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Mystery document alleges Numsa is bent on regime change

As the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) prepares to launch its United Front, a document accusing the union and individuals associated with it of plotting against the South African government to secure regime change has surfaced.

The document, titled Exposed: Secret regime change plot to destabilise South Africa, has apparently been circulating since November 20. It is supposedly written by “concerned members within Numsa” who disagree with the broader union leadership’s plans to form a United Front.

Numsa launched its Gauteng leg of the United Front this past weekend.

The document’s author is “John Carelse”, but vigorous attempts by the union to try to find out who this is have been unsuccessful, leaving some to believe the name is a pseudonym.

Numsa says it will write to the inspector-general of intelligence, requesting an investigation into the document.

The document says: “The alleged plot is led and facilitated by key leaders within various political organisations, institutes of higher learning, international companies and civic groups, both locally and abroad.

“Central to the success of this initiative are plans to influence mainly the poor, presenting the so-called ‘socialist philosophy’ and socialism as a fix-it-all solution to problems facing South Africa and its people.”

‘Forceful methods’
Some of the people named in the document as “plotters” include former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils, Professor Chris Malekane, Professor Peter Jordi and Moeletsi Mbeki, brother of former president Thabo Mbeki. Various international “plotters” are also named, from countries including Germany, Venezuela and the Philippines.

The document alleges that the role-players want to effect regime change and “influence and confuse South African communities using socialist rhetoric”.

These “plotters” also want to address inequality using “forceful methods” such as “land grabs” and the destabilisation of the mining sector, the document alleges.

As “proof” of this, the document says those named have used “international experts” on sociopolitical issues to endorse their views.

“These foreign role-players were invited to Numsa’s symposium of left parties from 7-10 August in Benoni, Gauteng.”

At least two individuals named in the document, Professor Patrick Bond of the University of KwaZulu-Natal and Azwell Banda, a former Zambian trade unionist, have been the victims of crime recently, in what appears to be attempts to intimidate them.

Banda’s car was broken into last week and Bond’s office was ransacked and his hard drive was stolen last Sunday. It appears as if a second break-in was attempted, but this time only the lock to his office was damaged.

Bond, who directs the university’s Centre for Civil Society, openly aligns himself with some of Numsa’s politics, and talks informally with Numsa members, but says he is not an organiser for the union nor it’s United Front.

‘Sicko signalling’
Photographs of anti-apartheid activist Dennis Brutus were taken out of drawers in Bond’s office and torn up.

It is unclear whether the incidents were linked to the fact that Bond and Banda were named in the document. But Bond believes the incidents could have been a signal from forces seeking to intimidate him and others aligned with Numsa’s politics.

“Political intimidation is a long-standing problem in our neck of the woods. Even we irrelevant academics sometimes get attention here. But what kind of sicko signalling is an office-trashing that includes not only theft of an old desktop hard drive, but shredding personal photos of our former Honorary Professor Dennis Brutus and leaving them in odd little patterns? Brutus’ radical poetry, sanctions advocacy, internationalism and an unerring commitment to social justice modelled for us a role for independent intellectuals in social change that we need so badly today.” ?

Bond added: “Our centre staff have tapped into quite a few controversies recently, but the one scholar-activist initiative that I suspect hits closest to the power structure is supporting the United Front’s formation in Durban. In mid-November, 41 community groups joined more than 1?000 Numsa shopstewards in a beach hotel, and that plus the spooky ‘NumsaExposed’ document might have catalysed this attack. It’s flattering in a way, isn’t it? Though we’ve not had this kind of tribute before, I know it doesn’t intimidate our staff in the least.”

‘ANC language’
Dinga Sikwebu, national co-ordinator for the United Front, said the surfacing of the document was not an isolated incident, and Numsa feared it might be part of a broader trend.

Some of the “alleged plotters” will meet on Tuesday to discuss the document. For now, Sikwebu does not know who authored it but said the union views the matter seriously.

He said the document contained clues about where it might come from, but he does not believe it was authored by Numsa members.

Irvin Jim, Numsa’s general secretary, is described in the document as “secretary general”.

“Any Numsa person knows that we don’t have a secretary general as stated in the document. That is ANC language used by someone schooled in the ANC constitution and its structures,” Sikwebu said.

He said the “international plotters” were people who were invited to the Benoni symposium in August, but some of those named in the document did not attend the event for various reasons.

“On the eve of that conference we had a call from one of the embassies. They wanted to know what the conference was about because they had heard it was ‘subversive’.” Three international delegates were stopped at OR Tambo International Airport and sent back to their home countries on various technicalities. One of these delegates was from the country of the embassy that called Numsa, and was kept overnight at the airport, according to Sikwebu.

He said the union viewed the matter as political and the burglary of Bond’s office as being linked to the document, adding: “Why go for the hard drive?”

“When authoritarianism arrives it doesn’t announce itself,” Sikwebu said. “You slide into it.”

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Sarah Evans
Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans interned at the Diamond Fields Advertiser in Kimberley for three years before completing an internship at the Mail & Guardian Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane). She went on to work as a Mail & Guardian news reporter with areas of interest including crime, law, governance and the nexus between business and politics. 

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