President Jacob Zuma addressing National Union of Mine Workers 14th Congress held at Emperor's Palace in Kempton Park. South Africa. 23/05/2012.

If anyone wanted to buy the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), they would have to pay R267 million, because that’s what the union is worth – although it is definitely not up for sale, according to its treasurer-general, David Macatha.

With a surplus of R40.1m in the bank and assets worth R285m, the mineworkers’ group is among the richest unions.

It can pay R400 000 a month to consultants implementing its membership system and R800 000 a month in affiliation fees to trade union federation Cosatu.

Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini confirmed this fee on Friday when he addressed the NUM congress in Ekurhuleni. “As the largest affiliate it is true that NUM contributes on a monthly basis, with no interruptions, more than R800 000. If NUM decides to withdraw, indeed, we will go down,” he said.

In an unprecedented move for transparency, NUM this week opened its books during its four-day congress at Emperor’s Palace, the Ekurhuleni casino in which it has had a share since 2007 through the Mineworkers’ Investment Company’s role in a consortium.

However, the union’s financials are not without concerns.

There has been significant overspending on the budgets for consultants, travel, cars and legal fees.

And its auditors, Sizwe Ntsaluba Gobodo, issued three qualifications: one over unsatisfactory controls in its membership system – not all members salaries’ are captured, even though union dues are 1 percent of income – another over the collection of agency fees and the third on a dispute over money owed by its property company, Numprop, for the refurbishment of its head office and the failure to confirm the debt.

Macatha downplayed the “loan” owed by Numprop, which appears to be R6.7m less than reflected on the balance sheet.

“We are a family of companies. It is obvious, even tomorrow, money is circulating… All that needs to happen is to confirm (the Numprop debt to the auditors)… We are not going to write this money off. The family must engage.”

But delegates were divided: one from Highveld asked for more time to be given to Numprop to comply with the auditor’s request to confirm the debt; a Rustenburg delegate said Numprop “can’t refuse to comply” and called for its dissolution.

“If you go to Rustenburg today, the office is falling apart because of Numprop,” the delegate said, adding the region had been looking for a base for several years.

The debate on Numprop seemed to play out divisions over which leaders to elect: Highveld is one of the four regions, alongside PWV, Matlosana and North East, which nominated NUM deputy general secretary Oupa Komane to stand against incumbent Frans Baleni.

Komane is Numprop non-executive chairman as well as a non-executive director of the Mineworkers’ Investment Company.

NUM overspent on its budgeted items by about R43m last year.

The culprits were consultants, who were paid R11.2m, up from the budgeted R1.5m, largely because of the implementation of the membership system.

The union also overspent R14m on legal fees: a total of R24m instead of the budgeted R9m, which would be investigated.

The R3.8m travel budget ballooned to R14.2m, explained as arising out of travel to various regional conferences and the 30th anniversary celebrations across the country.

The good news from the treasurer-general’s report was that while R54m was budgeted for salaries, the union spent only R50m – despite the focus on the R1.4m salary for Baleni and slightly less for his deputy.

Much of NUM’s financial health stems from membership fees: income was just over R245m in 2011, up R25m from the previous year.

This growth indicated an upswing in membership – despite the loss of about 13 000 members at Impala Platinum Mine, where the Associated Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) has made inroads.

“It shows you are recruiting. It shows the union is negotiating successfully for the interest of the members,” said Macatha, who told delegates: “When I see you, I see money.”

His remark did not go down well with all, as one delegate from Rustenburg later responded to the treasurer-general: “When I see you, I see a loan shark.”

Sunday Independent