Disgruntled Sapu pulls out of Saftu

The South African Police Union (Sapu) has cut ties with the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) at the end of November last year because the union says it derived no value.

“There was no benefit from being par t of Saftu,” Sapu general secretary Tumelo Mogodiseng told Sunday World during an interview.

Sapu is South Africa’s second-largest union representing police officers. The union has about 85 000 members who work for the South African
Police Service, traffic police, metropolitan police and department of correctional services. Its major rival is Cosatu-affiliated Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru).

Saftu spokesperson Trevor Shaku denied Saftu provided Sapu with no benefits.

“Saftu assisted Sapu in several ways. For example, we campaigned alongside them, including against the killing of police officers,” he said.

Sapu was Saftu’s third- largest affiliated union after the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), which has more than 300 000 members, and the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu), with about 125 000 members.

Sapu, which helped found Saftu in 2017, decided at its national congress on November 30 to disaffiliate from the federation.

“We decided to return to being an independent union. Sapu was independent for 25 years,” Mogodiseng said.

He said Saftu did not help grow Sapu membership. Instead, the union boosts its membership using its recruitment programmes.

However, Shaku said Sapu had 76 000 members when it was part of founding Saftu, and its membership had grown to 85 000.

“Unfortunately, Sapu had a serious misconception that the federation must recruit for them,” Shaku added.

“If the federation establishes a respected public, political and socio-economic image, then it automatically benefits the
affiliates because people want to join unions affiliated with that federation,” Shaku said.

Mogodiseng said Saftu still needed to achieve National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) membership, so Sapu failed to derive the benefits of belonging to Nedlac.

However, in late November, Nedlac executive director Lisa Seftel wrote to Saftu and indicated the federation had met the criteria to join it. Nedlac plans to finalise Saftu’s application for membership this year.

Sapu believes that trade unionism should be free of party politics.

“We must serve workers without considering politics. We believe the workers’ mandate is to ensure they get a salary increment and are safe at work,” Mogodiseng said.

Sapu is the third major union to disaffiliate from Saftu since its founding. Saftu booted other unions out of its federation for failure to pay their subscriptions. The National Transport Movement joined Saftu in 2017 and left in 2018.


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