/ 27 October 2014

Gloves off as Numsa takes on Cosatu, dumps ANC

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and Numsa's Irvin Jim.
Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and Numsa's Irvin Jim.

If you believed that the war between Numsa and trade union federation Cosatu leaders couldn’t get any worse, think again, because the metalworkers union was unequivocal that they only getting started.

“We can now confirm cessation of hostilities are over,” said Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim in a press conference following Cosatu’s special central executive committee (CEC) meeting last week, which saw Numsa’s fate hang in the balance.   

Numsa leaders were clear that:

  • The United Front, announced at their 2013 December special conference, will launch in December;
  • They will go back to court to force Cosatu President S’dumo Dlamini to hold a Cosatu special national conference, at which they would use their numbers as the biggest Cosatu affiliate to “deal with S’dumo and his friends”; and
  • They will fight tooth and nail against a scheduled special CEC meeting on November 7 aimed entirely at calling a vote on Numsa’s expulsion from the trade union federation.  

In an 18-page statement Jim went to great lengths to explain that they would not have led Cosatu to become a “toy telephone of the ANC”.   

“We are adamant that our expulsion from Cosatu has been a well-co-ordinated and political attempt by the ANC and [South African Communist Party] faction, to weaken, isolate and destroy Numsa and its leadership because of our socialist revolutionary character,” Jim said.   

Prepared for a fight
Last Thursday, a call to vote on whether Numsa should be expelled from Cosatu was abandoned after Numsa threatened to challenge it in court on the basis that it would have been unconstitutional.   

Another meeting has been called, and while the union is prepared for a fight, there is little doubt that they may lose. “There will be no objectivity and there will be no fair hearing in the Cosatu CEC,” Jim said.   

Numsa is now carefully scrutinising which cards to play, clearly understanding that they could be expelled whether or not they attend the meeting. “We will not run away from any meeting or boycott it,” Jim continued.

In the interim, Cosatu and eight other affiliates sympathetic to them are going to court to demand the special congress to be held. “We will, to that end, immediately reinstate the legal challenge to demand that the current national leadership of Cosatu devote their efforts to ensuring that a special congress is held, to resolve all the matters killing Cosatu,” Jim said.   

Concurrently, the union is forging ahead with its plans to form a workers party, which may or may not contest elections. So far, December has been earmarked as the month it will launch.   

“The United Front is not Numsa … Numsa is just a catalyst,” Jim said. He said the working class did not have an alternative. “Elections is one form of mechanism and it is not ruled out.”   

Numsa deputy secretary general Karl Cloete said Numsa would never transform itself into a political party.