Pretoria - The Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu) in Tshwane has called for the suspension of a high-ranking municipal official linked to an alleged plot to “capture” a rival workers’ union by luring their leaders with promotions and financial benefits.
The Pretoria News reported last week that the official, Ronald Oppelt, and Nyiko Mahumani, head of a law firm called Mahumani Incorporated, contracted to the city, were captured in an audio recording bragging about the strategy employed by the city to tame the union’s activities.
Oppelt, who is the city’s divisional head for labour relations management, implicated Samwu national general secretary, Nkhetheni Muthavhi, as having benefited from the alleged strategy to manage the union through his appointment as a municipal director three years ago.
Muthavhi previously served as regional Samwu chairperson.
Gauteng Samwu provincial secretary Mpho Tladinyane, who was the regional secretary, also allegedly benefited through a law firm believed to be pocketing lucrative contracts from the municipality.
Both Muthavhi and Tladinyane have dismissed the allegations as untrue and mere name-dropping by Oppelt to impress Mahumani.
Samwu deputy regional secretary Valentine Matlala has written to Tshwane mayor Cilliers Brink, demanding that Oppelt be put on suspension pending the investigation and that Mahumani Inc’s contract be terminated.
Imatu’s regional manager Lynette Burn-Coetzee also joined the fray by calling for Oppelt’s suspension pending a thorough investigation.
She penned her request to city manager Johann Mettler, who has been asked by Brink to investigate the allegations.
In a letter, seen by the Pretoria News, Burn-Coetzee said: “The union suggests that lifestyle audits, on all these officials should also be undertaken, by the City, to root out alleged malfeasance, abuse and/or corruption, in inter alia, the contracting of attorneys. It is further respectfully submitted that in order to contain further alleged ‘looting’ and the capturing of the City, from these alleged corrupt individuals and attorneys’ firms an urgent contingency plan should be put in place.”
The union also decried the fact that it had not yet received the City’s application to exempt itself from a collective wage and salary agreement with the union.
In the recording, Oppelt and Mahumani talked about the fact that workers were not protesting despite the city “applying for an exemption”.
They mentioned that “the City used to be on fire” and that it was “amazing” how the union was contained, attributing the success to Muthavhi’s appointment as a director labelling it “a masterstroke”.
Muthavhi said: “What is your definition of a masterstroke? Mine is that he is saying it was a coup and it has weakened the union. But the union is big. It is made up of at least 12 000 members. Can one person weaken the union? Can one person go out and tell workers not to strike? I don’t have such powers.”
It was alleged that Samwu leaders had also asked the City to fund its workshops using taxpayers’ money.
Brink recommended that Samwu leadership ought to conduct an “internal investigation into the finding of any instances, events or workshops where you feel this would have happened and immediately send this to the city manager”.
He said he was alarmed that lawyers that are being hired by the City were linked to the unions “and are hired to manage the relationships with the unions, particularly Samwu”.