Numsa leaders censor showerhead signs

2013-12-19 08:44

Delegates attending metalworkers’ union Numsa’s special congress in Boksburg this week were warned not to sing “divisive” songs after some of them made the showerhead sign.

Union general secretary Irvin Jim last night scolded the delegates, some of whom apparently lifted their hands above their heads to denote a showerhead – a derogatory reference to President Jacob Zuma associated with Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema.

Jim took to the stage after delegates sang following a lecture given by suspended Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi last night.

They also sang songs telling Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini and SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande to “run”. Delegates have been singing these songs since the start of the conference on Tuesday, but it is unclear if the showerhead signs were used before.

Jim earlier in the day poured cold water on claims that Numsa might side with Malema’s party, saying although they share many common positions in supporting workers’ struggles, the EFF’s leaders have a “capitalist” past and a history of undemocratic practice.

Unlike the radical positions taken by Numsa leaders at the conference in the past two days, where a call was made for delegates to consider recalling Zuma, Vavi’s speech was in line with his previous positions.

Vavi brought up the booing of Zuma at the memorial service for the late former president Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg last week, saying: “We witnessed something unheard of, the booing of the president of South Africa, and the deafening ululating in salute of the symbol of imperialism, (US president) Barack Obama.”

Vavi said the booing was inappropriate while mourning for Madiba, but serious questions needed to be asked. “Are the masses beginning to sulk and turn away from this nation? Are they beginning to lose interest in it?” he said.

Vavi blamed the ANC for having failed to fulfil its 2009 elections promise of creating jobs, and said instead the past 20 years of democracy have “benefited the previous ruling classes more than it has benefited the primary motive forces of the liberation struggle”.

He said the still-growing gap between rich and poor was what caused a lot of unhappiness, and he warned about this being a “ticking time-bomb” which has already started exploding in the form of service delivery protests.

Vavi also warned against union leaders who “have abandoned the interests of members to pursue anyone threatening their narrow interests”.

He also said the status quo in the ANC “is not politically sustainable” and that it needed “a radical shift to the left”.

Vavi said he was addressing the conference in his personal capacity. He was the only one of Cosatu’s national office bearers to attend the event. Cosatu claimed the other national office bearers weren’t invited, but Numsa said invites were sent out, but not responded to.

Numsa’s conference was called to decide whether the union wants to stay in Cosatu and whether it wants to campaign for the ANC in next year’s elections.

It is set to end tomorrow.

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