Newsmaker – Irvin Jim: In the eye of the storm

2014-07-06 15:00

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Whilst the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) is engaging in a deadlocked wage negotiation battle with metal, steel and engineering employers, it also trying to fend off accusations that it is driven by a political agenda which has nothing to do with workers issues.

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim told City Press this week that there has been an attempt to want to portray the Numsa strike as a political strike with no legitimate demands from its members.

He said the detractors are claiming that Numsa was flexing its political muscle because of the resolutions the union took in December to not support the ANC in the May 7 elections and to launch a movement for socialism.

Jim confirmed that his union was involved in the formation of a left movement but denied that it had anything to do with the current strike.

He added that Numsa being accused of wanting to politically and economically destabilise the country was an attempt by the ANC and some members of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) to erode confidence in the union and to ‘liquidate’ it.

“They (Cosatu affiliate South African Transport and Allied Workers Union) said Numsa is busy recruiting in the harbour because we want to bring in arms in the country; that we want to overthrow government. There is a car that was found in Port Elizabeth full of weapons and they said this car belongs to Numsa. Look when propaganda of this nature is being deployed, people want to justify that when something is done to me or to anybody who is a leader of Numsa they can do it. We are being set-up to be sorted out,” said Jim.

With regards to the ANC mediation in the internal Cosatu strife, Jim said Numsa was deceived into believing the ANC had intentions of repairing the divisions inside the alliance. The ANC met Cosatu affiliates in April with hopes to prevent a damaging split weeks before the May 7 elections. The task team was led by ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte.

“We went to the CEC meeting where there was a call to cease fire and we thought it was a real ceasefire but in no time we realised this ceasefire was just meant to hamstring Numsa not to do anything. ANC and Cosatu were dealing with anything that has political confidences and individuals (supporting Numsa) were being dismissed. Numsa is being targeted by propaganda,” said Jim.

He added: “Basically we are being liquidated and the ANC is supposed to be facilitating us but the very same ANC that is supposed to be facilitating us, in the form of Jessie Duarte would go public to say Numsa has got an agenda to destabilise the country? Therefore we are on our own. Like (Frans) Baleni will jump and say Numsa will even join Boko Haram,” said Jim.

Speaking at the Union of Mineworkers (NUM) central executive committee meeting in Johannesburg on Wednesday, both National Union of Mineworkers General Secretary Frans Baleni and Deputy Secretary General of ANC Jessie Duarte accused Numsa of being ‘antirevolutionary’.

Duarte said Numsa, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) were working together to destabilise the country and the ANC government. Baleni added that Numsa was likely to join forces with Boko Haram, Julius Malema’s EFF and the Afrikaner resistance movement AWB.

Jim said Numsa was aware that the ANC mediation in Cosatu was just a ploy to calm down things down for elections. He said Numsa managed to secure some victories because Cosatu General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi was is back in the office.

“We succeeded in that battle. But this doesn’t mean they will spare Vavi or spare Numsa. We know what they are working towards is to expel Numsa. But we are going to fight to stay within the federation because for us, the unity of workers cannot be controlled by a particular clique,” he said.

But Numsa seems to harbour even more bitterness against the South African Communist Party (SACP) claiming the SACP acts as a mediator between labour and capital, managing the contradictions in the best interest of capital and the best interest of the state instead of fighting for the working class.

He added that Numsa had expected support, political confidence and solidarity from the SACP when the union championed the banning of labour brokers and the question of nationalisation of strategic minerals and ownership of land but instead, the SACP took the side of the ANC and the National Development Plan.

He added: “ We are now convinced there is a project that has direct ANC, SACP and some Cosatu members basically trying to implode Numsa from internal. They are in our structures; they are sending SMS’s to our members. They are so desperate.”

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