On 22 November 2021, the Labour Court (LC) set aside the election of Mr Joseph Mathunjwa as AMCU's President in September 2019. The LC held that the election fell outside the ambit of the AMCU Constitution and it was declared unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid. The matter came before the LC after an application brought by Mr Joni, the former Deputy President of AMCU. Mr Joni was dissatisfied with the AMCU election and decision-making process which affected him personally. Mr Joni applied to the LC for an order including that the election of Mr Mathunjwa as AMCU President be set aside.
The LC considered the provisions of the AMCU Constitution and the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995. The LC held that in order to be elected as an AMCU officer bearer, the person must be an "employee" in one of the sectors in which AMCU organises. At the time of his election, Mr Mathunjwa was not such an employee and therefore his election was invalid.
Following the judgment, AMCU and Mr Mathunjwa have indicated that they will appeal this LC judgment. Judgments are suspended when applications for leave to appeal are lodged and therefore Mr Mathunjwa will remain the AMCU President from the date the application for leave to appeal is lodged.
Whilst legally nothing will change for the time being in relation to the AMCU presidency and other structures, the LC judgment presents other issues which may impact employers where AMCU is recognised. AMCU's leadership is now required to deal with a leadership challenge which may require their time and attention and this leadership challenge to may cause division within AMCU. Past experience shows that any division within unions has the potential to negatively impact employers in the form of labour instability (especially where the union is a majority union) and movement in trade union membership. Employers must ensure that they monitor these aspects closely and carefully.