Cape Town - A leadership crisis is brewing at finance union Sasbo before its special congress this Saturday, and union members have started an online petition to urge the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) leadership to intervene.
Members of Sasbo, which represents about 73 000 members in the finance sector, are up in arms over what they claim is a “coup” against the union’s elected management committee by their general secretary, Joe Kokela.
Kokela did not respond to phone calls, emails or WhatsApp text messages requesting him to respond to or comment on the allegations.
Sasbo is an affiliate of Cosatu, and in the petition, members claimed he planned to “ensure his hand-picked individuals are elected into Sasbo leadership positions”.
Their petition reads in part: “The members’ rights to vote for their own office-bearers is being severely undermined, as the general secretary has already appointed a president and is shoving them down members’ throats, whether they accept this person or not.”
They claim this would give Kokela complete control over the entire organisation and its resources. They also claimed Kokela had excluded the current elected leadership from the coming congress even though they’re the union’s official nominees.
Problems at Sasbo began during its inconclusive annual congress in October which was marred by several disputes raised by members over what they say, as Kokela is orchestrating to get rid of the management committee and the union president.
Saturday’s special congress is being held to wrap up the unfinished business of the October meeting.
Members said the October congress had mandated Kokela to consult the federation and see if they could help resolve issues.
He complied, but when Cosatu wrote back with an offer to assist, Kokela responded that the federation’s intervention was no longer required.
On Wednesday, Cosatu general secretary Solly Phetoe said Cosatu had written to Kokela to try to intervene.
“We received a negative response the first time we engaged with the general secretary but we have written to him again this morning. If he refuses to engage, we will have no choice but to seek a meeting between him, us and the registrar.”
He said in the meantime, the disgruntled Sasbo members had every right to take action.