Numsa will head to ConCourt over interdicted congress if need be, Chirwa vows

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National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa members demonstrating in Johannesburg.
National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa members demonstrating in Johannesburg.
Sharon Seretlo/Gallo Images via Getty Images
  • National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa president Andrew Chirwa said the union would spare no effort to defend its national congress.
  • Chirwa claimed some union officials, previously suspended, convinced ordinary members to boycott the conference as a way of collapsing the gathering.
  • The union plans to file a direct application to the Labour Appeals Court to have the validity of the interdicted congress affirmed.
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Newly re-elected National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) president Andrew Chirwa has said the union's leadership plans to defend the outcomes of its interdicted national congress, even if it means approaching the Constitutional Court.

The union continued with its national congress at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) on Thursday, even as the Labour Court denied it leave to appeal an interdict that prevented the event from kicking off until the union complied with its own constitution.

Sources have told Fin24 that formerly suspended officials of Numsa, who successfully appealed their suspension at the Labour Court last week, are considering a contempt of court application against the union because it pressed on with the congress which now remains interdicted.

READ | Numsa's lawyers say special meeting will solve issues, allow congress to go ahead

Chirwa was re-elected unopposed as Numsa president at the congress on Wednesday evening. Chirwa told reporters on the sidelines of the congress on Thursday afternoon that he believed certain individuals had been deliberately inciting hostility towards the gathering among the membership.

"On the verge of the conference, the judge decides that the conference cannot continue. He did not leave it at that. He also said for Numsa to proceed, it must comply with certain non-compliance with its constitution. That caused us a delay, there's no doubt. After the central committee meeting on Tuesday, we made an effort to remedy all the issues mentioned in the order," said Chirwa.

While the formerly suspended officials said their suspension was not procedural, Chirwa said that the infighting was about more than just grievances regarding standard procedure at the union. 

"There has been a coordinated attack against the union. There have been forces externally working with some of our comrades internally to exploit our differences. There is no organisation that has no differences. We are a big organisation," Chirwa said.

"[W]e have noticed that there are those forces that hated Numsa for a very long time because of its politics and militancy that have found something amongst us to exploit to implode Numsa, to divide Numsa," Chirwa added.

He shrugged off the Labour Court's denial of the union's application for leave to appeal, saying that Moshoana was the judge who interdicted the congress in the first place. He said the union would send an application directly to the Labour Appeals Court for a hearing.

READ | Chaos looms as Numsa delegates arrive for interdicted congress

Chirwa said the union would have to address the conduct of officials who "sabotaged" the congress internally.

"This is a tactic to ensure that they invalidate this congress. We are in a war. But we are clear that these are not comrades. The enemy is in the house and once we realise that there is a snake in the house, we must crush it," he said.

"What we can tell you for sure is that we will defend the decisions of this congress. We will defend the legal status and standing of this congress with all our might. If necessary we will get to the Constitutional Court against this judgement," he added.

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