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Disciplinary hearing finds Saftu president guilty

Ruth Ntlokotse. Picture: Supplied.

Ruth Ntlokotse. Picture: Supplied.

Published May 7, 2023


Johannesburg - South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) president Ruth Ntlokotse has been secretly expelled from her position as a National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) member following a recent disciplinary process.

Her expulsion from the Saftu-affiliated Numsa comes after Ntlokotse and 30 other members initiated a court process against Numsa before Numsa’s congress in July 2022.

In August 2022, the Labour Court dismissed Ntlokotse’s contempt of court application. She had applied to the courts to have the July Numsa national congress declared null and void after it allegedly failed to comply with its constitution. Ntlokotse had also accused Numsa of contempt of court for going ahead with the congress.

It is these and many other charges that led to Ntlokotse’s disciplinary hearing, which eventually expelled her as a Numsa member.

The former second deputy president claimed that the union was blocking her from participating in the elections, among many other allegations she made against Numsa.

A source close to the situation revealed that Ntlokotse failed to appear before the disciplinary hearing held at the Birchwood Hotel on April 24, after requesting a postponement of the proceedings on April 21, with the union refusing this request.

It has been reported that the recommendations of an independent chairperson were eventually accepted by the union’s national executive committee on Thursday, resulting in a unanimous call for her expulsion.

The Star has seen the document compiled by an independent chairperson and labour relations specialist, Charlie Higgs, saying the relationship between the union and Ntlokotse would be irreparable due to the nature of Ntlokotse’s misconduct.

Over and above bringing Numsa into disrepute following the court case, Ntlokotse is also accused of having failed to return property belonging to the trade union, including a laptop, vehicle and cellphone, after she failed to retain her second deputy president position at the congress in July 2022.

Representing the union as the initiator of the matter, advocate Mark Meyerowitz said: “The heart of the matter is organisational discipline. Every member has agreed in the constitution to abide by the decisions of the union democratically. Local members must respect the decisions of regional, national and central governments,” he said.

Higgs ruled that he found Ntlokotse guilty on all three charges, including refusal to retain union property, having written a letter to the office-bearers and leaking it to the media, and embarrassing the union after going against its preferred candidate during the nomination process before the congress.

“I found the member guilty of all three charges and asked the union to submit aggravating factors and advise on the relief sought. The union is seeking for the member to be expelled in terms of Chapter 8(2)(d)(v)(2) of the constitution. The reason why the union is seeking expulsion is due to the fact that it cannot function if its members do not ascribe to the decisions of the structures. It is anti-democratic,” Higgs ruled.

Attempts to get comment from Numsa through its spokesperson, Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, proved unsuccessful at the time of going to publication, with no response to calls or WhatsApp messages.

Ntlokotse was also unavailable for comment.

At the weekend, a defiant Zwelinzima Vavi, general secretary of the country’s second-biggest trade union federation,told Independent Media that Ntlokotse was still Saftu president despite Numsa’s decision.

“She remains president of Saftu and will remain the president until Saftu decides otherwise! Saftu is not even aware that she is no longer a member to start with,” Vavi told the Sunday Independent.

The Star