Numsa special congress underway

The union is electing a new leader and deciding on its affiliation with Cosatu and the ANC.

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

JOHANNESBURG - The special congress of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has started with members set to discuss their alliance with the African National Congress (ANC) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).

The congress was postponed by a week due to the 10 days of mourning for Nelson Mandela, who was buried in Qunu on Sunday.

Numsa's second vice president, Christine Olivier, says this congress is very important as it must come up with solutions to guide the organisation.

She says the special congress was decided to go ahead because of challenges paralysing Cosatu and tripartite alliance, meaning that serious discussions need to take place about whether or not Numsa will back the ANC in the upcoming elections.

Cosatu leaders are not present today, apparently because they didn't confirm whether they'd be attending the gathering.

The metalworker's union says Cosatu's president, Sidumo Dlamini, has not yet confirmed his attendance.

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim says the fact that Dlamini and other Cosatu members will not be at the congress will only cause further tensions.

"There's no confirmation and even if they come, there's no registration that's been done for them. It's strange, but we are not surprised. The key leadership of Cosatu, the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the African National Congress (ANC) have been on a conscious stance to bash Numsa."

He says it is strange that Dlamini has snubbed the congress, but they are not surprised.

"All the alliance components have been invited and last week it became clear that Cosatu were not going to confirm so we cut them out of the congress. Up to now there's been no confirmation that Sidumo Dlamini is coming."


Numsa says it is under attack from its alliance partners.

However, the South African Communist Party (SACP) is against the special congress.

Jim told 702/567 Breakfast Show that the SACP was invited to the congress, but it chose not to come.

"They have taken a position that Numsa leadership is nothing else, but a click that must be smashed. That's the choice that they've made"

Jim says believes Cosatu is losing its independence.

"I think Cosatu is a very important tool in the hands of workers. Cosatu must continue to be a shield. Cosatu must continue to be a spear. Cosatu must continue to be the voice of the voiceless workers. But today we think that Cosatu is being turned into a toy telephone for the ANC."

In addition, Numsa is demanding the ANC abandon the National Development Plan (NDP).

The union will also have to appoint a new president after Cedric Gina resigned last month.