Former National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) president Senzeni Zokwana has joined President Jacob Zumas ruling party in Parliament. File photo: Dumisani Sibeko

Johannesburg - The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on Wednesday rallied behind its former president Senzeni Zokwana, who is accused of not paying a labourer on his Eastern Cape farm a decent wage.

The former union leader was recently appointed minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

But the union also took the opportunity to hit out at trade union federation Cosatu, of which it is an affiliate, for demanding Zokwana pay his staff the minimum wage.

In a statement, the NUM blamed “attempts to single out and isolate” Zokwana, saying he was a target because he accepted a position on the ANC’s national executive.

“Logically these (elements) will stop at nothing to attack and weaken Senzeni Zokwana as one among those leaders who dared to avail themselves to serve in the NEC of the ANC,” NUM spokesman Livhuwani Mammburu said in a statement.

“Additionally, it is hoped that by extension these kinds of attacks would (also) translate into denting the image of the SACP given the fact that (Zokwana) is also its chairperson.”

Discontent over Zokwana’s appointment to the cabinet and election on the ANC NEC leading to the attacks was a case of “sour grapes”, the union contends.

And in what could be viewed as a move targeted at Cosatu general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, the NUM has called on all the federation’s leaders and their spouses to also declare the wages of their employees.

“We call on those leaders who have companies directly, or indirectly through their spouses, to come out clean and declare openly how much they pay their workers,” Mammburu said.

Union leaders have in recent weeks made the news for their close relationships with business, sometimes through their spouses as in the case of Vavi and Chemical Energy Paper Printing Wood and Allied Workers Union (Ceppwawu) general secretary, Simon Mofokeng.

Mofokeng was suspended by Ceppwawu's NEC two weeks ago but disputed the constitutionality of the meeting which took the decision and appears to have been reinstated.

Cosatu spokesman, Patrick Craven yesterday said the federation “totally agree(d)” with the NUM.

“There should be no exceptions. Regardless of who they are, (employers) should pay at least the minimum wage,” he said.

“We wouldn’t disagree with all people declaring (what they pay) including spouses. It is in line with Cosatu policy that the minimum wage should be adhered to. It shouldn’t be a secret. Everyone should be able to declare that they pay a living wage.”

However, he didn’t understand the NUM’s insinuation that there were “attempts to single out and isolate” Zokwana for joining the ANC’s NEC.

Political Bureau