‘Bogus’ union boss in court bid for R7m state payout
In a David versus Goliath case, Thebe Maswabi, the founder of a “covert” union, has asked the High Court in Pretoria to enforce the R7 million settlement agreement he reached with President Jacob Zuma.
In the agreement, signed in April last year, Zuma and six government departments agreed to pay R7 million from Maswabi’s R120 million lawsuit.
Maswabi claims he formed the Workers’ Association Union on Zuma’s instruction in 2014. Its sole purpose was to destabilise the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) after it unseated the ANCaligned National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in the platinum belt. He was also tasked to work with state intelligence in spying on Amcu.
This was at a time of heightened tensions between the NUM and Amcu in their battle to control the platinum mines. Their rivalry had turned violent, leading to the deaths of more than 40 people in Marikana in the North West.
Maswabi further claims that the union was financed by government. Millions of rands were deposited in the bank, brought in by secret service agents in cash, and Maswabi was provided with any car he chose.
Then suddenly, funding stopped, leaving him swimming in debt.
Maswabi says Zuma stopped taking his calls. This after they had held meetings on how the union would operate and the president had assured him that everything would be taken care of financially.
Maswabi’s claims will never be tested in court because the government has decided not to admit any guilt but rather, to settle the matter out of court.
Maswabi was promised R7 million to withdraw his R120 million lawsuit against state officials.
It has also emerged that State Security Minister David Mahlobo agreed to continue “using” Maswabi whenever he was “needed” by the State Security Agency once the legal action was settled. Details in this regard were left open-ended in the document submitted to the court.
City Press has seen the settlement agreement. In the document, marked “SECRET” at the top of each page, it states that Mahlobo will facilitate the payment and that he “agrees to use the services of Maswabi as and when required” after Maswabi has “issued a notice of withdrawal of the court action against all defendants”.
“Mahlobo will enter into a separate service-level agreement with Maswabi and will be subjected to the regulation that guides the State Security Agency environment,” the document reads.
Maswabi told City Press that he was “not against President Zuma and not doing this in an attempt to dent his reputation”, but was unhappy that those working with Zuma had failed to honour their undertaking to the Workers’ Association Union and him.
“What I know is that the president has instructed those working under him to sort out this matter, hence an outof-court settlement [is on the table]. It is now over a year and they have failed to honour the ... agreement,” he said.
Amcu became the top union in the platinum belt, unseating the NUM, an affiliate of labour federation Cosatu. Amcu was accused of fuelling protests in the mines, and Maswabi’s union was meant to destabilise it and spy on those who were spearheading strikes.
Maswabi, formerly an Amcu branch chairperson, turned against the people he represented. In doing so, he placed his safety at risk but was reassured that bodyguards would come with the promised state package.
“I was doing what was expected of me and they were also delivering on their promise,” said Maswabi.
“Things started falling apart when everything stopped ... I decided to go the court route because no one from the government was listening to me. I had no choice.”
Mahlobo and the presidency did not respond to emailed questions.