Mixed reaction to Numsa’s bold calls

The union called on President Jacob Zuma to resign and for Cosatu to abandon the tripartite alliance.

FILE: Numsa General Secretary Irvin Jim speaks to reporters after a meeting of the trade union’s central committee in Johannesburg, 18 August 2011. Picture: Sapa.

JOHANNESBURG - There's been varied reaction to the decision by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) to withdraw its support for the African National Congress and its call for the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) to withdraw from the tripartite alliance.

Last week, the union held a four-day special congress in Boksburg, where it called for President Jacob Zuma to resign, claiming his decisions to forge ahead with the Employment Incentive Act, e-tolls and the upgrades to his Nkandla homestead could not be tolerated.

Numsa called on Cosatu to break from the alliance with the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP) because the time to look for an alternative had arrived.

General Secretary Irvin Jim said they would lead a new movement to coordinate struggles in the workplace and in communities, in a way similar to the United Democratic Front (UDF) of the 1980s.

Delegates at the congress were told the union would also stop paying contributions to Cosatu, which totalled R800,000 per month, as well as to the SACP.

Jim said the working class was in need of a political organisation committed in theory as well as in practice to socialism.


The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) described Numsa's decisions as "underwhelming", saying the union was showing cowardice.

It accused Numsa of convening the special national congress purely to publicly rebuke the ANC and complain about the SACP.

It also says Numsa's decision to form a new united front makes it clear they are not prepared to be led by Cosatu anymore.

Nehawu's Sizwe Pamla says Numsa is only choosing to remain a member Cosatu simply to allow itself to continue its "rebellious campaign" aimed at destroying the trade union federation from within.

"They've chosen to do so in order to continue with their campaign of anarchy. This will weaken the federation and ultimately destroy it."

Pamla says they expect Cosatu to take "decisive" action against Numsa's leadership.

Nehawu General Secretary Fikile Majola says a trade union that confuses itself with being working class party is bound to commit this kind of political cowardice.


At the other end of the debate, the Democratic Alliance (DA) backed Numsa's calls, saying the tripartite alliance has never made much sense and that Zuma is failing the country.

The party's Mmusi Maimane says, for unions to have a stronger voice, they need to have a party that is for them so that people have more choices.

He says people need to be given a choice as to which policies they are willing to back and not be forced to agree to something because of affiliation from a ruling party.

He also says Zuma's reign as president is failing South Africa and is ruining everything that former presidents of the country fought for.

"It's not a function of just even agreeing with Numsa, it's a function of saying the gains of South Africa made under former presidents are being undone under this current president."