Numsa fears Irvin Jim is next target

The union, which strongly supports Vavi, says political forces may try to push their leader out too.

FILE: Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim speaks to reporters after a meeting of the trade union's central committee in Johannesburg, Thursday, 18 August 2011. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

BRAAMFONTEIN - The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) believes the decision to suspend Congress of South African Trade Unions' (Cosatu) General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi is part of a wider political conspiracy.

Numsa members also fear their General Secretary, Irvin Jim, is the next target.

Vavi was put on special leave by the federation's Central Executive Committee on Wednesday after admitting to having sex with a junior employee at their headquarters.

Jim says Vavi was suspended against a backdrop of a wider political agenda.

He says there are efforts by forces within Cosatu itself to reduce it to a toothless organisation.

He slammed leaders within Cosatu, the South African Communist Party and the African National Congress for trying to divide the federation.

Jim says certain affiliated union leaders were kept in the dark about the meeting in which Vavi was suspended, while others knew exactly why the gathering was called.

Numsa is worried about the current leadership of the union under President Sdumo Dlamini.

Numsa members want Vavi back in his position and Jim says they will work hard to achieve this.

He says members are up in arms and might have to call a special congress to redefine how to align itself.

Numsa is now consulting its lawyers to determine the best way to challenge the decision.

Cosatu says its decision to place Vavi on special leave will not affect its fight for better wages.

"The recent events surrounding the General Secretary will in no way affect the campaigning work which Cosatu is doing and will certainly not mean any change in policy," said Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven on Friday.

Vavi, who has been General Secretary for nearly 13 years, was also accused of hiring the woman through improper procedures.

Though she initially accused him of raping her, she soon withdrew the charge at an internal hearing at Cosatu House.

On Thursday, Cosatu announced that Vavi and the staff member would go through a disciplinary process and be given the opportunity to make their cases.

Numsa's stance is echoed by the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu), who have called for a special congress to allow workers the opportunity to decide on Vavi's future.

Fawu also questioned the legitimacy of the meeting during which Vavi was suspended.

Earlier this week, the union's Katishi Masemola said it was unclear if the meeting was arranged by Cosatu's national office bearers or by its affiliates.

Masemola said his union would attempt to nullify the entire process and added the union's senior leadership would meet on Sunday to discuss a way forward.

Meanwhile, Cosatu's president has maintained the meeting was constitutionally convened.

He also hasn't given a date for when the disciplinary process would start, but emphasised that everyone involved must be treated equally.