By Amy Musgrave
One of South Africa’s biggest trade unions wants President Jacob Zuma to go and is preparing itself for life outside Cosatu.
The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), in a draft secretariat report prepared for the its central committee, which meets next month, says the ANC is part of the problem in Cosatu because of its anti-worker policies. It reiterates its call for Zuma to resign.
Numsa will approach former cabinet ministers and others who have fallen out with the ruling party for advice on the way forward.
They include Jay Naidoo, Ben Turok, Ronnie Kasrils, Moeletsi Mbeki, Pallo Jordan and Baba Makalima.
Kasrils, a former intelligence minister, made headlines this week with the launch of a campaign calling for voters not to back the ANC or the DA. Numsa has accepted that it is likely to be expelled from Cosatu and work around investigating the formation of a workers’ party will now begin in earnest.
In a draft secretariat report, the union says there is little chance of Cosatu changing its mind on suspending its general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi again, nor adopting a militant programme which will see it alienating itself from the ANC.
The report puts Vavi in a corner.
His position in Cosatu will be greatly weakened without Numsa.
But if he is to toe the Cosatu line, he may have to publicly rebuke his staunchest ally. It also means that the ANC’s attempts at mediating peace in Cosatu will be short-lived.
“It is important for the Numsa central committee, including the nine unions who are working with us, to be categorical. The door of the stable is open and the horses have bolted. We can’t tamper with the formation of a movement for socialism. Workers and their trade unions like Numsa, which remains a trade union while being a catalyst for a movement for socialism, need a working-class party.
“This cannot be postponed any longer,” the document says.
Numsa is facing suspension and ultimate expulsion from Cosatu for its decision not to support the ANC in the elections.
But any action against Cosatu’s largest affiliate is on hold while the ANC’s mediation attempts continue until just after the May 7 elections.
A split in Cosatu could adversely affect the party’s performance at next month’s election.
In the 29-page draft document seen by The Sunday Independent, the Numsa secretariat says the only reason the union has not yet been suspended or expelled from Cosatu, is to protect the federation’s second deputy president, Zingiswa Losi.
Numsa and some other affiliates believe Losi should no longer be a Cosatu national office bearer because she recently resigned as a Numsa shop steward.
She then joined the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru), even though she had never worked in the police or prisons sectors.
She was then appointed, not elected, as a Popcru shop steward, in order to help her hang on to the lucrative post of Cosatu second deputy president.
“We shall challenge it as it violates the Cosatu constitution. It is clear that Zingiswa Losi no longer has the support of the constituency which elected her as a shop steward. She no longer qualifies to be a Cosatu (national office bearer),” the report reads.
“We must ask the question – what is behind this desperation on the part of the Cosatu (national office bearers) and their allies? It is very clear that the decision to suspend or to dismiss Numsa has been taken. But they have realised very late that one of the implications of suspending or expelling Numsa is that they would also be suspending or expelling Zingiswa Losi. So this whole poor, shady arrangement is just to protect their friend and ally.”
The central committee meeting will be the first since Numsa adopted its resolutions in December, which have put it on a collision course with the Cosatu top brass as well as the ANC and the SACP.
At that meeting Numsa decided to form a united front to co-ordinate struggles in the workplace and in communities. It also gave the go-ahead for the union to explore establishing a movement for socialism to contest future elections as a workers’ party.
Numsa and eight Cosatu affiliates want to go to court to force Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini to hold a special national congress as instructed by the federation’s constitution if a third of the unions make the request.
Dlamini was meant to give an update on what he had decided at Cosatu’s central executive committee meeting earlier this month, but this did not happen because the meeting agreed to the ANC’s mediation. The nine affiliates believe the congress is the only way to unify Cosatu.
According to the document, Numsa has been advised by its lawyers only to go to court once Dlamini has made his decision known.
“We are agreed that the cessation of hostilities cannot mean the suspension of the provisions in the Cosatu constitution and thereby putting us in a cage. We have since taken our concern of losing urgency in the court with respect to an interdict compelling Cosatu to convene the special national congress to our attorneys.
“Senior counsel raised the fact that while they can go ahead with an urgent application, they are worried that we have not been in a position to receive the Cosatu president’s report about the special national congress which couldn’t be tabled as a result of the intervention made by the ANC,” it says.
The report says Numsa will do everything it can to challenge Cosatu’s decision to remove it from the federation.
“We think that we have a chance, with the support of the courts, to force the Cosatu leadership faction to comply with the constitution.
“We may still get a Cosatu special congress before they have managed to dismiss or suspend us.”
However, if the courts do not come to Numsa’s rescue, it says the union may be left with no other option but to convene a workers’ summit.
“This will prepare the ground across all affiliates to convene the special national congress that Cosatu leadership is refusing to convene.”
The report suggests putting a team together to form a commission comprising “Numsa left political friends, left thinkers and organic intellectuals of the working class”.
They will champion the official launch of the united front later this year.
Contacted for a response, Dlamini said Numsa’s suspension was still on the agenda of the CEC.
“It is quite telling what their intentions are. The general secretary is now back and they seem quite edgy to leave,” he said.
Dlamini said the next CEC meeting would only take place after the elections.