Food and Allied Workers’ Union general secretary. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu/African News Agency (ANA)
Johannesburg - The Food and Allied Workers’ Union (Fawu) has been shaken by infighting following the suspension of its general secretary, Katishi Masemola, over the writing off of R19.2million in one of the union’s investment companies.

The second-largest affiliate of the SA Federation of Trade Union (Saftu) suspended Masemola after its national executive committee (NEC) meeting earlier this month.

However, Masemola is fighting back and has told Fawu president Atwell Nazo that his suspension was unconstitutional and unlawful.

”There is a standing decision, still to be implemented, of the NEC that a credible process of investigations conducted by experts and professionals like auditors/accountants and lawyers will have to be undertaken and concluded,” reads Masemola’s letter sent to Fawu members, structures and staff.

According to Masemola, there was an explicit NEC decision taken in February that he remain in office and continue doing his work as normal.

Nazo earlier notified Fawu members and structures that Masemola had been suspended pending investigation.Last week, Nazo told Masemola and Fawu structures it was not true that the union’s NEC had instituted the probe.

“The decision was taken by the board of directors, BIG (Basebenzi Investment Group). The NEC endorsed it, further that such a decision was on the investment write-offs which amounted to R19.2m,” said Nazo.

He added that Masemola’s suspension was based on the investment write-offs, not in line with his claim.

“You can’t claim ignorance as you were made aware in the national office-bearers meeting of April12 of the reasons that led to your suspension,” Nazo said.

Masemola’s direct supervisor in terms of the union’s constitution, Nazo said no violation of Fawu’s statutes and policies had been committed following the suspension. He warned Masemola that his defiance and disregard of his suspension was viewed in a serious light and had the potential to have further charges added. Nazo has advised Masemola to comply with his suspension and use opportunities provided in law to challenge the union’s move.

Saftu general-secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has also intervened and called for unity within Fawu.

“The Saftu national office bearers are of the view that this state of affairs constitutes a crisis for both Fawu and the federation Frankly, Saftu would not be what it is today if Fawu had not played the role it played,” Vavi said.

He said the destabilisation of Fawu was the destabilisation of Saftu and warned that disunity in the union would have a profound impact on the federation’s cohesion and unity.

Fawu has been rocked by leadership squabbles since it abandoned Cosatu in 2016 after Saftu’s biggest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, was expelled from the country’s largest trade union federation.

Former Fawu leaders who remained in Cosatu’s fold established the Agriculture, Food and Allied Democratic Workers’ Union last year and promised to do things differently, maintain democratic and worker control, and ensure working class unity, but with no intention of undermining working class unity and the ANC.

Political Bureau