Bankrupt union’s officers shift the blame

IOL pic july21 wooden gavel SXC.HU File picture

Durban - Despite receiving about R630 000 a month in subscriptions from its members, the National Public Workers’ Union is bankrupt and cannot pay its creditors.

The union’s treasurer claimed in papers before Durban High Court Judge Kate Pillay on Friday that the union’s poor finances were due to its president and deputy president using its funds for their personal use.

“It seems clear they are intent on draining the last blood on the life of the (union),” read treasurer Jabuline Shabalala’s affidavit.

The men deny the allegations against them in their opposing court papers.

The union urgently sought a court order to restrain the president, Pat Mphela, and vice-president, Velaphi Ngubane, from conducting any union business; accessing its bank account or authorising any financial transactions; and also preventing them from entering the union’s offices throughout the country.

Among the allegations are: the purchase of two Mercedes Benz sedans with union funds; the purchase of a dilapidated building for R1.1 million; and creditors, such as insurance underwriters responsible for union members’ funeral policies, not being paid.

Shabalala said Momentum was owed about R600 000 and had since terminated its contract with the union.

“The (union) now owes far more than it ever did before (Mphela) and (Ngubane) took office,” read her affidavit.

Judge Pillay had urged both parties to try resolve the matter internally instead of resorting to legal action.

She adjourned the matter indefinitely to allow the union to file supplementary papers, saying these were serious allegations.

Shabalala had explained that due to the dissolution of their National Executive Committee (NEC), the pair exclusively made decisions for the union. She also alleged the pair were not paying the union’s creditors.

When the union started receiving complaints, a special NEC meeting was convened and Mphela and Ngubane were suspended. She said both men refused to be suspended and “continue to do as they please”.

“I genuinely believe they are waiting for the members’ subscriptions to come into the bank account in the month-end before taking the money and disappearing. (They) are capable of anything,” Shabalala’s affidavit read.

She felt that unless a court order was obtained preventing the pair accessing union funds, these subscriptions would soon be moved into another account.

Shabalala said their plus-minus 10 000 union members were getting anxious and “can no longer trust that their interests are being safe-guarded”.

The union, she said, also now could not travel to represent members in their cases at various bargaining councils.

In response, Mphela said Shabalala was trying to shift the blame and ignore their union’s constitutional obligations. Instead, he said, it was Shabalala who made the monthly payments.

He also referred to personal loans both he and Ngubane took to help the union, and how they both stepped in when problems arose with Momentum. Both men said they always acted within the ambit of the union’s constitution.

Both men denied abusing the petrol card, saying Shabalala was responsible for control measures to avoid abuse of the union’s resources.

Referring to the building purchased for R1.1m, Mphela said the union had bought the premises and both he and Ngubane had to stand surety.

noelene.barbeau@inl.co.za

DAILY NEWS

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