BusinessDay

by Khulekani Magubane 23 March 2015

THE National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) will meet eight Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) affiliates to convince them to join its United Front, Numsa leadership said on Saturday.

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim also challenged Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi to part ways with the 30-year-old federation at Saturday’s shop steward council in Katlehong.

Mr Jim told a hall filled with shop stewards that Cosatu had been subjecting its affiliate unions to “purges” and mass dismissals at a leadership level.

Speaking at a shop stewards council in Katlehong at the weekend, Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said Mr Vavi should not continue associating himself with the “crippling” of the working class.

Mr Vavi’s woes began over an investigation into transactions surrounding the purchase and sale of the federation’s Braamfontein headquarters, along with an affair with a junior colleague.

Eight Cosatu unions have expressed support for Mr Vavi since his suspension from Cosatu.
Mr Vavi reportedly told a meeting of the South African Democratic Teachers Union in Port Elizabeth that he would decide on his future in Cosatu this week.

This comes before a key meeting of Cosatu’s top brass set to take place on March 30 and 31, at which the disciplinary processes against Mr Vavi are to be discussed.

“It’s understood Vavi will address a press conference this week,” Mr Jim said. “I don’t know what he will say but I know the more he is prepared to agitate workers, the more the leaders of Cosatu want to deal with him. There is no future for Vavi if it is up to (Cosatu president) Sdumo (Dlamini). Vavi’s future is in serving the working class,” Mr Jim said.

Since its expulsion from Cosatu, Numsa — which was the labour federation’s largest affiliate with 360,000 members — has sought to increase its membership by expanding into other sectors.

The union has spearheaded the United Front, and is researching the launching of a socialist or workers party in time to contest next year’s local government election.

Numsa was also set to meet eight Cosatu affiliates to convince them to join its United Front, the union’s leadership said.

United Front co-ordinator Dinga Sikwebu told Business Day on the sidelines of the shop stewards council that the eight unions had been invited to its national working committee meeting, scheduled for Monday, where they would be asked to join the United Front.

“The first thing we have to do is get our national working committee going. We have invited delegates from the eight unions (in Cosatu) to brief us on the state of the federation and for us to explain the progress of the United Front to them. The delegates have accepted the invitation and will see us in Johannesburg on Monday,” Mr Sikwebu said.

He said the United Front would be launched in June with a rally in Ekurhuleni.

Mr Sikwebu told shop stewards that the United Front’s launch rally had to be as big as the launch of the Economic Freedom Fighters in 2013.

The United Front wanted to unite other unions, as well as grassroots organisations, under its banner, he said.

Representatives of the eight unions could not be reached for comment. Communication Workers Union deputy general secretary Thabo Mogalane said he was not aware that a delegation from the union would attend the United Front meeting but said the union would have to be sensitive when considering its future.

“Firstly, I’m not aware of that meeting. We maintain our stance regarding Numsa. We haven’t discussed the possibility of coming under the United Front as yet but we will have to debate the issue in our constituencies and that would be something that we will have to discuss,” Mr Mogalane said.

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