The plug has been pulled. After 15 hours of what Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) insiders say was excruciating debate, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has been expelled from the trade union federation.
Numsa launched an urgent interdict on Thursday in a bid to stop the meeting but this was unsuccessful.
Numsa’s expulsion arises from its decision not to support the ANC in the general elections this year, which went against Cosatu’s constitution.
Just before 2:30am on Saturday, Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim led his fellow leaders out of Cosatu House.
“Those who were resolute that they would listen to nothing, didn’t listen to anything that was said,” Jim told journalists outside.
A secret ballot resulted in 33 votes in favour of Numsa’s expulsion and 24 against.
Only representatives of Cosatu’s affiliates were able to cast their vote.
The meeting began at around 11am on Friday while Numsa supporters gathered at an opposite park to protest the expulsion bid.
It took almost six hours for the meeting to agree on what the agenda would be.
Numsa’s status was to be discussed first followed by that of Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and then a discussion on the call for a special national congress.
But the meeting went as far as expelling Numsa.
In arguing why Numsa should not be expelled, Jim attempted to debunk and defend the charges faces against them.
He remained resolute in their stance that the ANC and the tripartite alliance had failed workers and went into great detail denying that Numsa was violating Cosatu’s constitution by extending its scope.
After defending the union against the allegations, Jim took a swipe at Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini accusing him of refusing to call a special national congress.
He further accused Dlamini and those loyal to him of acting in bad faith. “You have ulterior motives for trying to expel us,” Jim told the meeting.
But his words were in vain.
Deep rooted tensions within Cosatu reared their head again when there was no consensus on the wording of the ballot.
Finally, voting took place and the results were announced.
When it became clear that the vote had gone against Numsa, Dlamini expressed his view that they should leave the meeting.
This is when Vavi stepped in and cited the Costau constitution that Numsa would have to be informed of its expulsion in writing before it became effective.
Eventually, both factions were frustrated with Numsa walking out and the meeting being adjourned.
Jim said Numsa would seek a mandate from its members before deciding on the way forward.
Cosatu national office bearers would not speak to the media and left shortly after the meeting was adjourned.