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The fact that NUMSA and the general secretary of the Metal and Engineering Industry Bargaining Council (MEIBC) have made a ‘race’ issue out of the current deadlock in the Council is absolutely appalling.

The impasse in the Council has got nothing to do with the colour of the general secretary’s skin and everything to do with the way in which the MEIBC is managed. The current general secretary has succeeded in managing this Council from being a financially very stable organisation to one that is literally on the verge of total collapse.

The position of the majority of employers on the Council is that they are no longer prepared to bankroll this bottomless pit and this approach will only change once the financial management and the governance of this Council is stabilised.

Instead of deflecting from the real issue by playing the race card, the general secretary is called upon to explain why, amongst others, he allowed R90 million in collective bargaining levies (amongst others from unsuspecting workers) to be paid illegally into the Council’s coffers, and why (after three and a half years) he has failed to pay back these monies (with interest) to these workers. He is asked to confirm how and for which purpose the interest on these monies have been utilised.

The general secretary is also called upon to explain why the dispute resolution function, which is within the core mandate of the Council, has collapsed as a result of a lack of funds, whilst employers and employees have sufficiently contributed towards funds specifically earmarked for this purpose. He must explain how these monies were utilised.

NUMSA must explain why they think it is wrong for a chairman of an association to express himself in the way in which this Council should be managed and by whom. The memorandum in question was a private matter and should not have been made public. The motives of the person who leaked the contents of the memo is questionable. Is NUMSA’s only problem the skin colour of the individuals in question? If this is so, this in itself is the problem and not the content of the memo or the motives of the author.

It is time that South Africans show maturity and start considering matters on its merit and not see a racial motive in everything being done. The continuous playing of the race card by NUMSA is becoming the standard fall-back position whenever faced with an indefensible position.

Unless proper governance and management structures are put in place, the MEIBC has no future whatsoever. Thus, instead of trying to blame a racist motive for the Council’s woes, NUMSA will be well advised to establish the real undercurrents that placed the Council in the position it finds itself in and remedy it.

This Press Release is by Gerhard Papenfus, Chief Executive of the National Employers’ Association of South Africa (NEASA)