Numsa leadership cutting corners to run congress against court order, suspended officials claim

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Numsa secretary-general Irvin Jim.
Numsa secretary-general Irvin Jim.
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  • A group of suspended National Union of Metalworkers officials accused the union of cutting corners to hold their interdicted national congress in Cape Town.
  • Numsa held a special central committee meeting on Tuesday, which it said would rectify the congress inconsistencies raised by the Labour Court.
  • While a small number of Numsa members were seen at the Cape Town ICC in their regalia on Tuesday morning, the congress did not officially commence.  
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A group of suspended National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) officials have, in an internal memo, accused the national leadership of trying to find a shortcut to continuing with its national congress in Cape Town, which was interdicted by the Labour Court.

The Labour Court in Johannesburg ruled on Saturday that the congress could not take place until concerns regarding the suspension of 31 Numsa officials were addressed. The suspended officials went to the Labour Court to challenge their suspension from the union and the court found their suspension "unconstitutional, invalid, and unenforceable in law".

Among the suspended officials is Numsa's second deputy president and South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) president Ruth Ntlokotse. She says her suspension blocked her from running for the position of Numsa president at the congress.

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

Lawyers of the suspended officials on Monday urged the union not to go ahead with the event, as they would be in contempt of court if they did so. Numsa's lawyers responded that the union leadership would hold a special central committee meeting to address the concerns raised by the Labour Court in its order so that it could proceed with the congress on Tuesday.

But in their memo, the suspended officials point out that Numsa's Mpumalanga region remains under administration, which the court had ruled contravened its constitution. It also notes that Mpumalanga needs to have gone to a regional elective congress with its February membership figures.

Numsa secretary-general Irvin Jim told reporters earlier this month that Mpumalanga would not be able to attend the conference.

The memo from suspended officials further claims Numsa's national leadership is attempting to cherry-pick who is invited to the congress, adding that there can be "no shortcut". 

It wants all delegates in attendance to be verified, subscription-paying members, with six months' notice being given before convening the national congress again. 

READ | Numsa suspensions 'unconstitutional and invalid', conference interdicted - Labour Court

Fin24 saw small groups in Numsa regalia gather at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Tuesday morning, with some entering the hall where the union's national congress was scheduled to take place.

According to a statement on Monday night, Numsa mulled a special central committee meeting to be scheduled on Tuesday. But this too was threatened with legal action by the dissident group of Numsa members who brought the original interdict.

A source present at the gathering in Cape Town told Fin24 that the credentials committee started sitting after 15:00 on Tuesday. 

The media accreditation centre remained locked on Tuesday morning. After reporters gathered to wait for their media accreditation, they were later told that the media would not be accredited on Tuesday. The union called security to distance reporters from the hall where the congress had been scheduled to take place and removed them from the CTICC building altogether.

A phalanx of security guards from two private companies lines the entrance to the cavernous hall 2 where tables, chairs and bottles of water had initially been set out in preparation for some 2 000 delegates. 

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