Dennis George. Picture: ROBERT TSHABALALA
Dennis George. Picture: ROBERT TSHABALALA

The Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa) on Friday fired Dennis George, the longest-serving leader of a SA trade union, after more than 20 years at the helm of the organisation. 

Fedusa dismissed George, its former general secretary, saying he was guilty of serious misconduct with respect to his private investment in controversial Ayo Technology Solutions.

George is the first high-profile casualty following a judicial inquiry into allegations of impropriety at SA’s largest asset manager, the Public Investment Corporation (PIC).

One of the matters in the spotlight is the December 2017 listing of Ayo on the JSE. The PIC, which oversees more than R2-trillion and whose biggest client is the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF), was Ayo’s major backer.    

In 2017 the PIC paid R4.3bn for a 29% stake in Ayo ahead of its listing. The purchase effectively valued Ayo at R14.8bn, even though its assets were estimated at R292m at the time. 

Independent investigation

Fedusa president Masale Selematsela said the federation’s national executive council unanimously agreed to dismiss George after an independent investigation into the relationship between his private company, Difeme Holdings, and Ayo, and Ayo’s listing on the JSE.

Fedusa had hired an investigating body to determine if there had been a conflict of interest in Difeme’s investment in Ayo. It reportedly found that Difeme received shares in Ayo for R1.50 a share prior to its listing, while the PIC paid R43 a share.

Thousands of the federation’s members are employed in the public service,  and so are members of the GEPF, affected by the PIC’s investment decisions. 

When asked for comment, George said Difeme was created as a shelf company that would sell its Ayo shares to various unions’ investment companies five years after the listing.

“The share price may have become turbulent because of all the political noise, but I am confident that it will recover. It could get to R100 a share in a few years’ time,” he said.

Ayo’s share price closed at R10.99 on Friday, 75% lower than its R43 listing price. 

George said he would not fight his dismissal, given that he is nearing retirement age.

“I’m 61 years old. I was going to leave at 60 but Fedusa asked me to stay on. Now, I am leaving the labour movement to do work in a different capacity so that I can help South Africans benefit from the fourth industrial revolution,” he said.

“I am going to Europe in June to meet investors and funders for my ideas. I want to get raw materials to SA and then support the construction of semiconductors by locals, as well as solar panel development.”

andersona@businesslive.co.za