Numsa leaders to fight Cosatu expulsion

MOBILISING SUPPORT: Fired-up Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim speaks at a press conference yesterday following the union's expulsion from Cosatu. Picture: THULANI MBELE
MOBILISING SUPPORT: Fired-up Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim speaks at a press conference yesterday following the union’s expulsion from Cosatu. Picture: THULANI MBELE

FIREBRAND trade unionist Irvin Jim is not taking Numsa’s expulsion from Cosatu lying down and plans to mobilise grassroots support to challenge what he calls a travesty of justice that goes against the principles of democracy.

Jim said last night that Numsa had not accepted being booted out of the union federation after a marathon meeting by Cosatu’s top brass.

“We have not accepted this expulsion. We think it is criminal and a travesty of justice,” he said.

“If you look at the vote, it was 33 people against 24 that expelled over 350000 people. So one person dismissed 10600 people.

“This goes against democracy.”

Cosatu expelled Numsa, which has 349000 members, at its special central executive committee meeting which ran into the early hours of Saturday.

Numsa faced five complaints and Jim spoke for three hours on why the union should not be expelled‚ but it was to no avail.

The charges against Numsa included not supporting its alliance partner, the ANC, in the May general election, violating its constitution, poaching members from affiliates and withholding its fees from Cosatu.

“These people [Cosatu] have had a problem with us since after the special congress and are championing neo-liberal ideals that do nothing to stop white monopolisation,” Jim said.

Numsa would now take its fight to the people at a grassroots level and would be calling on all Numsa and Cosatu members to support the fight against the metalworkers union’s expulsion, he said.

Jim also called on his members to continue attending Cosatu shop floor meetings.

“We are challenging them to remove Numsa shop stewards,” a defiant Jim said.

Numsa would convene countrywide meetings in the near future to lobby support.

Jim said the union was determined to fight its expulsion in court.

According to Eyewitness News, deputy general secretary Karl Cloete believes Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini is the most divisive leader in the federation and is responsible for its downfall.

“We think there is just no respect for Cosatu’s constitution. It is lawlessness that governs,” Cloete said.

“Its own president should have been booted out a long time ago, before Numsa, because he has no ability to unite the affiliates in that federation.”

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said the Cosatu situation could have been dealt with differently.

“A weak Cosatu is not good for the ANC and society. In my own view, they had to try and find a solution. I think Numsa became a bit arrogant and immature.”

Mantashe, like the SA Communist Party, said the ANC would continue to urge metalworkers to vote for it.

The metalworkers’ union, however, said it was considering forming a new trade union federation .

“Numsa will do everything for a united federation, but we can’t be running around permanently as if we don’t have the capacity to form a federation.

“We can do that and it remains a consideration,” Jim said.

Numsa president Andrew Chirwa said: “We think workers must make their own determination whether Cosatu is still relevant. We might be fighting for an empty shell.

“Workers must reflect hard to say perhaps it’s time for a new path.”

Cloete urged Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi to consider his future in Cosatu, fuelling speculation that they wanted him to lead the new federation.

“He will have to think about whether he is prepared to champion right-wing policies, whether he is to go along with those who believe Cosatu must be a conveyor belt,” Cloete said.

“I think it must be very untenable for him‚ being that his conscience must be like a ticking time bomb …  I wonder how he sleeps at night.”

Cloete’s comments are likely to place Vavi in a difficult position.

As general secretary, he was part of the leadership that presided over Numsa’s expulsion.

He is also Cosatu’s longest-serving general secretary and would not want to see the federation split on his watch.

Vavi said yesterday he was not commenting beyond what he had said on social media.

In a tweet‚ he described the move to axe Numsa as a “disaster” for Cosatu.

“The guillotine of 350000 workers is a game-changer and will have profound political and organisational implications. What is to be done?” he said.

The mutiny within Cosatu is expected to continue today when eight Cosatu affiliate unions who, along with Numsa, have been demanding that Dlamini convene a special national congress, hold a media briefing.

The eight – among them the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU), Democratic Nurses Union of South Africa (Denosa), the Food and Allied Workers’ Union (Fawu), and the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) – will be commenting on Numsa’s expulsion.

While the eight have supported Numsa in seeking a special congress, it is not yet clear whether they will stand together with the union in its existence outside of Cosatu. – Additional reporting by Natasha Marrian, Olebogeng Molatlhwa, Siviwe Feketha, Hlengiwe Nhlabathi and George Matlala – Angela Daniels

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