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oliphant thumb medium90 106Mail & Guardian reports that senior officials in the labour department have been instructed to pay legal bills totalling thousands of rands from their own pockets for refusing to bow to political pressure to drop the department’s Labour Court bid to put trade union Ceppwawu under administration.  

Ceppwawu (Chemical Energy Paper Printing Wood and Allied Workers’ Union) has failed to submit audited financial statements for more than three years, as required by legislation.  M&G has seen relevant correspondence from Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant, her deputy Phathekile Holomisa, and director general Thobile Lamati, with officials in the department’s registrar of labour relations.  The registrar is responsible for regulating all trade unions and is expected to act independently and without any political interference.  It seems that the minister wanted the court application suspended until after she had met with the labour registrar, Johan Crouse, to be fully briefed.  But a meeting did not take place because the registrar apparently did not avail himself for that purpose.  The registrar then did not suspend the Labour Court application as instructed and went ahead with it on 18 June 2015.  

Lamati said legal costs incurred as a result of the court application would be regarded as irregular expenditure and would be recovered from the officials involved in the case.  Oliphant’s spokesperson, Sithembele Tshwete, commented:  “When the minister requests a briefing from an official of the department she designated to perform a function, that does not amount to interference.”  Tshwete went on to say that the registrar of labour relations was appointed by the minister and was therefore accountable to her.


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