Court to hear arguments on whether to arrest top Numsa duo for contempt of court

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim and president, Andrew Chirwa, are cited as respondents in the matter brought by its estranged second deputy president, Ruth Ntlokose, who was placed on an unlawful suspension that was lifted by the courts.

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim addresses the unions 11th congress in Cape Town on 27 July 2022. Picture: @Numsa_Media/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - As the battle over the control of the country’s largest trade union, Numsa, continues, the Labour Court in Johannesburg will on Friday morning hear arguments on whether to arrest two top leaders for contempt of court.

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim and president, Andrew Chirwa, are cited as respondents in the matter brought by its estranged second deputy president, Ruth Ntlokose, who was placed on an unlawful suspension that was lifted by the courts.

In the affidavit filed to the Labour Court, Ntlokose argues that by continuing to hold the union’s eleventh national congress last week despite a court order barring it from doing so, Numsa and its leaders acted in contempt and must be punished.

Numsa’s application for leave to appeal the interdict order was dismissed and its threats to approach the labour appeal court for direct access have not materialised.

The case will be heard on Friday morning.

Should the contempt of court proceedings go in Ntlokose’s favour, not only could Jim and Chirwa face jail time for 30 days but all decisions taken at the eleventh national congress will be declared null and void.

This means the new leaders who were elected by unopposed nominations will have to relinquish their positions and for the union to start afresh a process towards a congress.

Numsa has already blown nearly R40 million on the gathering, which saw delegates flown into Cape Town for a week.

The congress was interdicted by the court two weeks ago, after Judge Graham Moshoana found that Numsa leaders transgressed the union’s constitution by suspending over 50 shop stewards and unlawfully suspended Ntlokose ahead of the gathering.

The mass "purge", as some view it, was meant to keep out delegates who were expected to contest leadership positions against Jim and his faction in the union.

They had also been calling for financial accountability amid fears that the union’s funds were being misused and that their investment arm had been looted.

Numsa explained last week that it continued with the congress as it had complied with the constitutional transgressions pointed out by Moshoana.

However, when it became glaringly obvious that this was not the case, its leaders rejected the authority of the judiciary, saying they know their constitution better than Judge Moshoana, who they described as having misunderstood and misread their founding document.