Unions threaten mass action to force Cosatu’s hand over Numsa

Seven Cosatu affiliates who voted against metalworkers union Numsa’s expulsion from Cosatu will not participate in any Cosatu meeting until it has a renewed mandate from its members. 

Leaders of the unions South African Commercial Clothing and Allied Workers Union (Saccawu), South African State and Allied Workers Union (Sasawu), Public and Allied Workers Union of South Africa (Pawusa), Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu), South African Football Players Union (Safpu), Democratic Nurses Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) and Communications Workers Union (CWU) are now going back to their members to decide on what action they should collectively take in solidarity with Numsa’s fight against its expulsion. 

Once the leaders consult their individual executive structures, the unions will have a combined meeting on the way forward. 

As the constitution of the trade unions dictates, its leaders cannot take unilateral decisions on behalf of their members without a mandate.

In the interim, Fawu general secretary  Katishi Masemola said the unions would embark on mass action to force Cosatu’s leaders to hold a special national congress.

A vote for Numsa’s expulsion in the early hours of Saturday resulted in a 33 for and 24 against result – leading to Numsa’s expulsion from Cosatu.

“The unions represented at this press conference completely reject the charge that Numsa had contradicted the policies of the federation,” Masemola said.

He said that they believed Numsa had been singled out because of the “radical decisions” taken at its December special congress.

Alternate federation not ruled out
While unions were firm in their support for Numsa and their call for a special national congress, they would not pronounce whether or not they had any plans to leave Cosatu. 

At the same time, they would not rule out the possibility of talks of forming an alternate federation.

Fawu deputy general secretary Moleko Phakedi said the unions would debate with its members on the formation of an alternate federation. “It is a discussion we have to have,” he said. 

The leaders of these seven unions maintained the position of Numsa: that the ANC, the South African Communist Party (SACP), Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini and National Union of Mineworkers general secretary Frans Baleni engineered the expulsion of Numsa.

Masemola said the ANC’s intervention in the divisions in Cosatu failed. “So insecure and over-sensitive are the political leaders of the SACP, that any challenge to the orthodoxy they defend is considered dangerous, counter-revolutionary, and, in the words of a Nehawu leader, must be ‘surgically removed’,” he said. 

Nursing union Denosa’s general secretary Simphiwe Gada said Dlamini was the “ebola of Cosatu” which needed to be fought.

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