“The Star” has learnt that the South African Federation of Unions (Saftu) has expelled its president, Ruth Ntlokotse, following a recent national executive council (NEC) meeting.
In the minutes of the meeting which took place in August, which “The Sunday Independent” has seen, the NEC resolved to seek legal opinion before making its determination on the matter. Two months later, after a lengthy debate, the NEC resolved to expel Ntlokotse, but according to close sources, this decision has not been made public more than a month after her expulsion.
It is still not clear why the matter has been kept under wraps for this long.
A source close to the situation has revealed that Ntlokotse, who worked at Johnson Matthey, has also been retrenched.
“Ruth Ntlokotse has been retrenched from Johnson Matthey. That means she is not a worker and she is also no longer a shop steward leading workers. Therefore, on those grounds, she is ineligible to be Saftu president,” the source told “The Star”.
The resolution to expel Ntlokotse was preceded by a debate between Saftu NEC members on the merits of both Saftu constitution and the rights of its affiliate union, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), which had been calling for Ntlokotse to be removed as Saftu president following a recent high court judgment which dismissed her bid to have her matter overturned.
In August, the expelled former Numsa second deputy president failed in her attempt for an interim order to set aside her expulsion from Numsa and have it declared unlawful.
Ntlokotse, who was expelled from the union in May, launched an urgent application in the high court in a bid to overturn the decision of the union to expel her on multiple counts of misconduct.
However, this bid failed after Ntlokotse’s urgent application was dismissed from the court roll because the judge could not find any evidence to justify the exceptional circumstances under which her matter needed to be heard on an urgent basis.
Since then, Ntlokotse has been kept in her position as Saftu president, while Numsa called for her to be removed as the Saftu constitution states that no leader can hold a leadership position in a higher structure if they do not hold a position in the lower structures.
In an earlier NEC meeting in August following the court matter, the NEC after studying its own constitution seemed to agree with Numsa that Ntlokotse has no legal standing to be kept as president after her expulsion from Numsa.
The meeting then resolved to seek legal opinion.
“How should Saftu as a federation relate to the fact the constitution of Saftu categorically gives her affiliates autonomy to manage their affairs, which includes a right to discipline members? The Saftu constitution categorically states that a leader dismissed by their unions cannot serve as leader of the federation. Yet simultaneously, a member dismissed challenges the dismissal where Saftu is cited as a respondent.
“How should Saftu relate to the fact that its constitution gives workers a right to be nominated in their capacity in the Saftu structures, and yet, in this case, Numsa has, in line with its constitution, disciplined and expelled a member for exercising the right the Saftu constitution provides to the Saftu president and other members,” the NEC said in its August meeting.
Following legal opinion, Saftu said it had no choice but to act on the recommendations of its legal advisers and thus resolved to expel her. The resolution was taken during a NEC meeting of October 2.
“However, the NEC concluded that as we speak, the president cannot hold the position because she has been expelled by her union. The central committee will have to address the fact that Saftu has no first deputy president and now the president cannot be the president in the context of her dismissal by her union. In the meantime, the second deputy president will, in line with the constitution, act as the federation’s president pending the replacement of the first deputy president, and even possibly the president, if her plan in Part B of the application is not successful,” Saftu declared.
On Sunday, Ntlokotse denied reports that she was expelled by the Saftu NEC, adding that contrary to media reports, she chose to voluntarily step down after being retrenched from her employment when the company closed down at the end of last month.
“I was never expelled by Saftu, but having been retrenched and understanding the constitution of Saftu, which stipulates that you must be employed and be a shop steward in order to hold a leadership position, I personally informed the NEC and decided to step down. So I was never expelled by Saftu in the first place,” she said.