NUMSA responds to our report

And we respond to NUMSA

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Irvin Jim, General Secretary of NUMSA. Source: GovernmentZA via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) has published a statement criticising the reports published by GroundUp and amaBhungane about the role of NUMSA officials in financial transactions at 3Sixty Life, a life insurance company.

Full NUMSA statement

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) has noted the article published by James Stent in GroundUp and the article written by Micah Reddy of amaBhungane.

The articles are making reference to court documents which are being used as part of the application for provisional curatorship of 3Sixty Life. 3Sixty Life has been placed under provisional curatorship by the Prudential Authority since 21 December 2021 but the process has not been finalised. An application will be heard in April to determine whether it goes into a state of permanent curatorship.

It is unfortunate that both Stent and Reddy rushed to write and publish the article, and jumped the gun in the most spurious of all manners. They have deliberately created the impression that the process has been finalized. This is an ongoing matter and as recently as yesterday a finding was made by the High Court dismissing the application to remove the interim curator Yashoda Ram.

If GroundUp and amaBhungane want us to believe that their reporting is balanced and objective, then they should have also included the fact that a preliminary report published by Yashoda Ram the interim curator, suggests that the Prudential Authority may have “acted irrationally” when it placed 3Sixty Life under provisional curatorship. This has been reported in the media and is easy to find if one were simply to do a Google search. They deliberately did not mention this.

Was it an honest mistake or a factional attempt to cause panic amongst NUMSA members and unfairly discredit the union leadership, with the elective congress around the corner? Time will indeed tell.

We also reject the political insinuation that comrade Irvin Jim was elected to the position of NUMSA General Secretary because of his relationship with the CEO of the NUMSA Investment Company (NIC) Mr. Khandani Msibi. This is a claim which both journalists are making. How insulting to NUMSA members who consciously participated in democratic processes to elect the leadership. NUMSA is world renowned for internal democracy and robust debate within the structures of the union. And every elected leader has earned his or her position. But we are not surprised. Black people are often undermined and portrayed as mindless by right wingers, and this is another in a long series of systematic attacks against the union and its leadership. This claim is absurd in the extreme because Mr. Msibi was appointed after the NUMSA general secretary comrade Irvin Jim was elected in 2008. The pair have deliberately manipulated the facts in order to drive this false narrative.

There is a deliberate smear campaign led by enemies of NUMSA who are determined to distract the union and its leadership from doing the important work of serving members, and fighting battles on their behalf.

There is also a very clear attempt to isolate the general secretary, and make it seem as if he is involved in the direct running of the investment arm, or, that he as an individual is somehow solely responsible for the state of 3Sixty investments – how absurd! While Stent himself, also admits that there are “three layers” between NUMSA and the Investment arm, he still has the audacity to make these ridiculous insinuations.

It seems clear that James Stent has joined Micah Reddy as an agent to be used in factional battles of the labour movement. Micah Reddy is well known in labour circles for being factional and has positioned himself as anti-NUMSA. We condemn them and all media houses who are actively attempting to drive factional divisions in the union, as we gear up to host the NUMSA National Congress in June. We will not be diverted from our core objective which is to organize workers and to unapologetically drive a militant agenda for the working class.

The National leadership of NUMSA has been informed by the National Treasurer of the union, comrade Mphumzi Maqungo that the 2nd Deputy President Comrade Ruth Ntlokotse is allegedly receiving threats and that she wanted to keep that information confidential. The NOB’s of the union acted out of concern for her and took steps to ensure that she is safe. We are extremely shocked to learn that according to the divisive article written by amaBhungane, that the alleged threats to the President are linked to the fact that she expressed a different opinion on the curatorship of 3Sixty.

The placing of 3Sixty under provisional curatorship is a matter which is before the courts. It is therefore sub judice and we will not comment any further on any aspects of this issue in the media or in public until this case has been fully ventilated in court.

GroundUp’s response

Despite much rhetoric, the NUMSA statement does not provide evidence of any errors in our article.

A few points:

  • Neither GroundUp nor amaBhungane had any knowledge that either of us were working on this story.
  • GroundUp took weeks over the story and gave all relevant sides sufficient opportunity to respond. There is no reason why we should wait for the High Court ruling before writing on a matter of public interest, and especially of interest to NUMSA’s members.
  • We have no vested interest in the outcome of the NUMSA elections.
  • We are not enemies of NUMSA or any union or Irvin Jim. It’s our job to report on matters of public interest, especially on matters of interest to workers.
  • We are aware of Yashoda Ram’s report. This will be the subject of an upcoming article.
  • We reported on the Deloitte finding that NUMSA was involved in 3Sixty’s financial affairs and that Jim personally benefited from this. These are not mere insinuations; they are allegations made in publicly available official documents. We also reported 3Sixty Life’s on-the-record defence of the transactions in question. Thunderous statements denying these financial links are unconvincing.
  • Our article stated that Msibi “is understood to be the central strategist behind Jim’s ascension to General Secretary of NUMSA, back in 2008”. We linked to a previous report that made this claim. We would have been happy to print Jim’s view on this claim had he bothered to speak to us. We still wish to give his side of things.
  • For the record we emailed questions to Jim and NUMSA two days before we published, which is more than sufficient time. We again sent Jim a message via WhatsApp an hour before we published, asking him to respond to our email before we proceeded to publish. He received the message according to WhatsApp but did not respond. All he needed to do was to ask us to wait. We reasonably interpreted his failure to respond to our emails or WhatsApp message as a lack of willingness to engage with our questions.
  • NUMSA accuses our reporter of being an agent. This sounds like an extremely serious, defamatory allegation. NUMSA does not say who he is an agent for or what evidence it has for this claim. GroundUp and its reporters are not agents for anyone. We are independent and, to the best of our ability, report the news accurately and fairly.
  • NUMSA says the issue of 3Sixty Life’s curatorship is sub judice (before a court) and therefore it won’t comment further. This is a misunderstanding of the concept of sub judice, which does not prevent NUMSA from presenting its position to the media.

We very much hope that NUMSA and its officials will respond to further questions from us. We wish to present NUMSA’s side of the story.

TOPICS:  NUMSA and 3Sixty

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