Numsa tests ANC’s clout in Cosatu – Steven Friedman

2014-10-23 17:54

The ANC’s influence over Cosatu will be tested during the trade union federation’s CEC meeting this week, where it is rumoured Numsa’s future will be decided.

“Clearly they do have some influence over the Cosatu CEC because before the election Numsa’s expulsion looked absolutely inevitable and the ANC intervened ... and the result is that Numsa were not expelled,” said political analyst Steven Friedman today.

He said this must have taken some persuasion by the African National Congress task team because some Cosatu affiliates wanted the National Union of Metalworkers SA (Numsa) out of the union federation.

“Clearly the ANC has enough influence to prevent [Numsa’s expulsion] ... and persuade the section who wants Numsa out, temporarily. The crunch now is do they have enough influence to prevent them from doing it permanently?”

The Congress of SA Trade Unions is holding its three-day special central executive committee (CEC) meeting in Johannesburg this week.

On Tuesday, the first day of the meeting, the ANC’s task team, led by party deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, presented its interim report to the meeting.

The task team was set up in April to help the trade union federation stop its infighting.

It met 19 Cosatu affiliates, including Numsa, to canvass their views on tensions within the federation, and to get input on whether the tripartite alliance between the ANC, Cosatu, and the SA Communist Party, should continue.

The ANC has urged Cosatu to address infighting, amidst rumours of an imminent split.

Affiliates were reportedly unanimous in their view that there was “paralysis” in Cosatu. They were convinced it emanated from the inability of its national office bearers to provide leadership.

Cosatu has seen a split in unity since its general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi was suspended last year after having an affair with a junior employee.

Numsa, a supporter of Vavi’s, instituted court proceedings to have Vavi reinstated. This put the metalworkers union at loggerheads with Cosatu.

Numsa decided at its special congress in December to not support the ANC in the general elections, which went against Cosatu’s policy.

The CEC was apparently deciding whether Numsa should be expelled.

The ANC has not recommended that the metalworkers be expelled.

Friedman said the ANC was aware that getting rid of Numsa was a “bad idea”.

“The ANC has now said this is what we think ought to happen, we think throwing Numsa out is a bad idea.

“Ramaphosa and people around him are able to be more far-sighted and realise the consequences of throwing out the biggest union because it didn’t support the ANC.”

Despite this no one was sure what was actually going on in the CEC.

“This will be a test of whether the ANC can persuade the anti-Numsa faction to hold off.”

Numsa had made it clear that it wanted to stay in Cosatu and would challenge an expulsion in court.

Friedman said it was not the case that all Cosatu affiliate unions shared the same view.

“The reason why the anti-Numsa faction like to do things in the CEC is because the CEC consists of union general secretaries and presidents, rather than people who are directly elected delegates,” he said.

“The reason they are frightened of having delegates elected is because they know that there are many people in the unions who don’t agree with the positions of presidents and general secretaries.”

The same went for holding a special national congress, which Numsa and eight other unions have been calling for, so new Cosatu leaders could be elected.

Friedman said regardless of what happened in this week’s CEC there would still be tensions. Not expelling Numsa would also not help.

“Those tensions will continue. The trench warfare will continue because the ANC hasn’t by its own admission ... produced a situation where it has settled all the tensions,” he said.

“Because if it had they wouldn’t be sitting now at the CEC debating whether to throw out Numsa.”

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