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Numsa, Cosatu war of words set to continue

Metalworker's union Numsa was expelled from the trade union federation Cosatu this weekend.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa)'s president Andrew Chirwa at a press conference in Newtown Johannesburg on 9 November 2014 following the union's expulsion from trade union federation Cosatu. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The war of words between leaders of National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and their counterparts at the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) looks set to continue despite the metalworker's union being expelled this week.

Numsa says Cosatu's national office bearers have no respect for the trade union federation's constitution and will destroy it to protect the ANC and SACP's interests at all costs.

Numsa today announced that its central committee would be discussing a court challenge to its expulsion as the union believes it has been treated unfairly and due process was not followed.

The move by the African National Congress-aligned labour federation may stir worker unrest and hurt the coalition that has ruled since apartheid ended in 1994.

Numsa was expelled by a vote of 33 against 24 at a special central executive committee meeting this weekend and says it will now meet with its leaders to decide if it should challenge this in court.

The expulsion follows two years of debilitating factional battles in the federation over the recruitment of each other's members and Numsa's withdrawal of support for the ANC.

Numsa, previously the biggest member of Cosatu which is seen as a powerful vote-winning machine which also makes significant financial contributions for elections, has regularly criticised President Jacob Zuma's administration.

Deputy general secretary Karl Cloete says Cosatu president S'dumo Dlamini is the most divisive leader in the federation and is responsible for its downfall.

"We think that there is just no respect for Cosatu's constitution. It is lawlessness that governs. Its own president should have been booted out a long time ago, before Numsa, because he has no ability to unite the affiliates in that federation."

NUM HOPEFUL OF NUMSA'S RETURN TO COSATU

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) says it is still hopeful Numsa will change its resolutions and apologise so it can return to Cosatu but the union has rejected this saying it will consider staying if Cosatu is still worth fighting for.

Numsa was expelled by a vote of 33 against 24 at a special central executive committee meeting this weekend and says it will now meet with its leaders to decide if it should challenge this in court.

The expulsion follows two years of debilitating factional battles in the federation over the recruitment of each other's members and Numsa's withdrawl of support for the ANC.

NUM general secretary Frans Baleni says, "But we still believe, and hope that civility will prevail, that they can put issues to rest and apologise to the federation for them to be back in the fold."

'NUMSA WORKERS NOT AFFECTED BY BOARDROOM POLITICS'

Numsa says it has instructed its members to continue attending the Congress of South African Trade Union (Cosatu)'s shop steward council meetings across the country as workers there are not affected by boardroom politics.

Addressing journalists in Johannesburg this afternoon Numsa's general secretary Irvin Jim said if shop stewards in lower Cosatu structures want Numsa out they should indicate this at the council meetings.

Jim says he believes his union still retains overwhelming support among workers on the ground and it will continue to serve its members and called on workers to remain united.

He says Cosatu has been hijacked by corrupt leaders who are serving their own political interests.

Jim says Numsa will continue to fight for a politically independent federation.

" Cosatu has become consumed by internal battles between two forces; those who continue to support the ANC and SACP with their neo liberal agenda and those who despite their understanding of the ANC is a multiclass organisation, consciously and consistently fight for an independent, militant federation."

'CORRUPT, SELF SERVING LEADERS'

Earlier today Jim said the expulsion of the trade union from Cosatu, is the result of corrupt leaders who are serving their own interests instead of the interests of the working class.

But he says the expulsion was not constitutiona l and the organisation will challenge it in court.

"Cosatu's decision to expel Numsa was a well-coordinated reactionary attack on the organisation of workers, an attack on Cosatu and an attack on the poor."

The General Secretary says the real reason for Numsa's expulsion is a result of leaders serving their own political interests.

"We have to give them credit for is that they managed to achieve what the apartheid government failed to do, which was to destroy the federation which has been a boat, shield and spear in the hands of workers and the consciousness of the nation."

On Saturday Numsa said no amount of logical argument could convince affiliates not to expel it from Cosatu.

Jim argued that despite a lengthy presentation based on logic and facts, the metalworkers union's rival faction in Cosatu succeeded in booting out Numsa.

He said while worker unity has been dealt a blow it should mark the start of a new revolution.

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