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Numsa criticises ANC's leadership 'failure' ahead of strike

Lisa Steyn

While saying that it still plans to lead 220 000 members in a strike this week, Numsa has gone for the jugular once again and criticised the ANC.

The union's general secretary Irvin Jim. (Gallo)

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has gone for the jugular once again and criticised the ANC-led government in matters ranging from strike mediation to legislation, while claiming that the ruling party has not provided leadership since 1994 while the working class have begun to lose hope in Cosatu. 

“There has been a failure of leadership since 1994,” said Numsa deputy general secretary Karl Cloete. “There is no dedicated leadership with a political will to determine a developmental path.”

Briefing the media on the decisions taken at the recent Numsa national cxecutive committee (NEC) meeting, the union’s general secretary Irvin Jim laid this, and more, bare noting the union would also stand firm on the decisions taken at its special congress last December where it resolved to call on Cosatu to break away from its alliance with the ANC and the South African Communist Party. 

Jim said Numsa, now the biggest industrial union in South Africa with more than 348 000 members, remained under attack by those who do not agree with the resolutions taken at their special congress in December last year. 

“The NEC believes that workers in the country are beginning to lose all hope in the continued existence and activism of Cosatu as a shield and spear of the working class.” Jim also registered concern about hardline responses by “the state and capital” to industrial action, saying, “We are starting to see evidence of collusion between the state capital and even some unions against workers and their legitimate demands.” 

Asked whether these comments are be related to a Mail & Guardian article published on Friday – which reported Mining Minister Ngoako Ramathlodi held stakes in Anglo American Platinum’s empowerment partner at the time of mediating talks between employers and labour – Jim said: “They [politicians with business conflicts of interest] cannot relate because they are stinking rich. They are politicians by day, but at night they are nationalising for themselves,” he said. 

He said the labour court’s decision to deny the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union – which led the five-month long strike in the platinum sector – the ability to extend its action to the gold sector “continues to demonstrate how the courts are instruments of big capital”. 

Criticism of union
The NEC, Jim said, noted with concern that the ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe had publicly argued that the platinum strike had been the work of foreign whites and was a political strike.

“The NEC considered the ANC government’s intervention as not far reaching and genuine when in particular it considered the utterances of the ANC’s SG related to white foreign interest, which targets left-wing activism instead of speaking in clear political and ideological term against the exploitation of our mineral wealth by foreigners for super profits,” he said. 

Numsa said it still planned to lead 220 000 members in a strike in the metals and engineering sector this week despite criticism that it would damage the economy. 

“We are not busy with economic sabotage,” Jim said. “We are addressing what the ANC needs to address.” 

Jim did however acknowledge that the ANC had been one of few to not condemn the union. “The NEC noted that despite the wide ranging accusations and attacks made against Numsa in a number of forums … the ANC task team has never uttered a word of condemnation. Furthermore, the endeavours to form a splinter union from Numsa has never received so much as a condemnation from the Cosatu national office bearers or the ANC task team.” 

Numsa’s committee also took a decision to sue the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) “for suggesting that Numsa seeks to overthrow the government”. This is in response to Satawu’s NEC statement that claims Numsa is targeting ports, where strikes erupted last month, for recruitment in order to bring in illegal goods and weapons. 

The Numsa NEC also agreed to publically demand that Transnet chief executive Brian Molefe withdraw a statement he made that Numsa is taking a political posture in the strike “when he knows very well that the workers have genuine demands”. The NEC agreed to fight proposed enforcement to e-toll registration and develop a united front campaign in this regard – the decision comes before an announcement by Gauteng Premier David Makhura, that the system would be reviewed and other methods of paying for the province’s improved highways would be considered.  

‘Defeat e-tolls’
“We will defeat e-tolls,” Jim said. “It might not be tomorrow but it [e-tolls] is a false solution.” Numsa also outlined some key socio-economic struggles in terms of section 77 action, which includes: clarifying the implications of proposed amendments to legislation pertaining to pension funds which has gone forward without proper consultation as yet; an endeavour to have the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act to be tabled at National Economic Development and Labour Council; providing resistance to proposals to amend the labour relations amendment bill in order to restrict strikes; and opposing the Employment Tax Incentive Act.


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