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06 Jun 2015 23:37
David Sipunzi has been elected as general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers at the union’s national congress in Johannesburg. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)
Frans Baleni and Thsimane Montoedi have been booted out from their positions as general
secretary and deputy general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, a
move likely to change the balance of forces within the labour federation
State regional secretary David Sipunzi was elected as general secretary,
and North East [Limpopo] regional secretary William Mabapa his
deputy, at the union’s national congress in Johannesburg, which ended on
Friday. Former deputy president Piet Matosa was elected new president, with Joseph Montiesetsi as his deputy.
Sipunzi and Mabapa told the Mail & Guardian their
priority would be to return NUM to its former glory as the most influential
union in the mining industry.
The union has lost close to 100 000 members
over the past few years.
said the congress’s theme of “Back to Basics” meant leaders needed to get out of
their comfort zone and interact with ordinary members.
to recoup the members we lost in the past few years. No trade union can have
dignity without members. We urge all those who left to come back.
is home for all mineworkers,” said Sipunzi, acknowledging that NUM
leaders had lost touch with ordinary members.
to sit down with the membership and decide on what needs to be done to correct
the situation. We need to address the disillusionment of staff members and
recruit back the members we lost,” said Sipunzi. Mabapa said he was prepared to
work hard to set the union back on its feet.
going to be a big mountain to climb, but it has to be done,” said Mabapa, adding that he would focus on administrative work, leaving the politics to
the new general secretary and president.
a lot of things that need to be changed. You need not to be in someone’s good
books to feel you are welcome as a staff or union member. We will make sure
structures are vibrant again,” said Mabapa, who contested the same position and
lost to Montoedi during the previous national congress in 2012.
Sipunzi and Mabapa’s election is expected to shift the balance of forces
within Cosatu. Both men are sympathetic to expelled general
secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and the National Union of Metalworkers of South
Africa [Numsa]. Numsa was also expelled from Cosatu after it resolved not to
support the ANC at its special national congress in December 2013.
seen as a close ally of Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini, ANC secretary general
Gwede Mantashe, SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande and President Jacob Zuma.
told the M&G the new leadership would engage NUM and Vavi to find a lasting
solution to the divisions within Cosatu.
to unite the labour movement. We will talk to Numsa and Vavi. There is a need
for a bilateral between ourselves and Numsa leadership. You can’t talk unity
within Cosatu without Numsa and Vavi. Vavi is a prominent leader [in South
Africa]. You need to engage him,” said Sipunzi.
‘Dismissal was not the only option’
Phakedi, regional secretary of NUM’s largest region PWV [Gauteng], which
supported Sipunzi’s candidacy, said he was unhappy with the decision to expel
Vavi and Numsa from Cosatu.
I am not happy with Vavi out. I understand the organisational processes. But
what matters is to ask if that if [expelling Vavi and Numsa] is uniting Cosatu.
I think the matter could have been handled differently. Dismissal was not the
only option. You can realise what the dismissal of Numsa does to Cosatu—not
only organisationally—but financially. Dismissing over 300 000 members is a
blow to Cosatu. They [Numsa] are powerful politically,” said Phakedi, adding he hoped the new NUM leadership would bring energy back to the
a change politically in terms of how we do things in the NUM. We want to bring
some vibrancy. We want people who will be on the ground talking to members. We
need leaders who can avoid [a] personality cult,” said Phakedi.
NUM had progressive policies but they had not been implemented by the previous
policies of NUM are still intact, but implementation was not happening. We had
a problem with how things were articulated. We support the ANC 100% but we
don’t want to compromise our own positions because of the ANC,” said Phakedi.
the previous leadership had failed to articulate NUM’s position on e-tolls,
which was to scrap the system. He said the former leaders had not been able to
articulate NUM’s position correctly and that had an impact on Cosatu.
Cosatu leadership aligned to Dlamini has been blamed for failing to
implement Cosatu resolutions, including embarking on anti e-toll campaigns.
a Cosatu that is worker-biased and put the interests of workers first,” said
said the new leadership would ensure the union addressed the issue of
represent the poorest of the poor. There is no way we can distance ourselves
from e-tolls,” said Sipunzi.
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