Saftu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi (left) and Numsa's Irvin Jim (right). Picture: ROGAN WARD
Saftu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi (left) and Numsa's Irvin Jim (right). Picture: ROGAN WARD

The department of labour has defended its decision to crack the whip on SA’s largest trade union, the National Union of Metalworkers SA (Numsa), saying its stance on the union’s compliance was not politically motivated.

Labour relations registrar Lehlohonolo Molefe wrote to Numsa on May 10, stating that its audit reports from 2009 to 2015 had failed to comply with the Labour Relations Act (LRA).

The union’s audited financial statements for 2016 and 2017 are still outstanding, he wrote, and requested that explanations for Numsa’s spending and expenditure over the years, amounting to millions of rand, appear on the auditor’s own letterhead.

On Wednesday, Molefe told Business Day that the letter he wrote to Numsa was not isolated to the union alone, saying the department does the same with other trade unions.

“It’s a standard letter that is sent to everyone. There is no politics here. We are just doing our work, we are not picking on them,” he said, adding that the union had not responded to a letter sent to them in November 2018.

Numsa national treasurer Mphumzi Maqungo insisted that Numsa complied with the law and that the matter is political. “A certain lady from the labour department told us that this matter is political. It’s a pity, I’ve forgotten her name, but she did confirm it’s political.”

Maqungo said a meeting between the union and Molefe has been scheduled for Tuesday, May 28.

An affiliate of the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), Numsa contested the May 8 national elections under its political wing, the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party, and received 24,429 or 0.14% of the votes.

While he did not want to entertain the possibility of Numsa’s deregistration, Maqungo said such a move would create economic instability in the country as Numsa’s provident fund for the engineering sector alone is a R150bn. “Let’s wait and hear what they are going to give us. Where we are now, we require them to provide the requested information as per the letter we wrote last year. That’s the same information we are requesting now.”

The labour registrar is seen to be cracking down on unions after the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), one of the largest unions in the platinum mining industry, was  threatened with deregistration last month for ceasing to function in terms of its constitution.

The registrar stated that Amcu had not held an elective conference for five years and had effectively ceased to function as a “genuine trade union” as envisaged in the LRA.

However, Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa hit back, characterising the deregistration move as a political attack and concerted effort to destroy his union, which rose to prominence in the days leading up to the Marikana massacre in 2012.

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za