President Jacob Zuma has been directly implicated in the establishment of a trade union which acted as a covert intelligence operation to spy on trade unions such as the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

Thebe Maswabi, who is the founding leader of the Workers Association Union (WAU), is said to have filed a law suit at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, suing President Zuma and a number of government officials and departments for about R114 million.

He revealed that he was instructed to form the union in the wake of the Marikana tragedy in 2012 and within the context of the violent protests in the platinum sector.

He also said that he was assisted by members of the State Security Agency (SSA) and that the funding for the operation was to be provided by the president. The union was registered in 2014, however Maswabi says that the funding stopped and left him in debt. The suit is an attempt to recover monies owed to him.

He also confirmed that the initial meeting occurred in September 2013 at the Union Buildings, and that the meeting was facilitated by a member of the SSA. The meeting included other possible members of the union and the president.

Maswabi claims that there were a total of four meetings with the president, spanning September and October 2013. He says he was mandated to recruit members who were pro-negotiation and not strike action, in contrast with other unions such as Amcu. He also said that the president, the first defendant in the suit, suggested that “the police, army and intelligence will work hand-in-hand with the plaintiffs (Maswabi and the WAU) to bring stability within the platinum belt for the interest of the national economy.”

According to the papers, they were also instructed to acquire sensitive information from their rival trade unions especially on instigators and perpetuators of illegal strike within those unions’ meetings and plenary sessions and to provide digital or documentary proof of such attendance.”

They were also urged to provide updates and progress of intelligence work which would normally have been a function of the SSA and the Minister for State Security, David Mahlobo.

Maswabi also provided supporting documentation in the form of bank statements that showed large sums of money paid into a WAU member’s account, as well as pictures of cars he says were supplied to them by the SSA.

A cellphone number listed on the union’s registration document led back to Monde Gadini, the husband of the president’s legal adviser Bonisiwe Makhene. Gadini is known to have links to both the SSA and its Special Operations Unit (SOU).