Cape Town – Four Western Cape Satawu office bearers are back at work after having won a case in the Western Cape High Court against their suspension for calling a meeting in September 2021 to address alleged issues of financial mismanagement at the union.
The four are Satawu provincial executive committee (PEC) chairperson Lucky Siwani and deputy chairperson Sindisiwe Moala, as well as Southern Cape local branch chairperson Bonginkosi Lose and branch secretary Simthembile Mcithi.
Siwani and Moala were suspended for calling the meeting through a notice which the union argued was defective because it did not provide for the requisite 7-day notice period, as per the Satawu constitution, to allow members to properly prepare for such a meeting.
In August, the Weekend Argus reported that the Department of Labour was investigating a string of allegations against Satawu’s leaders, who had been accused of using the union’s funds as a personal cash cow.
Lose and Mcithi’s suspensions came about in October 2021, after they were found to have sent an “improper” letter to all Satawu’s national office bearers.
Western Cape secretary Bongani
Matana said their letter intended to “undermine, subvert and impair the union’s good name, reputation, and esteem among the Satawu community”.
The letter also allegedly discredited the union’s top officials, including its president and general secretary Jack Mazibuko.
Matana alerted Mazibuko, who subsequently sent a letter to Siwani and Moala cautioning them from convening the PEC meeting. He acknowledged the grievances, and attempted to provide guidance on how best to resolve the matter.
Siwani and Moala defied Mazibuko and said the meeting was constitutionally compliant and insisted that they would be proceeding with the meeting as a result of which Mazibuko wrote to them, suspending them.
As for Lose and Mcithi, Matana told them he was suspending them so that the matter could be investigated.
All four had sued the union, Matana and Mazibuko demanding that their suspensions as Satawu office bearers be declared unconstitutional, unlawful and invalid.
They said that Matana’s suspension letters to Lose and Mcithi violated the Satawu constitution by not giving them the right to respond.
They also argued that Matana had no legal standing to issue the suspension notices because since the suspensions of Siwani and Moala, the provincial office bearer committee (POBC) was not properly constituted.
They said neither the provincial secretary nor the POBC were empowered by the constitution to suspend them.
The court had to decide whether the suspensions were constitutionally permissible and thus legal.
With regard to Siwani and Moala, Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath found that Mazibuko could not act against them because they are provincial office bearers, and thus elected officials.
Judge Goliath ruled that only the union’s central executive committee had the authority to institute disciplinary steps against them.
Judge Goliath also said Matana had no authority to discipline and suspend Lose and Mcithi and ordered that all four officials be reinstated and that the union pay the costs of the four.