Durban – WORKERS’ unions are calling for the South African Post Office (Sapo) board to be dissolved and warned that action will be taken against them if the mess under their current leadership was not resolved soon.
The threat was made clear during a heated meeting between the Sapo board and three workers’ unions on September 29, leaving participants questioning possible corruption within the board.
Independent Media’s special investigation unit, which has access to the recording of the meeting, heard how former Sapo chairperson Colleen Makhubele spilled the beans on post office initiatives that were being done irregularly.
This was revealed in the presence of the Communications Workers’ Union (CWU), the Democratic Postal and Communications Union and the South African Postal Workers’ Union.
Makhubele’s time on the board was cut short when she was fired last Friday for asking the board to come clean on several issues and for undermining the Communications and Digital Technologies Minister, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, in the same meeting.
Things got heated when Sapo board member Sipho Nkese spoke over issues pertaining to post office workers’ salaries and benefits, but CWU president Clyde Mervin lashed out at Sapo soon afterwards for continuously complaining about issues but not doing anything to solve the matter.
“This board must be dissolved as you are failing to manage this organisation. We will call for an administrator to sort this out.”
Mervin complained that this was their fifth meeting with the board, with the same issues being raised, and called for a plan of action.
“In the next meeting, if you come here saying the same things, then it is not going to fly by us and we will go to higher structures. We have intervened when the workers went out to protest and we must go back to them with answers. “We are on ‘auto-pilot’ here and we do not know who is running us, as everyone is doing their own thing. But it stops today, and you will face the might of communication unions,” he warned.
Sapo’s acting chairperson, Catharina van der Sandt, in the recording responded briefly by saying: “This board does care about the workers and unions, and we are actively trying to ensure accountability is assigned. We are struggling with sustainability and are not able to commit to a date of payment at this stage.”
Van der Sandt requested a caucus be held immediately to respond to questions.
Makhubele said no response had been given regarding the payments since the meeting ended, despite Van der Sandt promising to respond after their caucus.
Makhubele, in the meeting, said the board had raised millions and had an extra R1.8 billion which was currently sitting with the ministry, and that the board could not do anything even though they discuss the funding continuously, because it keeps being pushed aside with focus being on the SA Postbank.
“There are fights and issues with Postbank that need to be explained to everyone. Why must the post office sell its birthright to Postbank for a bowl of soup? There is no reason why Postbank cannot fund Sapo without putting a gun to its head,” she argued.
Ndabeni-Abrahams’s spokesperson, Mish Molakeng, refused to comment and directed all questions to Sapo.
But Sapo’s board argued that all changes at board level are overseen and actioned by the ministry, even though labour unions represent their employees.
The post office said they regarded trade unions as an indispensable partner in business and continuously engage them on matters pertaining to the business.