20 March 2024


The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) has noted with concern an article authored by Xolani Tseletsele, a National Committee Member of the Young Communist League of South Africa (YCLSA) and Mayor of the Kopanong Local Municipality in the Free State. The article, titled “A Caricature of the Captured Trade Unions with Haemorrhaging Tongues – Unedited Views,” was published on 3 January 2024.

In the opinion piece, Tseletsele argues that public sector unions, including SAMWU and its federation COSATU, are destructive. He further argues that unions are ineffective in advancing the strategic objectives of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR).

For ease of reference, Tseletsele is the Mayor who gained his 15 seconds of fame for his unwarranted tirade at a resident complaining about pothole-infested roads in Jagersfontein, a town under Kopanong Local Municipality. Instead of addressing service delivery issues, Tseletsele threatened to assault the resident in front of his children.

Prior to becoming Mayor, Tseletsele served as Assistant Hostel Manager at Orientation Secondary School, where he left under a cloud for sexually assaulting underage girls.

Tseletsele is the Mayor of the municipality that, in November last year, faced an attachment order due to defrauding hundreds of municipal workers by deducting pension fund premiums but never remitting them to the pension fund. Over R50 million is still owed to the pension fund by Kopanong Local Municipality under Tseletsele’s leadership.

In his uninformed opinion piece, Tseletsele argues that “SAMWU as a trade union does not see anything wrong with the collapse of local government…” We need not remind Tseletsele that SAMWU has consistently challenged municipalities, including Kopanong, for the deterioration of local government.

Tseletsele is not qualified to speak about the collapse of local government when his own municipality has never received a clean audit from the Auditor General, receiving a qualified audit outcome for the 2021/22 financial year.

As SAMWU, we maintain that audit outcomes illustrate poor governance systems in the country’s municipalities, the same governance systems Tseletsele has failed to instil since becoming Mayor in 2021.

If our position and advocacy for clean governance make us “disruptive” in Tseletsele’s words, we gladly accept that. However, Tseletsele should account for the fraud committed during the Jagersfontein disaster.

Despite failing audits, Tseletsele has bankrupted Kopanong Local Municipality, opting to rent vehicles at a cost of R257,139.51 instead of using the provided municipal vehicle. To us, Tseletsele is a confused communist, consumed by materialistic interests over service delivery, municipal workers, and the poor.

Tseletsele is unfit to speak about advancing the strategic objectives of the NDR. As Mayor, he has overseen the non-payment of workers’ salaries for three consecutive months i.e. October, November, and December 2023. Workers in his municipality are yet to receive salaries for work they have done and continue to do.

When workers did not receive their salaries last year, Tseletsele and fellow Councillors advanced themselves R2000 each in violation of the Municipal Finance Management Act, attempting to bribe workers with the same advances—a proposal our members refused.

Tseletsele sought a union that is weak, easy to manipulate and micromanage at Kopanong Local Municipality, pushing for the recruitment of new personnel despite difficulties. He is determined to employ general workers to benefit his cronies and family, including his girlfriend who is carrying his child.

The NDR, as he selectively speaks of it, does not direct government leaders to subject workers and the working class to poverty and starvation. Under his leadership, workers have had their medical aids terminated due to non-payment, yet deductions continue from their salaries. These actions by the municipality are criminal and fraudulent and should be prosecuted.

Tseletsele should understand that trade unions are not political parties; they are worker-interest-based organizations. Ours is to fight for job security and better conditions for members and workers in general. SAMWU’s track record in Kopanong Local Municipality speaks volumes, making it the majority union.

SAMWU advocated for better working conditions for workers performing senior roles without remuneration for over five years—achievements Tseletsele fights to reverse. He even labelled workers as rascals and criminals for standing up for their rights.

Tseletsele’s provocation indicates that SAMWU is making positive changes in Kopanong Local Municipality, causing him sleepless nights. These attacks renew our commitment to champion the interests of our members and workers across all municipalities and protect them from individuals like Tseletsele.

As SAMWU, we have no time for those who want to appear revolutionary at the expense of the working class and the poor—those whom Tseletsele is supposed to represent, yet they suffer due to his actions and inactions.

It’s regrettable that Tseletsele makes these comments as a leader of the YCLSA, leading one to conclude that his remarks reflect the position of the YCLSA and, by extension, the South African Communist Party (SACP), the vanguard of the working class.

We will not allow confused and compromised communists like Tseletsele to expose their lack of political consciousness at the expense of our members and municipal workers.

Pseudo-Communists such as Tseletsele do not deserve a place in the tripartite alliance or deployment into positions of power. These individuals exploit the conditions of the poor and workers, akin to what Professor Jonathan Moyo calls “Mgodoyi.”

In closing, we quote Leon Trotsky, whom Tseletsele referenced in his opinion piece, and we say: “Everyone has a right to be stupid on occasion, but [Tseletsele] abuses the privilege.”

Issued by SAMWU Free State
Tiisetso Mahlatsi,
Free State Provincial Secretary,
079 152 9648


Papikie Mohale,
National Media Officer,
076 795 8670