The first Prasa Test Train took to the track at the Medunsa station outside Pretoria on Monday. Picture: THE TIMES
The first Prasa Test Train took to the track at the Medunsa station outside Pretoria on Monday. Picture: THE TIMES

THE South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) is on the road to recovery and looking to expand after a tumultuous four years in which it suffered two splits.

General secretary Zenzo Mahlangu said the strength of its organisers and shop stewards had been a bulwark against the difficulties the union had faced.

Cosatu-aligned unions went through a torrid time after a bruising factional fight engulfed the union federation, linked to ANC succession, shortly after the ruling party’s last elective conference in 2012.

Satawu split in that year after a disagreement between Mahlangu and then-president Ephraim Mphahlele.

The factional battle in the union centred on allegations of corruption linked to state-owned rail company Passenger Rail Agency of SA.

In 2015, president June Dube formed another splinter union. Satawu deputy general secretary Nicholas Maziya had also resigned.

Mahlangu told Business Day that despite the splits, the union’s membership remained strong and had grown to 229,000 in the face of attempts to weaken Satawu.

However, Satawu now also faces competition from the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, which was expelled from Cosatu after taking a decision to broaden its recruiting scope and organise members across sectors.

Mahlangu said organisers and shop stewards in the various provinces had done well to fend off competition from rival unions, including the breakaways.

Shortly after the second split in 2015, the union was hit by a financial crisis.

Mahlangu said, however, that the financial situation had improved.

This was done by recruiting an in-house legal team, revamping the union’s membership system and cutting down its R5m wage bill.

Satawu, said Mahlangu, had also reduced office space used by the union at its headquarters and across its provinces.

Mahlangu said that now that the union had stabilised, it was looking to expand its membership base.

The union recruits members across the transport sector, including in road freight, cleaning, taxi drivers and security.

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