Johannesburg - The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), at the forefront of trying to establish a leftist movement, is showing strain while the battle for its heart is being waged.
Some within the union and SACP are now accusing Numsa of paying for the affiliation fees of other affiliates of Cosatu, as part of its strategy to gain support for resolutions which pit it against the federation.
However, Numsa deputy general secretary Karl Cloete lashed out at these detractors on Wednesday, saying it was a long standing practice among Cosatu affiliates to help others financially.
“We are not doing this to buy people. We have a resolution if things don’t work in Cosatu, we are moving on. This is in the spirit of unity,” he said.
In March, SACP deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin made public that Numsa was paying the affiliation fees of some of its allies, saying the only thing keeping this bloc together was money and a mission to save Zwelinzima Vavi, who was suspended at the time.
Now a group, whose leader includes Sifiso Maphumulo, a Numsa member and former shop steward at Toyota in KwaZulu-Natal, is demanding to know what the union is doing with its money.
“Cosatu has seen affiliates who were battling to pay their affiliation fees becoming part of letter writers to Cosatu calling for the Special National Congress. Can it be true that Numsa resources were used to help those affiliates to be up to date to join the ‘fight’ against Cosatu,” a letter to Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim reads.
Independent Newspapers has seen proof of deals where Numsa has agreed to assist other affiliates financially, but Cloete insists the motives are not underhanded.
“We are helping everyone out. And the ANC and SACP have been serious beneficiaries too,” he said.
Cloete said many of the deals had been made while former Numsa president Cedric Gina, who has been linked to the detractors, was heading the union. They included Numsa lending the Food and Allied Workers Union R1 million, as did the SA Clothing and Textile Workers Union, during violent protests on farms in the Western Cape to organise workers.
Numsa also loaned the SA State and Allied Workers Union R40 000 for its congress and accommodation.
Last year, it lent the Communication Workers Union R110 000 to help it be in good standing within Cosatu.
It also helped the SA Football Players Union with R60 000, which has since been paid back.
Cloete said it took a long time to convince eight of Cosatu’s other affiliates to join the call for a special national congress.
“The breakthrough came when Vavi was suspended in August (last year). It took months… why would we not just have paid them?”