Department of Employment and Labour distances itself in dispute over Cosatu affiliates’ merger

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Johannesburg – The registrar of labour relations told the Cosatu affiliate,the Liberated Metalworkers Union of SA (Limusa), that he did not have to ensure it complied with its constitution when it merged with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

The Department of Employment and Labour’s registrar of labour relations Lehlohonolo Molefe was responding to a Labour Court appeal by three Limusa leaders, who were challenging his approval of the merger of the two unions last year.

Molefe has asked that the Labour Court dismiss the appeal with costs.

In his answering affidavit, he stated that it is not his duty and responsibility to establish whether Limusa and the NUM complied with their constitution in the period before he approved the merger.

“Section 109(1)(a) of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) states that one of my functions is to keep ‘a register of registered trade unions’. This function does not state that I have to establish whether a trade union has complied with its constitution,” he explained.

According to Molefe, from the application form and supporting documents presented to him he did not have any doubts that both Limusa and the NUM wished to amalgamate.

“I was correct in approving the amalgamation between Limusa and NUM in terms of the veracity of the supporting documents that were submitted by both NUM and Limusa,” reads his affidavit.

He further accused former Limusa KwaZulu Natal deputy chairperson Mancane Sibaya, its former national treasurer Sello Rapao and former first deputy president Reginald Baatjies, who has appealed his decision, of trying to mislead the Labour Court by claiming that the union’s resolution to merge was taken in September 2019 when in fact its dissolving congress was held virtually in June 2020.

Molefe said Sibaya, Rapao and Baatjies made numerous allegations of internal discourse among Limusa members but the application and supporting documents for the amalgamation were in compliance with the LRA and that he was justified in approving it.

He added that his role as the registrar is not to question the constitutions of amalgamating parties or their representatives as this would subvert the requirements of the LRA and allow permissible state interference in amalgamation outcomes.

The only objections to the merger received by Molefe were from Limusa’s provincial chairpersons who did not identify themselves and complained that the move was unconstitutional as the national congress that rubber-stamped the amalgamation was not held in terms of the union’s constitution.

“In the event that there were issues within Limusa’s ranks, then such issues should have been dealt with prior to the submission of the application. If there were individuals who were not happy with the amalgamation then Limusa ought to have withdrawn the application,” Molefe declared.

He maintained that he would not have been in a position to know whether there were Limusa members unhappy with the merger as the documents presented to him were compliant.

Sibaya, Rapao and Baatjies will face Molefe at the Labour Court in February next year to set aside the decision to amalgamate Limusa and the NUM and restore their statuses as separate trade unions.

Limusa, which had 8 200 members in 2018, was established by former National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) leaders in 2014 after Numsa was expelled from Cosatu.

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