The South African Football Players Union (SAFPU) convened a National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting on the 17 – 18 June 2016 in Kempton Park, Gauteng. This is a constitutional meeting where the leadership accounts to the members, and the members also provide further mandates to the leadership. This NEC was attended by designated members from teams in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) and the National First Division (NFD) who are full members with powers to deliberate and vote. Also in attendance were former professional players who attend as special members.
Mr. Simba Marumo, who was the SAFPU President, was removed from his position after the NEC accepted his offer to resign as President after the NEC had decided to vote on a motion to pass a vote of no confidence in him. With the departure of comrade Marumo, the 1st Vice President Tebogo Monyai is now the Acting SAFPU President until the next Congress in 2017.
This meeting was robust, engaging and demonstrated the power vested in the players who are full members. Once the reports were presented, in a traditional spirit of a trade union movement, the members engaged these reports, seeking answers from the leadership on challenges faced by SAFPU and those they face at their teams. In one voice, the players emphasized that the power relations between them as employees and the NSL clubs (PSL and NFD) as employers are unequal, thus resulting in players getting raw deals in most instances. The termination of contracts of 20 players by Kaizer Chiefs and the sale of Mpumalanga Black Aces and subsequent actions of the new owners on the players were cited as just two recent examples demonstrating the disdain and ill treatment meted out to players. The NEC called on the leadership to arrest this practice through ensuring that SAFPU becomes more militant and must start to mobilize members to take up the battle to the league, importantly prepare members for a strike so that the scale and manner of approach by the PSL, NFD and the teams is corrected.
A number of stakeholders and speakers were invited to present on various issues that the NEC needed a first-hand briefing on. These presentations included issues about skills development, financial products tailor-made for players, an update on the financial literacy project, drugs and substance abuse and the role of a trade union movement. The NEC appreciated that they were afforded an opportunity to hear, listen and engage directly with stakeholders on what they had presented.
The NEC assessed the leadership of SAFPU, and identified that there was progress being made on growing SAFPU, but more should still be done. SAFPU’s finances have stabilized, this despite the PSL withholding the agreed grant that it should pay to SAFPU as per the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The union is more visible to members, through a number of ways that includes:
1. Regular updates on developments through using of social media platforms;
2. Arranging coaching courses for the current and former players;
3. Providing bursaries for members to study;
4. Engaging with strategic partners to support SAFPU in carrying out its mandate of empowering the members;
5. Establishment of provincial offices;
6. Supporting members during their time of distress like in funerals of members and immediate family members;
7. Participating in Africa and international football matters through participation in FIFPro (Federation of Football Professionals) and;
8. Representing members in cases against unfair dismissals that they are subjected to.
Whilst progress on advancing the issues that affect the players was noted and appreciated from reports provided, the NEC identified that there was a serious challenge in the manner in which the leadership approached issues. The NEC decided that it must give direction on how to resolve the leadership challenges. The NEC decided, the best way was to pass a vote of no confidence on those office bearers it no longer had confidence in after affording the leadership to present their view on why there is disunity amongst them that has direct impact on services to members. This drastic decision of the NEC was based on ensuring that going forward, the office bearers are able to work as a united front without any internal hindrance.
After deliberations by the NEC on the presentations made by Simba Marumo for himself and Nhlanhla Shabalala for the other office bearers, a democratic process led by the members decided to pass a vote of no confidence on Simba Marumo. The NEC asserted that they believed that Simba was not leading SAFPU in a manner expected of him as the President. Whilst the President offered to resign just before the agreed process of a vote of no confidence, the voting delegates at the NEC felt it was in the best interest of SAFPU and democracy to put the matter to a vote. The majority of the delegates accepted the resignation of Simba Marumo as they no longer had confidence in him to lead SAFPU. The General Secretary, Thulaganyo Gaoshubelwe was also subjected to the process of vote of no confidence, and the NEC voting delegates voted to retain him as the General Secretary as they believed he was acting in the best interest of SAFPU and the players. The other leadership collective of Tebogo Monyai (1st Vice President), Gordon Maseko (Treasurer) and Nhlanhla Shabalala (Deputy General Secretary) were retained in their current positions. With the vote of no confidence passed on President Simba Marumo, the 1st Vice President Tebogo Monyai will act as SAFPU President until the next SAFPU Congress takes place in 2017.
Among other things the NEC resolved as follows:
Sale of PSL and NFD clubs
• There must be a provision in the PSL rules and regulation that states that no sale of any club will take place without the involvement of SAFPU to represent the voice of the players and ensure that their interests are taken into account. SAFPU is not opposed to club sales, but require that such sales must not be to the detriment of players as employees.
• SAFPU should continue with the mandate as given of establishing provincial offices. The provincial offices will ensure that SAFPU is made stronger through regular servicing of members as it will be at their doorstep where the work and live.
Ambassadorial roles for members
• No elected leader or staff can be an ambassador of the union in a project of the SAFPU. Only current and former players will be SAFPU ambassadors selected through a democratic process that seeks to empower and affirm the members.
• The leadership should proceed to hosting the SAFPU Awards as these awards will ensure that excellence and contribution to society by the players is rewarded and celebrated by the members.
• The partnership between SAFPU and Old Mutual, after a glittering launch never took off due to among other things contractual problems. The leadership has been mandated to further look into this matter closely and have also been empowered to take decisions they feel will be in the best interest of the members. The partnership between SAFPU and Standard Bank, whereby the bank will be developing various tailor-made products for the players should be fast-tracked and players be engaged about the products to be developed. SAFPU must ensure that the players secure their future through products that are alive to the lived financial realities of the footballers.
• The partnership with the Vaal School of Artisans (VSA) is welcomed and players must be recruited to enroll in the scarce skills courses offered by VSA.
On relations with the PSL and NFD
• Whilst it is noted that SAFPU has signed a CBA with the PSL and NFD, this agreement remains only an agreement on paper because the PSL is not committed to the spirit and the letter of the agreement. SAFPU should engage with the PSL and NFD, especially the PSL Chairman and the CEO to ensure that agreements of the CBA are respected and implemented. The PSL and NFD and their affiliated teams should cease to practice union bashing, intimidation of players to associate with SAFPU, and the SAFPU leadership must at all times be alive to the tactics of the employer which include divide and rule and are practices not consistent with the principles of a democratic nature.
Character of the union
• SAFPU is a member of COSATU, and COSATU is in alliance with the ANC, SACP and SANCO. As such, whilst COSATU advocates for worker issues, its participation in the alliance has had an impact on its ability to robustly engage with capital and government as employers as it has to balance its role as part of the alliance. This is a challenge and the impact of this has been felt by members of SAFPU which is affiliated to COSATU. The NEC resolved that SAFPU as a trade union must be independent, militant, democratic, campaigning and most importantly take up workplace issues of workers without any fear of contradiction. The leadership was mandated to engage with this matter and ensure that SAFPU’s ideals as a trade union are not compromised through the federation that it is a member of.
Issued by the General Secretary of SAFPU