Numsa takes Cosatu to court

2014-11-02 16:00

Metal workers’ union Numsa is heading to court to force Cosatu to hold a special congress that could save it from being expelled from the federation.

City Press understands that Numsa filed papers in the South Gauteng High Court on Friday, asking the court to compel Cosatu to accede to its demand for a special congress.

Numsa’s general secretary Irvin Jim refused to comment yesterday, but Numsa insiders and Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven confirmed that papers had been served.

“It’s now going before the courts so I can’t make a comment,” Craven said.

Cosatu is due to hold a critical central executive committee meeting on Friday where the federation is likely to vote on whether Numsa – which has been critical of the ANC government and the tripartite alliance – stays or is expelled.

At issue are complaints it overreached its scope and was poaching other unions’ members.

This would be a continuation of last week’s meeting, when the vote was called off at the last minute.

Numsa is already setting up what it’s calling the United Front, a collection of various organisations, with the possibility of starting a workers’ party.

It will make a final decision on this in March.

Numsa is voted out and Cosatu splits

A union leader sympathetic to Numsa said Friday’s vote is likely to be “marginally in favour of expulsion”.

An official opposed to Numsa’s continued membership predicted “a huge fight”.

Those opposed to Numsa will likely argue the union hasn’t changed its tack and has “continued to undermine the ANC” publicly, according to the official.

Another union official said ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe nipped last week’s vote in the bud because he feared Numsa would take court action.

If unions can resolve the technicalities of expulsion by Friday, their path would be clear to kick Numsa out.

Unions supporting Numsa said they would push for a special congress even before next year’s regular September congress.

But the newly formed Metal and Allied Workers’ Union of SA – led by dissatisfied Numsa members – will be ready to step into Numsa’s shoes should the union be expelled from Cosatu.

Numsa has about 230?000 audited members (at the 2013 count), and most of them are likely to leave Cosatu, taking their subscription fees and the Numsa Investment Company with them.

Numsa gets its way and stays

Numsa’s current court action will give it some leverage in the fight against its congress.

The call for the special conference came out of protests against Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi’s expulsion, and could see Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini ousted.

ANC leaders fear this would split the union down the middle.

Even if Numsa didn’t have a strong case in court, labour federation leaders are wary of resolving differences this way.

Dlamini, in an earlier interview with City Press, said Cosatu had spent a great deal of money on court cases that had nothing to do with furthering workers’ interests.

Food and Allied Workers Union general secretary Katishi Masemola said it was within Numsa’s rights to call a special congress but it didn’t support Numsa’s call for Cosatu to break away from the ANC.

If allowed to stay, Numsa would launch a fierce contest for leadership in the labour federation’s regular congress in September.


A hopeful but unlikely scenario is that affiliates find a way to reconcile.

At Friday’s meeting, Cosatu’s central executive committee will continue discussing the ANC task team’s report on the labour federation’s squabbles, according to Dlamini.

The ANC will not be attending.

“They presented their report with the agreement that if we want them to come, they will come,” Dlamini said.

Other issues include the status of Cosatu’s second deputy president Zingiswa Losi, who was suspended from Numsa; the disciplinary charges against Vavi; and the investigations by auditing firm Sizwe Ntsaluba Gobodo into irregularities in the purchase of Cosatu’s new building and the selling of the old one.

The report implicates Vavi in wrongdoing.

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