It’s NUM vs NUM as leadership scuffle hits branches

A battle between the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) president Piet Matosa and his general secretary David Sipunzi has manifested in violent confrontations between their supporters at branch level in the North West.

Metalworkers union Numsa has emerged as the only winner, as angry NUM members defect.

On Sunday, two NUM members were injured in a fight between the Moab Khotsong mine branch leadership and some of its members, who preferred another candidate. The members, whose candidates were not elected on to the branch committee, staged a protest outside the hall in Stilfontein, near Klerksdorp.

Moab Khotsong is in the Matlosana region, the NUM’s second largest, where it has a majority membership at the coal, iron ore and gold mines.

Matlosana regional secretary Khaya Ngaleka said: “These people are NUM members. Some of them, I know them very well. Some of them are recruiting for Numsa, especially in the Vaal Reefs area. I don’t know their reasons for disrupting, then.”

AngloGold Ashanti this week warned NUM and its members at its Moab Khotsong mine of an unprotected strike planned at the mine because of the election outcome.

An NUM member at a mine in the Klerksdorp area said: “There is a battle between the two factions. It is driven by tribalism and, because of their factional battle, the services are now lagging. If you are not Xhosa or Sotho-speaking, they won’t recognise you as being someone who can lead.”

The aggrieved members who disrupted the Stilfontein meeting claim the region was being influenced by NUM president Piet Matosa, who is trying to keep Sipunzi’s supporters out of leadership positions at branch and regional level.

The relationship between Matosa and Sipunzi is at its lowest point since Sipunzi was elected by a narrow margin to replace the general secretary, Frans Baleni, in 2015.

Matosa dismissed the tribalism claims. “Leaders in the NUM are not elected in terms of the language they speak. They are elected in terms of capacity and capability.”

The president also rejected claims that a factional battle ahead of next year’s conference is behind the tension in Matlosana.

Another NUM member said: “There is an issue between national office bearers of NUM, which is affecting us on the ground level. Some of the factions in Matlosana, specifically in Vaal Reefs area, they are sponsored by national leaders.”

Matosa said: “I do not know where do they take that from, because I’m not aware of the national factions.”

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Govan Whittles

Govan Whittles is a general news and political multimedia journalist at the Mail & Guardian. Born in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape, he cut his teeth as a radio journalist at Primedia Broadcasting. He produced two documentaries and one short film for the Walter Sisulu University, and enjoys writing about grassroots issues, national politics, identity, heritage and hip-hop culture.

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