Newsmaker – Numsa’s Cedric Gina

2013-12-02 08:00

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His resignation is a sign of the conflict in Numsa’s leadership. 

Cedric Gina’s sudden resignation from his post as president of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) did not come as a complete surprise.

But Gina isn’t explaining why he made the move.

He went to ground this week, avoiding numerous phone calls and text messages.

The real reasons for his departure from Numsa’s executive were matters for serious speculation, ranging from his political ambition and a convoluted bid to strengthen his position in the union to the reason he alluded to in his letter of resignation: his tattered relationship with Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim.

So bad had the relationship between Gina and Jim become that he didn’t hand his resignation letter to the national executive but sent it to the regional structures instead.

For a while, factions both supporting and opposing suspended Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi were unsure about Gina’s political loyalties.

Some said the tall, well-built 42-year-old former boilermaker had straddled the divide.

Now, it is difficult to imagine that the Gina, who denounced Jim for using Numsa to leverage Vavi a position as ANC deputy president, is the same man who once enjoyed close relationships with them.

Gina listed both Jim and Vavi as references on his CV in 2009, which was presented to Parliament by Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven when he nominated him for a position on the SABC board.

The seeds of conflict could have been sown last April when Gina and Jim met President Jacob Zuma at his Nkandla home.

There, Jim is believed to have told Zuma that the workers would not support a capitalist like Cyril Ramaphosa – whom Zuma lobbyists were already punting – for the job.

This week, Jim would neither confirm nor deny that conversation, admitting only to meeting Zuma there that Easter weekend.

Gina’s resignation must have come as a major victory for the Cosatu faction aligned to its president Sdumo Dlamini, which has argued that Numsa is not as united behind Jim as is often believed.

A unionist from another affiliate spoke of a tense atmosphere in the Numsa leadership.

“It seems they are not a homogenous group?... There are a few inside who say, ‘We can’t talk openly. If you express opposing views or you are close to the SA Communist Party, you get the axe.’”

Gina, whose wife Nomalungelo is an ANC MP, rose through the ranks to lead what became Cosatu’s most powerful union, with 320?000 members and R300?million in reserves.

He became a shop steward 20 years ago while training as a boilermaker at a construction company in Richards Bay, where he grew up.

In 2004, he moved from KwaZulu-Natal to take up the position of Numsa deputy president, and later became president, with Jim as general secretary.

Gina is no stranger to controversy.

A former SABC board member who worked with him under Ben Ngubane said: “The thing you don’t understand about Cedric is that he is keen to be in ruling circles. That is why when Numsa says he is being told what to do, I believe it.”

A source close to the Numsa leadership said the union was challenging ANC policies and Gina was reluctant to convey dissenting views to the ruling party.

“You hear him talk about going to his branch. He wants the opportunity to rise socially and economically, so he has to chase deployment,” said the source.

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