Johannesburg - The brains behind the Metal and Allied Workers Union of SA (Mawusa), Cedric Gina, says the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) is no longer a democratic union that allows dissenting views.
Gina, who suddenly resigned from Numsa on the eve of its special national congress last year, has a new slogan: “Numsa Ayisafani!” – meaning Numsa is no longer the union it was.
In an interview, Gina cited several reasons why he felt that Numsa, which claims to have 380 000 members, had fundamentally changed course.
He said the turning point in Numsa’s trajectory stemmed from the ANC’s policy conference in June 2012 over debates on adopting a policy of whole-scale nationalisation.
The conference was also a turning point for the party’s youth league which also fought hard for nationalisation.
On the other hand, Gina’s turning point, leading to his decision to reject Numsa, were its “plans to form a political party”.
He said Numsa’s national policy conference, convened before last December’s special congress, did not reflect the “views of the workers on the ground”.
A contentious issue was on the union’s resolution around the formation of a political party.
He claims that senior Numsa leaders went so far as almost coming to blows around the wording of this critical resolution.
“The regions (provincial structures of Numsa) had different positions. They were ready to debate. But it was a waste of time. The regions should have been allowed to debate,” he said.
Gina also bemoaned the decision to hold the special national congress, given Numsa’s previous national congress in 2012, which he claimed cost up to R30 million.
This would definitely be an extraordinary cost.
That congress held in Durban, Gina said “resolved to stay in the (tripartite) alliance, stay in Cosatu and support” ANC president Jacob Zuma.
It was held in the run-up to the ANC’s national conference in Mangaung, at which Zuma faced a challenge to his decision to run for a second term as party president.
“(Irvin) Jim (Numsa’s general secretary) believes that nationalisation was adopted at the ANC policy conference. After that his attitude towards the ANC changed,” Gina told Independent Media.
“But we’ve got existing resolutions from the Durban conference. What is it that we can’t discuss at meetings that requires a congress. What was the immediate intention of a special congress?”
He says his decision to resign at the special national congress held in Boksburg was because attendees would not “have an opportunity” to debate controversial decisions which had already been taken by the leadership.
“There was a powerful faction (making decisions). My hope was workers would notice in the congress,” he said of his resignation.
This “faction” included members of the Workers and Socialist Party, among others, he said.
“As a union we drifted from worker issues to politics. I’m not for a union that steers clear of politics, but our bias was 80 percent politics and 20 percent core issues every time we had meetings.”
These days Gina is throwing his energy into the success of splinter-union, Mawusa, which will seemingly focus on mobilising young metalworkers.
The union hoped to get its certification from the Department of Labour last week, and it would fight for Cosatu affiliation to give it the office space, money and political backing a new outfit would need.
“Cosatu is a federation with history. It is facing challenges but these will be resolved,” he said.
Today’s central executive meeting at its Braamfontein headquarters may lead to some answers about which faction will emerge victorious – or the sometimes vicious battle may continue until next year.
Numsa’s Movement for Socialism plans to challenge the ANC during the 2016 municipal elections.