Cosatu affiliates gang up on Numsa

Deputy President Cyril Rama­phosa heads up the ANC mediation team that has been meeting individual Cosatu affiliates over the past two months. (Gallo)

Deputy President Cyril Rama­phosa heads up the ANC mediation team that has been meeting individual Cosatu affiliates over the past two months. (Gallo)

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa’s (Numsa’s) days as a member of Cosatu might be numbered after several affiliates of the trade union federation – particularly those aligned to its president Sdumo Dlamini – told the ANC they want Numsa expelled.

An ANC mediation team, led by Deputy President Cyril Rama­phosa, has been meeting individual affiliates over the past two months in an effort to resolve the paralysing divisions in Cosatu.

Tensions in the two million member federation reached boiling point after Numsa, the largest Cosatu affiliate, took a resolution at its special national congress in December not to campaign for the ANC in the 2014 general elections.

It has also publicly announced its intention to form an alternative political party to contest the 2016 local government polls and the 2019 general elections.

Although Cosatu’s constitution does not force its members to belong to the ANC, historically it has aligned itself with the ruling party.

Radical affiliate
But Numsa has always been one of the most radical Cosatu affiliates, with most of its leaders described as workerists.

Two members of Cosatu’s central executive committee (CEC) told the Mail & Guardian this week that most of its affiliates want Numsa out of Cosatu “as soon as yesterday”. They include the South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu), the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu), the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) and the National Union of Mine­workers (NUM).

“Our view is that Numsa has long left Cosatu,” one of them said. “They are not going to abide by the Cosatu resolution to unite the federation. 

“It is only other affiliates and Cosatu that are trying hard to achieve that [unity].
How can you say you are committed to unity in Cosatu and go and do things that are contravening Cosatu resolutions, like rejecting the ANC’s intervention publicly?”

The committee members condemned Numsa’s move to recruit members in areas where other Cosatu affiliates are organising, saying this was aimed at destroying Cosatu unions.

“We have a standing decision that says, if Numsa fails to commit to the Cosatu agreements by June 2, there should be a special CEC to deal with them.”

Public rejection
He added that Numsa has publicly rejected the ANC intervention to resolve tensions within Cosatu. 

“We told the ANC that, as far as we are concerned, Numsa is gone. They behave like an affiliate that has already formed its own federation,” the committee member said.

Satawu spokesperson Vincent Masoga said the union took a resolution at its central executive committee meeting last week that Numsa should be expelled from Cosatu: “It is difficult to deal with them while they are in Cosatu because it looks like we are dividing Cosatu.”

Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke and Nehawu’s newly elected general secretary Bereng Soke said their unions did not want to comment until the ANC has submitted its report to Cosatu. Attempts to reach NUM general secretary Frans Baleni for comment were unsuccessful.

ANC spokesperson Keith Khoza said the mediation team is yet to provide feedback on their intervention. 

No discussion
Numsa spokesperson Castro Ngobese said the union would not entertain discussion of their proposed expulsion from Cosatu because “we have agreed ... not to discuss these matters in the media. We have written to Cosatu on a number of things they asked us to respond to.” He added that Numsa stood by its special congress resolutions. 

“No structure outside of Numsa, including any national office bearer, has got powers to reverse those resolutions. Our next congress is in September 2016. Anyone who has a problem with this position can go to Honolulu, the capital city of Hawaii.”



Matuma Letsoalo is a senior politics reporter at the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003, focussing on politics and labour, and collaborated with the M&G's centre for investigations, amaBhungane, from time to time.In 2011, Matuma won the South African Journalist of the Year Award and was also the winner in the investigative journalism category in the same year.In 2004, he won the CNN African Journalist of the Year prize – the MKO Abiola Print Journalism Award. Matuma was also a joint category winner of the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the year Award in 2008. In 2013, he was a finalist for Wits University's Taco Kuiper Award. Read more from ML

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