Afrikaans teacher union boss raking in millions now being probed for ‘fraud’

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PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA – 1 September 2010: Portrait session with Chris Klopper, chief executive of the South African Teachers Union (Satu). (Photo by Gallo Images/Foto24/Theana Calitz)

Members of the Afrikaans teachers union the Suid Afrikaanse Onderwysers Unie (SAOU), which has just over 37,000 members, are asking serious questions about its secretary-general’s astronomic more than R3.6 million annual salary.

Not only does Chris Klopper earn about six times more than his counterpart at the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu), the largest teachers’ union with more than 217,000 members, Mugwena Maluleke, he earns almost as much as President Cyril Ramaphosa, who earns R3.9 million per year.

“He calls himself a CEO (chief executive officer) to justify his super salary. There is no one in his position who earns so much money. He, together with his cronies, created the position of a CEO so he could earn big bucks.

“Where have you heard of a CEO in a union? The position is not provided for in the union’s constitution,” said a member, who did not want to be named.

An internal investigation conducted last year confirmed that Klopper took home R3,651,851 from the “group entities”, plus a “motor benefit”.

The investigation, which members have rejected as a farce, states that the salary package included R1.6 million that Klopper earns from the SAOU, R1.9 million from the SA Education Foundation (SAEF), which does business with the union, as well as R57,735 from the TO Strand company.

Klopper, who is listed as a managing director in the foundation’s 2017 financial statements that The Citizen has seen, is among seven people listed in the foundation’s constitution as “first management”. According to the union’s newsletter dated February 12, the exclusive focus of the foundation, registered in 2004, is to benefit and support the SAOU.

The foundation also owns the union’s headquarters, which was previously owned by the SAOU, in Pretoria, and other infrastructure. It is also the sole shareholder of Finsa and the TO Onderlinge Maatskappy (Toom). Police are currently probing the union’s top brass on allegations of fraud, corruption and contravention of the Financial Intelligence Centre Act.

Members, in sworn statements, have claimed that union funds were diverted to the SAEF, then channelled into Finsa and to Toom, in the form of loans, rent, and management fees amounting to R49.8 million.

Another member, from KwaZulu-Natal, said instead of addressing their concerns about alleged financial irregularities, the union obtained court orders against them to shut them up.

“He draws a salary from SAEF, Finsa and Toom. The problem is all these entities are linked to the union. Toom, which owns TO Strand Holiday Resort in Port Edward, KwaZulu-Natal, was previously owned by the union, but was fraudulently transferred to SAEF.

“This guy draws a salary from each of these entities, and from the union. How can that be right?” the member asked. Police sources put the loss, including assets, suffered by the union due to alleged fraud and corruption at more than R500 million.

Louw Erasmus, the union’s lawyer, refused to comment, saying the matter was sufficiently covered by the internal probe.

“The SAOU has no further comment regarding this matter and will not enter into any further correspondence,” he said. Members have in the past offered to pay for an independent investigation.

Sipho Mabena / The Citizen