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Cape Town - Cosatu is under threat from a “Numsa leadership clique” led by the union’s general secretary, Irvin Jim, says SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande.
He described the outspoken general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) as “a lost cause”.
Nzimande launched his attack on Jim at an SACP “red brigade” volunteer programme launch in Philippi, Cape Town, on Sunday.
The SACP boss, who also denounced the tendency among certain unions to use “dirty money” to divide Cosatu, said Jim was aiding and abetting the cause of the opposition DA.
Nzimande was accompanied by ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, who is also the SACP’s former national chairman.
Both men are allies of President Jacob Zuma, who is under fire from Numsa.
Nzimande was responding to an earlier attack by Jim, who accused him of being the main cause of the souring relations between Numsa, Cosatu and the SACP.
Addressing the Cape Town Press Club last week, Jim said the souring relations between Numsa and the SACP could be traced back to the period after the public sector strike two years ago.
Jim accused Nzimande of leading a smear and vilification campaign against Numsa’s leaders, which saw some SACP leaders calling Jim and others names like “populists” and “demagogues”.
Jim also accused Nzimande and Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini of being behind a plot to orchestrate an internal revolt against the current Numsa leadership.
But Nzimande said: “It’s not even worth responding to him (Jim), frankly. He’s a lost cause, and we think he is actually serving the interests of those who want to divide and weaken the working class. He’s doing very well, just like the DA is trying to do.”
He called on the red brigades to use the election campaign to unite Cosatu.
“That’s very important, because Cosatu is under threat. You know when the offensive against the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) started, we said, as the SACP, that this offensive against NUM is the beginning of the offensive against Cosatu as a whole,” he added to loud applause.
Nzimande was referring to the battle between Numsa and NUM, Cosatu’s two largest affiliates, which has been going on for more than two years.
The campaign saw both unions attacking each other in public after Numsa decided to mobilise support from among NUM supporters.
“We said we must defend NUM in order to defend Cosatu. And today we are being proved right. The offensive now has gone to the point that there is a risk that Cosatu may split today.”
Nzimande described the situation as unfortunate.
He reiterated that unnamed “business unionists” used dirty money to divide the labour federation.
“One of the biggest dangers in the trade union movement today is what we call business unionists. The use of the resources in the hands of the union and its investment funds… I get worried. Where is this money coming from? It is dirty money, I have no doubt about it, which is being used to come and divide the federation,” he said.
Mantashe was more diplomatic when asked about a lasting solution to the feud that threatens to tear Cosatu apart.
“The solution (lies) in them locking themselves in a room and fighting it out until they get a solution.”