NUM suspends general secretary
The union, once the biggest in the mining sector, is riven by infighting
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has suspended its general secretary, William Mabapa.
The union is in the midst of a bruising factional battle, which some say is a fight over substantial union funds.
Mabapa was suspended on July 28, apparently for authorising a flight for a delegate from the Eastern Cape to attend a conference of the union’s youth wing in Joburg. He was suspended with full pay, pending the outcome of an investigation into his conduct.
Insiders sympathetic to Mabapa say the charges against him are “absurd” and “frivolous”. A document outlining his supposed wrongdoing was presented to and adopted by the NUM national executive committee — the union’s top leadership structure — last Wednesday.
In it, Mabapa is accused of “misuse of power, mismanagement of funds, bringing the union into disrepute, sowing division and misuse of power”.
An NUM regional leader tells the FM that the charges relate to what was essentially an administrative sign-off on a flight.
NUM president Dan Baipile confirmed Mabapa’s suspension to the FM on August 2, saying the general secretary was suspended with full pay pending the outcome of an investigation. He refused to give details of the allegations against Mabapa or the matter that led to his suspension. “I don’t want to go into detail. Once the investigation is finalised, we’ll be able to share more information.”
NUM was once the largest union in the mining sector. President Cyril Ramaphosa was its first president in the early 1980s and it was later led by prominent politicians such as Gwede Mantashe and Kgalema Motlanthe.
But it suffered a precipitous decline after the Marikana massacre in 2012, losing members to splinter union the Association of Mineworkers & Construction Union, as well as the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, after the latter’s expulsion from Cosatu.
Sources say NUM appears to be “imploding” — its leadership is inaccessible due to debilitating internal fights and its members have no direction, particularly from the national office.
It is understood that the current power play is largely orchestrated by NUM deputy general secretary Mpho Phakedi, who, along with his allies, is seeking to replace Mabapa.
“They want to remove him because they want to loot. He was naive,” a source familiar with the dynamics at play tells the FM.
The NUM controls a lucrative investment company, the Mineworkers Investment Co, with a NAV of more than R4.8bn. It is largely independent of the union.
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