Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim File picture: Steve Lawrence

Johannesburg - Cosatu’s largest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), is refusing to be dictated to on what programmes it may follow as part of attempts to unify the federation.

The union has sent a five-page response to Cosatu, in which it instead explains what it believes are the root causes of the crisis in South Africa’s largest union federation.

Last week, Cosatu’s central executive committee (CEC), which comprises Numsa and Cosatu’s 18 other affiliates, resolved to “militate hostilities” while the ANC attempts to draw up a peace deal for the federation.

Unions were given until Monday to get buy-in from their structures, otherwise face sanction from Cosatu.

Numsa held a national executive committee meeting over the weekend to discuss the CEC resolution, which instructs all unions to cease divisive programmes for another month.

These include that Numsa may not pursue resolutions adopted by its members at a special national congress in December to form a broad-based civil movement and look at forming a workers’ party, nor poach members from other Cosatu unions to grow its base. The union and seven other affiliates 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.

A Numsa leader said on Wednesday that the only way the union would be able to overturn its resolutions was by holding another national congress, as this was the most senior decision-making body. The next congress was only scheduled for 2016.

He said Numsa was open to engagement, but it believed there were other reasons for disunity in Cosatu. “We gave them a very principled response and we pointed out what is responsible for the crisis in Cosatu, and the unconstitutional trajectory that is running throughout the federation,” he told Independent Newspapers.

According to the letter, seen by Independent Newspapers, these include the unconstitutional suspension of Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi as well as the federation’s president, S’dumo Dlamini, dragging his feet on holding a special national congress despite a third of the affiliates making such a request.

“The Numsa NEC was of the view that Cosatu is in danger of permanently suspending its own constitution if it continues on this trajectory of the last two years where the CEC has acted outside the constitution, which does not generate confidence in its ability to resolve the crisis,” the letter reads.

The document also points to alleged efforts by some in Cosatu as well as former Numsa members to create an alternative union to Numsa as reasons for disunity.

Cosatu, which has refused to discuss the letter, has now been put on the spot.

Vavi, whose suspension from Cosatu was lifted thanks to court action from the metalworkers and other unions, was adamant last week that action would be taken against unions which did not toe the line.

Ultimately the CEC could suspend Numsa for not playing ball.

However, it is unlikely to happen while the ANC attempts to unify Cosatu.

Also up until now, Cosatu has not followed through on threats to expel its rebel affiliate because it did not support the ANC during the elections.

The Star