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Johannesburg - Cosatu’s largest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), has had its wings clipped while the federation, assisted by the ANC, attempts to find unity.
Following a top-level Cosatu meeting this week, Numsa’s national office bearers have agreed for now not to pursue action which will further “militate hostilities”.
Although all of Cosatu’s 19 affiliates resolved at the central executive committee (CEC) meeting to hold fire for another month, Numsa is the most affected.
Its leaders have agreed to not pursue resolutions adopted by its members to form a broad-based civil movement and look at forming a workers’ party, or poach members from other Cosatu unions to grow its base.
The union and seven other affiliates have also agreed not to continue with court action to force Cosatu to hold a special national congress, which would see the federation electing new leaders.
“Numsa has a special list of resolutions, which they have to implement… but they contradict Cosatu’s resolution. They have been given time to speak to their structures,” Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini said on Thursday.
General secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said unions had until Monday to get buy-in from their members to cease hostilities to give the ANC more time to broker a peace deal.
“A failure to get this commitment… should lead to the calling for the special CEC (central executive committee)…”
Whether Numsa’s national executive committee (NEC) agrees to toe the line is another question, however.
The NEC is meeting on Sunday to discuss the matter.
“We are having an NEC this weekend where the national office bearers are expected to report back on the outcome of the Cosatu CEC. They will decide how to respond,” Numsa spokesman Castro Ngobese said on Thursday.
Pressure on Numsa to conform will be turned up with a separate meeting between it and fellow affiliate, the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu), the week after next. Vavi said that meeting would address poaching at Ngqura port near Port Elizabeth.
While Cosatu’s principle is to have one union in one industry, Numsa has been actively recruiting members from Satawu and the National Union of Mineworkers.
“Poaching will go against the spirit of the ceasefire. In some instances we want a commitment in writing,” Vavi said.
Numsa is currently facing expulsion from Cosatu for not supporting the ANC in the elections. The suspension was meant to be discussed at the three-day CEC pow-wow, but it was postponed as part of peace efforts.
The meeting agreed that an ANC task team, led by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, should formulate a package of suggestions which would include “addressing governance issues such as disciplinary processes under way or in the future as well as the call for a special national congress”.
Vavi was meant to face a disciplinary hearing earlier this week, but it was also postponed.
On the congress, he said there was no common view that it would help cement unity in Cosatu. Nearly half of the federation’s unions have called for the congress.
Dlamini was insistent that if Cosatu’s CEC did not agree with the ANC’s proposals, they would not be forced on its affiliates. “We will go back and throttle each other… if we are not happy,” he said.