Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke says the cosy relationship between trade union leaders and business is weakening unions. File picture: Motshwari Mofokeng

Johannesburg - A senior trade union leader has hit out at the rise of “business unionism” in the country’s labour movement, after two Cosatu unions this week dismissed their senior leaders for alleged corruption.

SA Democratic Teachers Union general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said the cosy relationship between trade union leaders and business was weakening unions.

He was speaking to The Sunday Independent in the wake of Sadtu’s decision earlier this week to dismiss its president, Thobile Ntola, over at least seven charges of corruption.

Among the most serious charges is that Ntola received monthly payments from the union’s service providers, and even lives in a house worth R3.5 million bought specially for him by one such provider.

Ntola has not denied the substance of the charges, but has said that the circumstances leading to the gifts differed from Sadtu’s version of events.

“The challenge facing all trade unions is business unionism. It is the worst enemy of the workers. Unions will be split and weakened from unions doing business,” Maluleke said.

“Unions should not be involved in business at all. You can’t be a Marxist-Leninist trade union without (at least) a separation between the union and the investment arms.”

He lamented the close relationships some union leaders had with business people.

These relationships had been extended to the families of union leaders, implicating even a Cosatu leader, whose wife allegedly took payments to market financial products to union members.

This week the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers Union suspended its general secretary, Simon Mofokeng, its president, Thamsanqa Mhlongo, and its deputy presidents, Eunice Dlodlo and Lucas Mashego.

Maluleke was scathing in his analysis.

“My opinion as an individual is that business unionism will weaken the unions.

“People will focus on the profits, making deals, and people will want particular leaders leading (a union),” he told The Sunday independent.

He vowed Sadtu would not stop the investigation into Ntola.

“There is Hot Chili, a company that forced members to pay to attend meetings in Bloemfontein – that’s how dirty the whole thing is. This is why we can’t stop investigating,” he said.

But Sadtu has an even bigger crisis on its hands, after President Jacob Zuma initiated a commission of inquiry into allegations principals and union officials were selling cushy government posts for cash.

“On the cash-for-jobs issue, we are taking it very seriously. But this is about individuals. It’s a culture we need to root out, but it’s a culture influenced by business,” he said.

While he was not apportioning all the blame to the private sector, Maluleke said the culture of capitalism was of “making money”, and that this culture had crept into the teaching profession.

“But you cannot accept a culture of selling posts.”

He said teachers were being exploited by principals, because teachers worked under “poor conditions”, while principals were powerful and earned better salaries.

“The integrity of the profession in totality is taking a knock because of corruption, and therefore we must all of us work together.”

Meanwhile, the Cosatu central executive committee is due to meet tomorrow.

Corruption in the federation will take centre stage with the tabling of the Sizwe Ntsaluba Gobodo audit report.

Charles Nupen and Petrus Mashishi’s long-awaited report into the organisational problems facing the federation will also be tabled.

Sunday Independent