Numsa — ‘the fight is on’

2014-11-17 00:00

THE ANC’s biggest former ally launched a mass movement in Durban yesterday, which aims to “get [the ruling party’s] stomachs running; make them panic”.

Going on the offensive in response to its expulsion from Cosatu this month, the National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa) vowed to force its way back into — and transform — the national federation by forcing its ANC “puppet masters” out. Supported by 56 civic organisations, Numsa and eight smaller unions formed the United Front in a stated effort “to link workers with poor communities”.

Although Numsa’s second deputy president, Basil Cele, denied that the new KZN organisation and its national umbrella body would become a political party, he agreed that “political parties are certainly very threatened by this”.

Numsa alone has some 380 000 members, and was kicked out of Cosatu after calling for the trade union federation to break from the alliance with the ANC and SACP, due to the ruling party’s adoption of the National Development Plan policy.

Speaking in support the co-ordinator of “The Nine” and their United Front effort in KZN, “Comrade Mike” echoed claims made in Parliament this week by declaring that “thieves have stolen the ANC from its own membership”, before making a pointed reference to Nkandla.

He told a crowd of about 500 union delegates that “(Health Minister) Aaron Motsoaledi is the “sole remaining voice of reason” in the ANC executive who has workers’ interests at heart.

In a stinging rebuke, Cele said that “the ANC leadership has abandoned democracy ... (and) has attacked the working class”.

Between songs sung in praise of Oliver Tambo and the Freedom Charter, a series of speakers won roars of agreement in suggesting that Cosatu — and the ANC itself — had been hijacked by individuals bent on wealth and power “at all costs”.

Cele praised returned Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi for his “leadership qualities and maturity”, and said that Numsa was committed to forcing its way back into “a unified and fighting Cosatu”.

Instead, he blamed the alleged financial greed of individual ANC leaders for “orchestrating” Cosatu’s expulsion decision.

“It is our experience that the working class is being used by the leader of the Alliance — the African National Congress — as voting fodder,” he said.

“The most consistent voice of the working class and the poor over the last 25 years has been silenced. This silencing has been a deliberate act of the ANC/ SACP leadership.”

Cele said: “We say to our friends inside and outside of the country, your messages have strengthened us as we forge ahead to reclaim Cosatu from those who want to turn it into a labour desk of the ruling ANC/SACP faction.”

One union delegate — who asked not to be named — said he would support any decision to turn the United Front into a party which could contest the 2016 elections. “If profits continue to be treated as more important than workers, then our message must have political force.”

Other unions, including Food and Allied Workers Union and the Democratic Nursing Organisation (Denosa), joined Numsa in a call for a Special National Congress in which Cosatu’s leadership would be “cleaned”.

They praised KNZ’s Numsa members for sticking with the organisation after its “illegal expulsion”. Numsa regional secretary, Mbuso Ngubane, said the United Front would also represent “youth groups, faith-based organisations, and women’s and environmental movements in KwaZulu-Natal”.

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