By: Vula Mthimkhulu
I went undercover last week to become a G4S employee baptized in the name of Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
I must say that, I was a bit nervous on approaching 77 Commissioner Street, disguised as a G4S Security Guard clad in full blue, white and red uniform.
The EFF Gauteng Province office in the Johannesburg Central Business District (CBD) is intimidating even for us old hands. The fighters can be rowdy. Bad things have happened in this space. Remember the thrashing of the H&M stores by the Gauteng EFF brigade. And yet that’s the story I went out to get. Another multinational corporation, G4S, has become an EFF target. And I wanna see how these ‘Fighters’ organise these things. I’m on slippery ground here.
But I take comfort from the meeting invitation I got from Deep-Throat. It categorically stated that only G4S employees and EFF leadership can attend the meeting. That means the rowdy red berets won’t be there this time around. So I thought.
But my other half was a bit worried, judging by the instructions she fired when I left home: “You will need to lose those spectacles before you enter their offices. They expose you as a cheese boy of sort. And that jacket too.” I obliged.
Into the revolutionary house
The EFF/G4S workers invitation that came via WhatsApp read thus:
Revolutionary Greetings Employees of G4s
You are invited to the meeting with EFF Leadership where the company shares to employees will be discussed.
Only Employees of G4s and EFF Leadership
Venue: EFF provincial office, 77 Commissioner street, Corner House 2nd floor
Time : 10am
Date: Sunday 08 april 2018
Meet you there.
Commissar Pebane Moteka
This was a short notice meeting invitation. It was distributed a day before the meeting. And so I figured that this meeting would be poorly attended. Boy I was wrong, and to my comfort because it was easier to disappear in the crowed.
By the way 77 Commissioner Street is a gem of a building. It’s one of those imposing Victorian designs that emit a rich and painful history of Johannesburg. The building is known as The Corner House described as follows by global estate agency Knight Frank; “The Corner House is one of the most prestigious property developments in Johannesburg and a landmark building in Africa… It is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. Originally designed as the Head Offices for the mining group Anglo, this is where magnates like Sir Ernst Oppenheimer and Cecil John Rhodes clinched mega business deals.
Eating BMF’s lunch
Today, the building owned by Urban Ocean houses several entities. The double volume, the white walls and pillars of its lobby mix with the dark brown Mahogony type wood to project a majestic welcome. It houses the EFF Gauteng Province office, on the second floor.
But the EFF’s space on the second floor is humble at best. It’s about 250m2 partitioned into about three small offices and a fairly large boardroom which had to squeeze about 100 of us, ‘G4S workers’ and EFF leadership, on this fateful day. And it felt like home for the Black Management Forum (BMF) types.
It’s the occasional Amandla cry, the ‘Leadership’ call and the ‘Fighters’ title that reminds me that this is a ‘revolutionary house’. It could just be me who feels that the EFF is actually eating BMFs lunch. At this speed and rigorousness the EFF will emerge as thee activist in the troubled B-BBEE deal space at the blink of an eye.
Julius Malema’s people have seen a vacuum. No one is policing corporations on the B-BBEE deal promises they make. The B-BBEE Commission is not there yet. The odd statement issued by the organisations like the BMF and Black Business Council is not enough to close this gap. It wants a systematic approach with attention to detail. No one has been doing that.
Filling the vacuum
And so multitudes of workers who were promised false B-BBEE dividend are left with no choice but to look towards the EFF. That’s exactly what happened in this G4S case. South African workers of the global security firm, G4S, have screamed for help for more than five years to no avail. This is after the global security company promised them an economic transformation dividend in a deal constructed in 2005. That deal promised 26% in B-BBEE equity. Half of the B-BBEE equity, 13%, was allocated to workers. The other half went to Kagiso Trust.
This deal positioned G4S an empowered company thus giving the company a competitive advantage. But G4S workers have not seen a cent from this deal. And they have been protesting since 2012. No one came to their rescue. They have approached the EFF which has come on board on the initiative of Pebane Moteka, an EFF Member of Parliament serving in the Portfolio Committee of Labour.
And here we are at the EFF offices talking mechanics of a B-BBEE deal gone wrong. In my mind this conversation should have been happening in the BMF offices. There are many other deals which require this attention. They include the Sasol Inzalo deal, the Naspers/Media24 Welkom Yizani deal etc.
The EFF has been given firm mandate to take on G4S alongside a law firm law firm called Mbana Incorporated who have so far been acting pro bono. It could mean that legal eagles like Dali Mpofu and/or Tembeka Ncgukaitobi could join the fight.
The conversation which delivered the mandate to the EFF was frank and robust and the strategy is sound. I can’t really get to the detail. I did promise Deep-Throat that I won’t report about the content of the meeting but I will talk around it. All I can say is Lukhulu Luyeza!