The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa's (Numsa's) regional secretary in KwaZulu-Natal, Mbuso Ngubane, said Cedric Gina's resignation as president was intended to cause chaos and paint a picture of an organisation that is deeply divided.
Gina, who was serving his second term as Numsa president, publicly announced his resignation on Monday, saying he disagreed with the union's direction under the leadership of its general secretary, Irvin Jim. Gina claimed Jim was behind the suggestion currently under discussion for Numsa to split from Cosatu and the ANC-led alliance. The option for Numsa to pull out of Cosatu is contained in Numsa's discussion documents prepared for the special national congress that will take place in two weeks' time.
In an interview with the Mail & Guardian on Monday, Ngubane questioned Gina's motive for singling out Jim, saying the discussion documents were agreed to by Numsa's national executive committee, which is made up of all provincial office bearers.
Ngubane also accused Gina of lying after the leader told a daily newspaper that Jim was angry with the ANC because President Jacob Zuma refused to entertain his suggestion to make suspended Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi the ANC deputy president in Mangaung last December.
"[Gina] is shifting the discussion about what Jim said. I was there with Gina and Jim when we met Zuma [at his house] in Nkandla. We had a series of meetings with the president [Zuma]. Ours was to engage the president on policy matters. It was the president [Zuma] in that meeting who said certain things that I can't disclose in public. Even the president would not be happy that Cedric is talking publicly about what transpired in a private meeting. Jim responded to what the president was saying. Up until now, Vavi did not even know that we spoke about him with president Zuma."
Ngubane said Vavi asked him last week Saturday what was going on. "If we were to be pushed into a corner to explain what was said in the meeting, it could have serious consequences for the ANC. I don't want to do that. Cedric is shifting the discussion about what Jim said. Even if we went there to lobby for one of our own, it would not have been wrong. Everyone does it. We don't want to assert the twist of the truth. It was not only one meeting. It would not be about Vavi."
Numsa insiders told the M&G that it was in fact Zuma who told the Numsa leaders that Vavi could have been a perfect candidate for the position of ANC deputy president had he agreed to be part of the ANC leadership collective that emerged in Polokwane in 2007.
Ngubane accused Jim's detractors, including Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini, of trying to use Gina's resignation to paint a picture of an organisation in crisis.
"He [Gina] is playing victim. He wants to get sympathy. The point is to try and create choas. The leaders, who are against us, want Numsa to lose membership. If you listen to them [Jim's detractors], they want to divide Numsa. They don't even care if members leave Numsa to join another union.
Ngubane said Jim's detractors worked on Gina's weaknesses.
"The picture he [Gina] wants to put is that there are divisions. There are no divisions in Numsa. You can go to any region and you will find the majority of those structures are united behind the national leadership. The statement that says Numsa members should stand up and defend Numsa are intended to agitate them. It would have been better if the president [Gina] raised the issues internally. He never raised those views within the constitutional structures of Numsa. He is a coward because he decided to resign on his own. He knows he was not going win even if he raised those views internally.
"Numsa is a well-structured organisation. Numsa never suspended any leader based on the fact that you have dissenting views."
Sticking with Cosatu
Ngubane emphasised there was nothing wrong with Numsa's leadership asking if it was still relevant for the union to be affiliated to Cosatu as things were changing.
"All we are doing is asking ourselves what was the understanding of leaders who came before us when they joined Cosatu then. They [former Numsa leaders] took a decision to join Cosatu because it was radical. If Cosatu changes its character today, we must ask questions.
"What is the advantage of being in the alliance? We can't say we don't want e-tolls and they are imposed on us. We can't say we don't want labour brokers and they are imposed on us. We can't say we don't want the National Development Plan and it is imposed on us. We can't continue to have more imports than exports. We can't allow the country to be a dumping site. We can't say our raw material must continue to go out. We must talk to reality.
"It can no longer be about heritage, what the liberation did. It must be about economic freedom. It must be about what our own ANC is doing for us. We can't repeat what we have been saying since 1994. We can't be with those who chose to be cowards and ensure their own future is guaranteed at the expense of the working class. We know we are putting our future in danger. Jim is refusing to be in the ANC not because he hates the party, but he would not want to be swallowed like others were", said Ngubane.
Ngubane said he accepted Gina's resignation and that he was convinced the majority of Numsa members in KwaZulu-Natal and other regions would accept it too.