Numsa, SACP relations sour further with audit call

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Relations between National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), long allied to the SACP, and the junior political partner to the ANC have turned nasty. Numsa yesterday sent out a missive stating that it “currently cannot deny that it has fundamental philosophical, ideological problems with the SACP under [general secretary] Blade Nzimande”.

Numsa’s leaders – including general secretary Irvin Jim and acting president Andrew Chirwa – said that after the national election of 2009, “it did not take us long to realise that it was a grave mistake to bury so many SACP leaders into the nationalist government of the ANC”. Putting Nzimande and his deputy, Jeremy Cronin, in government “made the SACP impotent”.

SACP members in the cabinet were championing privatisation of public roads in Gauteng and rail, such as the Gautrain, they argued.

Numsa leaders welcomed Nzimande’s call for Numsa’s leadership – notably Jim – to undergo lifestyle audits, arguing that if they were to undergo these so should Nzimande. In fact they suggested the SACP leaders and members “can take the lead and assist all of us by doing lifestyle audits every six months”.

They noted that when suspended Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi called for lifestyle audits, Nzimande accused him of being “a populist”. The leaders said they were happy “that Blade has now changed his mind and is in favour of lifestyle audits… however, we recognise this as opportunism”.

Numsa said the audits should extend to all leaders of the tripartite alliance, including the ANC national executive committee and the Congress of SA Students’ leadership. It should also include the SACP, Cosatu, its affiliate unions and the Progressive Business Forum – the business networking lobby of the ANC.

“We will demand that no stone be left untouched, in such audits! There must be no holy cows,” the union said.

One supposes that even in politics what goes around must come around.

Standard of living

South African white people living in the middle living standard measure (LSM) levels – households with a monthly income of between R4 200 and R6 454 – don’t believe that there are people who are worse off than they are, even though no white people fall in the lowest LSM levels with earnings between R1 369 and R3 141 a month.

This, according to an Institute for Justice and Reconciliation researcher Kim Wale was “a bubble perception”, an example of how out of touch this group is with reality.

The institute has produced its SA Reconciliation Barometer, entitled “Confronting Exclusion: Time for radical reconciliation”. It conducted its research among 3 590 respondents nationwide.

Respondents were asked: How would you describe your own living conditions? The respondents were also asked to make comparisons between their living conditions and those of most other South Africans by LSM and race. No white people in the middle LSM group indicated that they were better off.

“This could be because white South Africans are only comparing themselves with other white South Africans, and if this is the case, this figure is correct as there are no white South Africans in the bottom five LSM categories,” Wale said.

Those white people in the middle LSMs believe they are either the same as – 50 percent – or worse off – 46 percent – than the rest of the country.

Wale was asked why this was a problem – it was hardly as if white people were blocking the path of black people on the way to work. It was a problem because there was a link between attitude and action. Thus, the attitudes of white people to circumstance and race filtered through to how they reacted to other race groups.

The report concludes that the majority of white South Africans “allow a system of racial privilege and inequality” to prevail.

Johann Rupert

Johann Rupert seemed a bit irascible at the Remgro annual general meeting (AGM), prompting the thought that it is perhaps time for him to start making a greater commitment to his year-long sabbatical.

When one shareholder asked Rupert, who is the non-executive chairman of Remgro, what was happening about his planned sabbatical, Rupert replied that his father, Anton, had warned him: “Never take a holiday for longer than two weeks, you might get to like it.”

Although hesitant about it, Rupert told Business Report that during the sabbatical he was planning to read a lot, travel and spend time in the creative divisions of the greater Remgro group.

It wasn’t just the government that was on the receiving end of Rupert’s irascibility at the AGM. Lawyers were identified as the main culprits behind the increasingly complicated and dense circulars that were sent out to shareholders outlining details of corporate activity. “I don’t have time to try and figure out what they’re saying, but companies won’t use simple language because their lawyers won’t allow them to.”

He said lawyers insisted everything had to be complicated because if anything went wrong, the complicated language helped ensure they had recourse to someone.

But he said that a result of producing long and complicated documents was that hardly anyone read them anymore. “Enron disclosed everything it was doing in its annual reports and other documents but no-one read them… until eventually a Wall Street journalist read them.”

On the political front, Rupert said it wasn’t just the government that had failed the people, the trade unions that were demanding high minimum wages were also abandoning them. “The trade unions don’t represent the poor and unemployed, neither does the government but now we have a party with [Julius] Malema that does represent those people on the corner of the streets.”

Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Donwald Pressly and Ann Crotty


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