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The South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) is still looking for its missing millions – but more arrests have been made, according to a report published in the Sunday Independent in October.

The union has yet to find the R178-million which went missing months ago, and it faced a revolt from members, who were later expelled, after its leaders were accused of the theft. Some of the expelled members have since established a new union, the Democratic Municipal and Allied Workers Union of South Africa, or Demawusa.

In February this year we reported that after dodging the police for almost a week, one Samuel Phaswane, the union’s project management consultant, had been arrested in connection with the missing funds. He was appointed by Samwu secretary-general Walter Theledi, who was also in the Hawks’ spotlight after Phaswane claimed that Theledi had allowed him to transfer the money.

Phaswane, who failed to secure bail on the grounds that he was a flight risk, faces charges of theft involving almost R10-million. Last week the Johannesburg Commercial Crimes Court heard his second bail application, and despite opposition from the prosecution he was granted bail of R50 000.

He is now joined on the list of suspects by three Samwu officials who were arrested by the Hawks just days ago. Investigation into the three, according to Hawks spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi, started in May.

The Sunday Independent quoted a “well-placed source” as saying that between R1.4-million and R2-million was transferred into the officials’ accounts every month, via a lawyer’s account. The money was supposedly for legal fees. The group is also alleged to have used the union’s credit card to pay for accommodation for their families and friends.

The three have also been released on bail of R50 000 each – paid for by the union, according to a press statement released by Demawusa. “Surprisingly, Samwu is standing bail for those who are accused of stealing from it,” said the statement.

Meanwhile, Samwu president Pule Molalenyane – elected at the union’s national congress in September – has vowed to eradicate the corruption that has plagued the union. “We will ensure that perpetrators are removed from this union,” he said.

Theledi, who was re-elected, may be the first to go if the claims made by Phaswane are proven to have substance.

For Samwu, there will be no speedy resolution – the four suspects currently out on bail are due to appear in court again on 18 January.

“We are looking forward to court outcomes,” Molalenyane said. “If it implicates any official or office bearers, we will allow the law to take its course. We will not protect anyone.”