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Union at war with itself

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'Nehawu vs Nehawu'

NEHAWU regional chairperson London Kopa (left) is seen with a memorandum in hand, which was handed over to the Nehawu acting provincial secretary, Steffen Cornelius, by Nehawu regional members. Picture: Danie van der Lith

NATIONAL Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) regional members have drawn battle lines with the union’s provincial structure, as they prepare to go to court to sort out their differences.

During their lunch hour yesterday, Nehawu regional members threatened to throw raw eggs at the entrance of the provincial office premises after they arrived to find the gates locked.

“Luckily the gates were opened. We are paid-up members and we have every right to be here, as it is our building.”

A memorandum was handed over and a five-day ultimatum was given to the provincial office to respond to their demands, failing which the regional members have vowed to take over the union and lock up the provincial office.

“We will submit a bulk membership termination for the whole Frances Baard region.”

The regional members carried placards calling for the acting Nehawu provincial secretary, Steffen Cornelius, to step down.

The members are also aggrieved that a decision was taken by the provincial office to call off an intended shutdown at the Department of Health, without their consultation.

They are also unhappy about the suspension of regional office bearers whom they believed are being victimised.

Nehawu regional chairperson London Kopa stated that instead of advancing and fighting for the rights of workers, the structure was at war with itself.

“The regional secretary, Thami Mkhila, was suspended because he contested for the vacant position of acting provincial secretary, which was filled in August 2018. He was given the mandate to contest by the regional executive committee.

“Thereafter the regional secretary was suspended without any reason given by the provincial office bearers, in an unconstitutional manner as provincial office bearers do not have the power to suspend,” said Kopa.

“We are consulting with our legal teams to take the matter to the high court. It will be Nehawu versus Nehawu.”

Kopa demanded that the suspension be uplifted with immediate effect.

“The region was not disbanded. It clearly shows that it is about the congress not the conduct of the regional office bearers. The provincial office bearers failed to give reasons for the suspension or reasons why the regional secretary was being subjected to a disciplinary hearing.”

Kopa stated that provincial office bearers were attempting to divide the Frances Baard region.

“The region has been left without leadership just two months before the sixth regional congress. Failure to uplift the suspensions will mean that there will be no regional congress in the Frances Baard region, which is the biggest region in the Province. Members demand that reasons be provided why all the regional office bearers were excluded from the provincial delegation list to the national policy conference that was held from June 26 to 29.

“The work of the region will go on, with or without the provincial office. We are politically united regional office bearers pledged solidarity amongst themselves in support of the suspended regional secretary.”

Kopa added that the Province should be allowed to go to an early provincial congress.

“The provincial executive committee should be disbanded for failing to manage the affairs of the union in the Province and they have disregarded the worker control principle. An interim structure must be put in place to prepare all regions for their respective congresses.”

Acting Nehawu provincial secretary, Steffen Cornelius, stated that five regional office bearers were suspended for convening an unauthorised press briefing in June.

“The provincial chairperson and regional committee members were chased out of an executive committee meeting in March. The suspension has nothing to do with the upcoming congresses. It relates to organisational matters,” said Cornelius.

He was not convinced that the region would succeed in taking the provincial structure to court.

“I do not have any anxiety, there will be no court action. I was elected by the provincial executive committee and I will remain the acting provincial secretary until the next congress.”

Cornelius indicated that the gathering at the provincial office was also in contravention of the conditions of the suspension, as the suspended members were not permitted to interact with other members.

“I take the personal threats made towards me and other provincial office bearers in a serious light and we will follow the steps necessary to protect ourselves from any attacks,” he added.