The ANC won’t take the blame for the divisions in trade union federation Cosatu, which led to the expulsion of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) at the weekend.
This was the message from ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, who expressed concern over the events but said it was up to Cosatu as to how it handled the issue.
“We reaffirm our position that the expulsion of Numsa from the federation is bad for Cosatu itself, it is bad for the ANC, bad for the alliance, the progressive forces, as well as for society in general,” he told journalists in Johannesburg on Monday. At the same time, Mantashe said he would not dictate to Cosatu leaders.
“All we can say is that these decisions are bad for Cosatu. It is up to the federation to smell the coffee and reverse its decision,” he said.
Mantashe’s comments that the ANC was “disappointed” over Numsa’s expulsion come as Numsa’s general secretary Irvin Jim said Mantashe was “crying at the wrong funeral”.
Mantashe ‘orchestrated’ the expulsion
“Suddenly the issue of the dismissal of Numsa is a tragedy. Mantashe can look for the nearest cliff and jump,” Jim told reporters on Sunday.
He added that Numsa’s expulsion was orchestrated by Mantashe himself.
Mantashe would not get into specifics, but denied that he or the ANC ever intended for Cosatu to expel Numsa. “The attacks on the ANC by Numsa are unfounded,” he said.
Mantashe reiterated the recommendations of the ANC’s task team that mediated in the dispute between Numsa and Cosatu, and added it was up to the labour federation to implement those recommendations or not.
“Among the suggestions offered was that Numsa reverses its decision to extend its scope beyond its identified industry, and subject itself to the discipline, principles and regulations of the federation,” he said.
“In the context of seeking to preserve unity, Cosatu was also advised to be sensitive to the political implications of the case facing its general secretary [Zwelinzima Vavi]. As such, the federation should not be mechanical in its approach [to the Numsa issue] but mindful of its long-term implications.”
Numsa has persistently called for a Cosatu special national congress to deal with what it has termed the paralysis in the organisation.
Earlier on Monday, seven other Cosatu unions, which voted against Numsa’s expulsion, added their voices to the call for a special national congress.
Mantashe said the ANC task team was of the opinion that a special national congress to “test the strength of factions” would be divisive for Cosatu.
“The worst thing you can do to yourself is go to the special national congress to fight it out. You will go there with the instruction to destroy yourself,” he said.
It is unclear what the ANC believes is the way forward for Cosatu.
“The ANC will continue to engage the federation to conduct a detailed analysis of the impact of this decision. The ANC will further engage with all the affiliates with a view of consolidating unity,” Mantashe said.