Numsa’s R39-million congress in peril, as court interdict stands

The labour court has refused a bid for leave to appeal an order interdicting the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) congress.

On Thursday, the labour court’s Judge Graham Moshoana denied Numsa’s application for leave to appeal its earlier ruling, which threw off the union’s plans to hold its congress in Cape Town this week. 

Flying in the face of the interdict, Numsa went ahead with the congress, where Irvin Jim was re-elected as the union’s general secretary. Jim stood unopposed.

The judgment opens the union’s leaders up to a contempt order and any decisions made at the congress stand to be invalidated.  

In his ruling, Moshoana noted the “disturbing revelation” that Numsa decided to proceed with the congress. 

In his earlier ruling, he found that a wave of suspensions of Numsa officials before the congress — preventing them from participating in the elections for the union’s new leadership — went against the union’s constitution. “Holding of a congress contrary to any provision of a trade union constitution is unlawful and ought to be interdicted until full compliance with the trade union’s constitution.”

One of the suspended Numsa members was its second deputy president, Ruth Ntlokotse.

On Wednesday, Numsa released a statement claiming that the judgment did not prevent the union from holding the congress, saying it could do so in line with its constitution. According to the statement, Numsa’s special central committee resolved that everything possible must be done to comply with Moshoana’s ruling. 

“The alternative was to postpone the congress, which was simply not a viable and sensible option in the circumstances.” The interdicted congress cost the union about R39-million.

“In my view,” Moshoana said of Numsa’s decision to proceed with the congress, “that was an unguided and unwise move. Judicial authority in this country vests in the courts. The ideal situation is that if a matter still receives judicial attention, parties must patiently wait.”

2 August 2022: A previous version of this article suggested that the Numsa congress was in defiance of the interdict and, therefore, invalid. However, the court is still to determine this. The labour court will hear arguments on this matter again on Friday, 5 August.

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Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.

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