One of the highlights of the early days of the Competition Tribunal – and there were many – was when Jim Foot brought a case of price discrimination to the tribunal in 2003 and fought it without assistance from lawyers.
Foot, who was the owner and manager of a company called Nationwide Poles, had lodged a complaint against Sasol with the Competition Commission.
The commission investigated the complaint and decided not to refer it to the tribunal. Foot made legal history by deciding to fight the case on his own.
It was an appropriate, as well as ironic, decision, given that here was the owner of a small company fighting to prove price discrimination charges against the largest industrial company in the country, which had access to an army of lawyers.
Foot, who made an exceptionally strong case, won before the tribunal, but for rather controversial reasons, lost when Sasol appealed to the Competition Appeal Court.
It is difficult not to think of Foot and what he achieved in what had quickly become an overly legalistic environment, when considering the appalling plight that now faces the Farlam Commission.
For almost a year, we have all looked on as teams of lawyers have tried to establish who shot whom, where and why. We are no closer to understanding the circumstances that led to the ascendancy of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union; we are no closer to understanding the brutalising conditions in which Marikana residents are forced to exist.
The miners and the Marikana residents can’t afford the lawyers who are deemed necessary to speak on their behalf.
Anyone who has spoken to the miners and residents of Marikana will realise that, like Foot, they really don’t need anyone to speak on their behalf. Shame on the government and the commission for enabling this legalistic tyranny.
As the lights virtually go out on Walter Sisulu University, formed from a merger between the old Transkei university and East London technikons, more bad news is coming out of the Eastern Cape Education Department.
In reply to a question by DA MP Michael de Villiers, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, reported that over half a billion rand is owed in unpaid salaries to temporary teachers employed by the Eastern Cape department.
Motshekga’s reply notes that as at April 30, 233 temporary teachers appointed in January were owed R258.5m. A further 1 217 teachers appointed from April were owed R337.5m.
It is not at all clear at this stage why these teachers have not received their pay. Motshekga said payments were being processed by a special task team. The DA pledged to submit further questions to the minister requesting clarity on the reason for the non-payment.
De Villiers said the importance of teachers could not be understated. They should be timeously rewarded for the crucial work they did in educating South Africa’s children “and preparing them for a future where they can work and build a prosperous life”.
De Villiers reported that earlier this month, the Grahamstown High Court had ordered the province to pay 27 teachers who took the department to court. But the MP said teachers should not have to go to court to get their pay.
Perhaps the Education Department has changed its motto to “All Work, No Pay”.
The fire is not completely out in the local clothing industry as two employers’ organisations missed the Monday deadline to submit a response to the demands of the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (Sactwu).
According to Sactwu, the non-responsive SA Clothing Manufacturers’ Association (Sacma) and the Cape Clothing Association requested more time to seek a fresh mandate and were given a new deadline for today.
The union emphasised that a strike was the last resort, but “we have made it clear that we will not hesitate to execute our mandate of strike action, should the they not agree to our final demands,” Sactwu general secretary Andre Kriel said.
Kriel said the union was encouraged by the four employers’ bodies that had responded to Sactwu’s deadline and it was confident a resolution would be reached soon.
But Sacma’s legal adviser, Nic Nortje, said the association’s members did not share Sactwu’s confidence and “do not hold out hope of avoiding a strike”.
Nortje said the problem was that Sactwu had refused to hold up its end of the deal to help the clothing bargaining council deal with companies that did not comply with agreed minimum wages and conditions of service.
Non-compliant companies are not part of the bargaining council and are, therefore, not bound to any agreements the industry makes. About 40 percent of clothing manufacturers are non-compliant.
Nortje said the union could not move to co-operate with the clothing manufacturers because they had already promised its members a 7 percent increase without it being settled on in the bargaining council.
Sactwu has called a meeting of the bargaining council’s special executive committee with one item on the agenda: “Clothing employers to endorse a national wage settlement on our terms.”
If the two manufacturers’ associations do not submit to the demands of the union, it will formally table 48-hour strike notices.
Edited by Banele Ginindza. With contributions by Ann Crotty, Donwald Pressly and Zandi Shabalala.