SACP doesn’t hate Numsa’s Jim – but imply he’s corrupt

The SACP's second deputy general secretary and Blade Nzimande's heir apparent, Solly Mapaila does not hate Irvin Jim, he told journalists at yet another press conference in a long-running spat between the two leaders' organisations.

A journalist asked the tongue-in-cheek question following Mapaila's hour-long rant against Jim, the latest iteration of a series of statements and press conference between the two.

"I will never hate another comrade," said Mapaila. "I can't hate a human being. I'm a revolutionary. Revolutionaries hate nobody."

At Thursday's briefing the SACP again accused National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) general secretary Irvin Jim of potentially dodgy business deals and briefed media on a list of allegations, calling for Numsa members to investigate.

"It is time for Numsa rank and file workers to take back their union from the leadership clique around Irvin Jim, from all his tenderpreneurs and parasites who are leaching off worker retirement funds," said Mapaila.

Mapaila went on to list a number of business deals involving Jim he demanded the leader account for.

The party presented six pages of allegation after allegation against Jim at their media briefing on Thursday at Cosatu House.

This included allegations over Numsa's investment arm and the handling of worker pension funds.

A paragraph was devoted to the topic of the moment, the alleged leaking of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's provisional report on Nkandla to the Mail &Guardian. The SACP made the right noises in keeping with the ANC's stance, condemning the leak, criticising Madonsela for not investigating it and calling for the report's immediate release.

That done, Mapaila returned his attention to the real issue at hand: the long list of accusations and allegations against Numsa.

"We don't want SACP's response to Jim and his cliques to be seen as tit-for-tat," said Mapaila on Thursday, before pointing out that the party was compelled to respond to Numsa's statements made on Tuesday, accusing SACP leaders of being co-opted by the party and demanding they undergo lifestyle audits. Numsa in turn was responding to the SACP's own statement after its central committee meeting on the weekend where they made allegations of financial impropriety.

The battle between Numsa and the SACP is as old as the organisations themselves with Numsa, which subscribes to a worker-centred socialism, despising the SACP for embedding itself into the ANC, and failing to remain close to grassroots worker concerns.

But the animosity has heated up recently over differences over the National Development Plan and more specifically, the ousting of Cosatu secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi after a sex scandal. The strongly Vavi-aligned Numsa saw it as a political ploy and blamed SACP of trying to split the trade federation.

Mapaila and others in the SACP say they have tried to constructively engage Numsa and its leader Irvin Jim, who is on a warpath to return Vavi to power. But the communication between the two organisations has denigrated into accusations and counter-accusations with each demanding the other submit themselves to a lifestyle audit, and claiming credit for the idea.

Thursday's briefing focused on attacking Jim, being careful to separate their criticism from that of Vavi.

Both Cosatu and the SACP form part of the tripartite alliance with the ANC. The trade federation represents the party's working class muscle but Cosatu is beset by division over Vavi and threatened with the possible loss of Numsa, their biggest affiliate. The ANC faces the possibility of a weakened campaigning machine come 2014 general elections without Numsa and with an ailing Cosatu.

On the weekend the SACP's central committee met, and again took aim at Numsa.

Another agenda
"We have patiently endeavoured to engage with the Numsa general secretary and his clique in a constructive if robust ideological debate… It is now glaringly obvious that he and his clique have another agenda. It is not an agenda of building working class unity. It is not an agenda of respecting left-wing diversity. It is an agenda informed by unbridled personal ambition and personal wealth accumulation," read Nzimande.

Thursday's briefing was much of the same, with Mapaila detailing allegations of how Numsa's leaders – including Jim and acting president Andrew Chirwa – responded in a statement saying that after the national election of 2009, "it did not take us long to realise that it was a grave mistake to bury so many SACP leaders into the nationalist government of the ANC", saying having them in government "made the SACP impotent".

Numsa, which was amalgamated from five other unions in 1987, stems from this worker tradition, albeit one that saw unions reluctantly align themselves with the ANC and its predecessor, the United Democratic Front, at the behest of members although it maintains a healthy suspicion of politics.

SACP however are influenced by a heterodox Marxism, which seeks top-down change by aligning with political players such as the ANC and trying to change the political agenda, analysts have previously told the M&G.

"We're hoping we won't have to do another press conference next week," said Mapaila.

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Verashni Pillay
Verashni Pillay is the former editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian, and inaugural editor-in chief of Huffington Post South Africa. She has worked at various periods as senior reporter covering politics and general news, specialises in mediamanagement and relishes the task of putting together the right team to create compelling and principled journalism across multiple platforms.

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