'NUM's new leaders a turning point for Numsa return'

Patrick Craven says if all Cosatu affiliates held congresses there would be support for Numsa and Vavi.

FILE: A small group of Cosatu members singing and dancing outside the Cosatu House in Johannesburg's CBD. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - As eight Congress South African Trade Union (Cosatu) unions welcome the election of a new general secretary and deputy at the National Union Mineworkers (NUM), the development has been described as a turning point for the bid by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) to return to the fold.

David Sipunzi replaced Frans Baleni at the NUM's elective congress in Boksburg over the weekend.

Sipunzi was elected by a majority of 354 votes against Baleni's 345 votes at the national congress.

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

Sipunzi has questioned Numsa's expulsion and the dismissal of Zwelinzima Vavi.

Cosatu's former spokesperson Patrick Craven has commended the NUM shop stewards for re-asserting worker control.

"All the unions should consult their members in a way that the NUM did rather than just taking decisions in boardrooms so that the final outcome of the dispute should represent what the members think."

He says if all Cosatu affiliates held congresses there would be overwhelming support for the metalworkers union and Vavi.

"I feel sure that the majority of union members across the board agree that Numsa should not have been thrown out and Vavi should be reinstated."

Meanwhile, Baleni 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 the rival Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union.

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 new leadership must focus on membership.

Numsa has now lodged a court application in an attempt to compel Cosatu to reinstate the metalworkers union.

It says it believes Cosatu President Sidumo Dlamini and other officials are deliberately trying to shut it out of the Special National Congress taking place in July.

Numsa says it wants the court to clear the way for its members to attend that congress and also prevent its replacement union, Liberated Metalworkers Union of South Africa (Limusa), from standing in.

In the latest attempt to return to the federation, Numsa along with the support of eight unions still affiliated to the federation, will be going to the South Gauteng High Court on Tuesday.

Secretary General Irvin Jim says Numsa has the right to attend the congress and fight its expulsion.

Jim says only the workers should be able to vote for the union's expulsion and not anyone else.

"We are calling on workers to defeat those who want to split the federation."

Eight affiliates, which include the Communications Workers Union, say they fully support Numsa and also want former secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi to have a chance to appeal his ousting.