview.
Mathunjwa claims the NUM deputy president who was also at BHP, Piet Mathosa, was paid a much higher grade – E – that is equivalent to a general manager’s salary. “Not all animals are equal,” he quipped, alluding to the George Orwell classic, Animal Farm.
He further added that the NUM national office was said to employ about 300 people, and for the union to have to carry such a burden alone would prove difficult. The mining houses also pay the regional and branch NUM unionists. These were not insignificant amounts of money in a constrained economic period. Other sources put the number of NUM head office people on secondment at far less – some 40 people, a number that many within the mining industry still find appallingly high.
There was obviously a perception that this might curry favour with the union-elected officials, all of which, in turn, might work in the corporations’ favour. While two mining insiders denied this, mineworkers on the ground have a different opinion. During the Marikana strike, and its aftermath, mineworkers who were NUM members referred to their then-union as the National Union of Management.
The former NUM office bearer, Archie Palane, said that the practice was so controversial that the iconic British trade unionist Arthur Scargill scathingly attacked the South African miners’ representatives for accepting such a potentially compromising deal. Scargill’s criticisms were ignored.
Palane said NUM decided that their president’s salary should be at more than or at the same level as that of their secretary general. “It was seen that we cannot top up the president’s or deputy president’s salaries by subscriptions, it should be negotiated (with the mines).” Palane laughed when he related that “[i]f you go in there and the employer shivers; he gives more…”
The mining forum insists that they never gained an advantageous effect from the deal.
The individual mines have been tasked with informing their employees who are full time unionists that the arrangement is to be terminated. Those affected by the termination of the arrangement will be at national, regional and branch level. The shop stewards at the mines who are on the arrangement will be unaffected, and will continue to get the increased salary and perks as they are considered vital to the smooth running of the mines.
In a recent rally in Rustenburg, NUM acknowledged that they had lost 34,000 members to AMCU. A mining analyst who follows these events closely says the figure is closer to 80,000. If true, this pushes NUM from being the most powerful union within COSATU to the number four position, altering the balance of power within the federation.
Since NUM president Senzeni Zokwana is also a member of the ANC NEC, as well as the chairman of the SACP, there is likely to be massive political fallout from these revelations, as it exposes the most severe conflict of interest cloaked under the rhetoric of union militancy.
As the mining industry braces for the wage negotiation season this winter, it remains unclear what effect this massive change in the rules of the game will have on workers and the mines. It is also unclear if the NUM leadership will try to rally their members to protect their salaries. DM
Photo: Underground at E & F shaft at Impala Platunum mine, near Rustenburg, April 2008. The Bafokeng nation - said to be the richest tribe on earth - gets most of its royalties from platiunum, and they have diversified into other investments under the guidance of their king. Photo Greg Marinovich. (Greg Marinovich).
Speak little, expect much: SA’s crisis communications strategy
RANJENI MUNUSAMY SOUTH AFRICA 25 APRIL 2013 02:06
From the Marikana massacre to the military disaster in the Central African Republic, the South African government has proved to be sluggish and inept in the way it communicates in emergency situations with South Africans. The state seems to impart information in such situations only when it is under absolute pressure to break its silence. Even then, information is limited and does not inspire confidence from the citizenry. No wonder that public trust in government is so low. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY.
In the days following the bombings, a few high-profile personalities became the voices of authority on the matter. Within hours of the bombings, on Monday 15 April, US President Barack Obama addressed his nation, expressing the requisite outrage but firmly pledging that the perpetrators would be caught and would “feel the full weight of justice”. It was just enough to calm down a panicked and horrified nation and give instant direction without sounding hysterical or vengeful.
Obama addressed the nation again the next day, saying: “Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror”. He also issued a proclamation ordering flags to half-mast as a mark of respect for those who died.
Throughout the week of the manhunt, the White House released information that the president was being constantly briefed on the situation, even releasing pictures from the Oval Office showing Obama in discussions with top security officials. On Thursday 18 April, Obama addressed an interfaith service in Boston to honour and mourn the victims of the bombings.
While the normal business of government continued, including wrangling over tougher gun controls, Obama was sufficiently in touch with his people to show he shared their pain and outrage, and was at the same time at the top of a high-powered investigation to find those responsible for the attack.
But the point man in Boston was Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, keeping Americans and the world abreast of developments, constantly addressing press conferences and being interviewed by international networks. Patrick was careful not to give much detail that could compromise the investigation but was a constant talking head on behalf of the US government.
When the police required areas of Boston to go into lockdown to search for the surviving suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Patrick was the one issuing the appeal for people to “shelter in place”.
“Keep the doors locked,” he said calmly at one of many press conferences. “It is important that folks remain indoors.”
The citizens of Boston complied, trusting that their government was doing what is best for them. They also allowed Swat teams into their homes without resistance to search for Tsarnaev.
Patrick was flanked throughout the week by Boston police commissioner Edward Davis, who also constantly addressed media conferences to keep a flow of information on the investigation and manhunt. With the benefit of hindsight, he did not give much in terms of detail but was constantly assuring that this was a top level investigation, the cops knew what they were doing and that it was a matter of time before the suspect was caught.
The Boston police department also tweeted information during this time, including descriptions of Tsarnaev, times of press conferences and areas of focus in Watertown. And when Tsarnaev was finally caught, the news broke via the Boston police Twitter account: “Suspect in custody. Officers sweeping the area. Stand by for further info.”
Despite the intense pressure of the investigation and manhunt while the world watched, the authorities were never hostile to the media and tried their best to co-operate with the 24-hour live television coverage over multiple networks.
When the hunt was over and the suspect captured, there were incredible scenes of jubilation on the streets of Boston with residents cheering and applauding the security forces.
This is a far cry from how the South African state communicates in times of crises. The government has all the same tools at its disposal that the US authorities have; still, it does not know how to use them effectively to speak to the nation.
The massacre of 34 mineworkers by police at Marikana was reported around the world, and yet it took three days before President Jacob Zuma issued a statement on the matter. There was no coherent messaging then, and still there is none. While all debate on the cause of the massacre was deferred until the end of the commission of inquiry, it is clear that the South African government still does not have an intelligible position on the massacre.
In a BBC documentary on the Marikana massacre aired on British television on Wednesday night, Zuma effectively blamed the Lonmin mine for the massacre, saying “the company provoked that”.
“When you have an agreement violated by offering money to a particular category of workers, then you provoke other workers to say you have money, give us as well,” Zuma said.
His comments appeared to be an attempt to deflect blame from his government: “I’m just saying it’s not like the government wasn’t governing properly,” Zuma said.
Government has been similarly incoherent following the deaths of 13 South African soldiers in the Central African Republic (CAR). After days of mixed messaging about why the troops were in the CAR and how it is that they got caught in the fire fight, Zuma lashed out at those asking questions about the mission.
“The problem in South Africa is that everybody wants to run the country,” he said. “There must also be an appreciation that military matters and decisions are not matters that are discussed in public, other than to share broader policy.”
At a later meeting of Parliament’s defence committee, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula effectively admitted that government did not have a handle on the situation in the CAR and therefore could not explain why the soldiers died. The communications on the issue up to this week continues to be muddled, with still no clarity on why the troops were deployed to the CAR and the nature of their duties there.
And to further confuse matters, Zuma and his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe, have now contradicted themselves on whether troops would be deployed again to the CAR. Answering questions in Parliament on Wednesday, Motlanthe said in response to a question from the Democratic Alliance’s parliamentary leader, Lindiwe Mazibuko, about whether troops would be redeployed: “With a very straight face, clear conscience I deny that the government is planning to send troops to the Central African Republic.”
But in an interview with Bloomberg also on Wednesday, Zuma said he was awaiting a formal request from regional leaders and the rebel Seleka alliance that controls the CAR to send soldiers as part of a multinational peacekeeping force.
“That will be considered by us when it is formally put,” Zuma said. “If that request comes, if we did not go, it would not be in keeping with our policy.”
On Wednesday, the South African Democratic Teachers Union led protest marches in Pretoria and Cape Town demanding that that Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and her director-general be fired. This follows a protracted go-slow in teaching, all of which is negatively affecting schooling around the country. Despite education supposedly being an apex priority of government, there has been no crisis intervention or communications on the matter. The president and his Cabinet have effectively left the matter to Motshekga to resolve, despite the fact that she is the subject of the dispute.
This is consistent with how government generally deals with all scandals and crises, simply throwing them to the line-function minister and hoping they can limit the damage. It is how the state has dealt with cases of extreme sexual violence, police brutality, the exorbitant renovations to the president’s Nkandla residence and the CAR disaster.
The only issue on which government has improved communications is the health of former president Nelson Mandela. This followed intense pressure from the media, domestic and international, as well as widespread panic among South Africans after Mandela was admitted to Milpark Hospital in January 2011 under a virtual information blackout. Since then, communications has improved consistently with each of Mandela’s hospitalisations.
But generally, government’s attitude to communications on critical issues is that it imparts information on a need-to-know basis. While there is a flow of media releases from government departments on a daily basis, it is in times of disaster, when media interest peaks, that state officials tend to communicate less and messaging becomes garbled.
Despite transparency and accountability being constitutional imperatives, the state prefers to filter information to the public on crises issues and tends to hide behind outdated legislation and official processes rather than respect the nation enough to keep it informed.
As the US government showed last week, in times of emergency, citizens trust and co-operate with the authorities when they are respected with information and taken seriously by those in power. Besides helping the public, the flow of information builds trust and confidence in government.
The South African government does not have this kind of relationship with its citizens, which is probably why it constantly faces resistance and a lack of trust. The media, through which it is meant to communicate, is seen as a hostile, intrusive entity rather than a platform from which to speak to the nation.
If there ever comes a time when South Africa is put to the test, as the US was by the Boston bombings last week, how would the country respond? Will government be able to communicate quickly and smartly, breaking its trend of saying little and expecting no interrogation, and will South Africa’s citizens listen and comply? Hopefully, we will never have to find out. DM
Comments by Sonny
The good old famous take of JFK - ....."ASK NOT WHAT SOUTH AFRICAN CAN DO FOR YOU BUT, WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR SOUTH AFRICA!".....
CRIME IN SOUTH AFRICA WILL SOON FALL UNDER THE "OFFICIAL SECRET'S ACT".........
THE SA CONSTITUTION IS BEING IGNORED!
ZUMA - ....."CHECK MY LIPS - THEY ARE SEALED!".....
LIP LANGUAGE MEANS NOTHING TO THE CITIZENS OF SOUTH AFRICA.
- RANJENI MUNUSAMY
- SOUTH AFRICA
comments by sonny
wHY DID IT TAKE SO LONG TO WORK THIS ONE OUT?
cyril ramaphosa has been let off the hook by being voted by the anc as their deputy president.
soon he will be replacing motlanthe as deputy president of sa.
tax free - prison free!
labour broking should have been outlawed a long time ago.
no wonder we are using 'caps' today.
funny it's always the commies and not the workers who come out on top!
Once the seconded member feels the fruits of the lap of luxury he forgets of his secondment
and colleagues down in the bowel of the earth!
no wonder the zuma's keep laughing art the poor.
fuck the poor - we are the comrades!