Karl Cloete Deputy general Secretary of Numsa. Picture: Timothy Bernard.

Johannesburg - The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) has to claim Cosatu back, its deputy general secretary Karl Cloete said on Friday.

“If we fail... we may have no option than to start the formation of a new labour federation in this country,” he told metalworkers at a political school in Kempton Park, east of Johannesburg.

He said if the Congress of SA Trade Unions wanted to expel Numsa the union would fight back.

“We are not staging a walk-out. But if we fail (to claim Cosatu back)... we have no option.”

Cloete said Numsa was working towards a movement of socialism and the trade union was working towards a form and programme which would be launched in March next year.

“There is no party being formed for 2014 contestation... We are rushing nothing.”

He said Numsa had never said it was forming a party. This was a perception given by the media.

Numsa and Cosatu have been at loggerheads since the trade union federation's general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi was suspended for having an affair with a junior employee last year, among other allegations.

The metalworkers union has also accused Cosatu of dragging its feet on holding a national special congress.

Cloete said Numsa could not allow Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini, who he called a “tsotsi”, to destroy the trade union federation.

“Sidumo Dlamini really operates like a tsotsi,” he said.

“Cosatu is in trouble.”

Numsa held its own national special congress in December to discuss its position within Cosatu and whether it should support the African National Congress in this year's elections.

The union had resolved not to support the ruling party and called for President Jacob Zuma to resign following the controversy around the security upgrades to his private home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.

Cloete described the congress as ground-breaking and said some people felt the union had made a “courageous decision”.

“The new liberal trajectory in the ANC runs very deep... essentially it is anti-working class.”

He said Numsa was not an ANC trade union like some other unions in the country.

“We are an independent trade union. We regard ourselves as red, not yellow.”

Cloete said the membership of Numsa was not dependent on the political party that someone supported.

He said Numsa members belonged to every political party “under the sun” in the country.

The union believed in tolerance of debate and there were no holy cows. That is why there had not been a split in Numsa in the last 26 years.

“If we do not understand and appreciate that principle you are likely to trip and fall... (if) you don't understand that metalworkers in this country come from different political schools.”

Cloete said other trade unions had stopped fighting in the interest of their members.

“The situation has become poisonous and dangerous.”

He said many of these unions did not have a “democratic culture”.

“If we do not ensure Numsa remains a democratically controlled union, (we) will follow those rotten unions.” - Sapa