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New NUM general secretary vows to unite union

David Sipunzi says his first priority is to unite the union and get back members who have defected to Amcu.

Newly elected NUM general secretary David Sipunzi at the union's report back mass meeting to members in the Free State. Picture: Supplied by NUM.

JOHANNESBURG - The newly elected general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) says his first priority in his new position is to unite his union and get members who have defected to Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

But David Sipunzi says he can no longer close his ears to calls for National Union of Metalworkers Union (Numsa) and Zwelinzima Vavi's return to the Congress of South African Trade Union (Cosatu).

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

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

He says workers are not happy with how Cosatu is dealing with its divisions.

"The expulsion of Numsa is not a contribution to worker unity, that's my belief. And expulsion of Vavi is not going well with the general membership on the ground level.

"I'm tired of being shouted by members asking when is Vavi coming back. I can no longer close my ears to those calls."

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

This is because Baleni was instrumental in the expulsion of the 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.

Meanwhile, the 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 rival the 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.

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