Baleni’s exit from NUM met with mixed reaction

The election of David Sipunzi to replace Frans Baleni has been met with mixed reaction from Cosatu's unions.

Former National Union of Mineworkers' General Secretary Frans Baleni. Picture: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The election of David Sipunzi to replace Frans Baleni as General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has been met with mixed reaction by unions on different sides of the Congress of South Africa Trade Unions (Cosatu)'s divide.

The trade union federation's incumbent leadership has heralded the move as a victory for democracy in the union, while the likes of Zwelinzima Vavi have called it a move to reclaim it.

This is because Baleni was instrumental in the expulsion of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) from Cosatu and the dismissal of Vavi at a meeting of Cosatu's most senior leaders.

Sipunzi has questioned how that decision was arrived at and has voiced support for Numsa.

David Sipunzi addressed NUM delegates at the union's elective congress. He defeated Frans Baleni by 9 votes in an election for a new general secretary. Picture: Govan Whittles/EWN.

Baleni was ousted by NUM members by a difference of only nine votes from the 700 voting delegates.

The narrow margin indicates that the union itself is divided on the issue.

Meanwhile, the NUM's former General Secretary has said he's not disappointed after losing his position at the union's congress.

He said the new leadership now faces the tough task of regaining members from rival the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

The long serving NUM leader's exit follows a decline of around 50,000 members over three years and divisions within Cosatu.

Baleni said the leadership must focus on membership.