950 National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa General Secretary Irvin Jim speaks to the media outside during the last day of his union's Simposium held at Kopanong Conference Center in Benoni, Ekurhuleni. 100814 Picture: Boxer Ngwenya

Johannesburg - The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) is prepared to tell its members “to defend themselves” if the police do not properly investigate the murder of three of its shop stewards last week.

The three, Njabulo Dube, Sibonele “John-John” Ntuli and Ntobeko Maphumulo, were shot in KwaZulu-Natal, where Numsa leaders said they were central to its launch of a Movement for Socialism.

This is widely perceived as the vehicle which the union will use to launch a political party.

While the party may only be launched next year, it is clear Numsa leaders plan for it to challenge the the ANC during the municipal elections, scheduled for 2016.

At the weekend the union took the next step towards the launch of the party by convening an international symposium of political parties on the left.

The symposium brought together trade unionists, activists and political strategists from Bolivia, Uruguay, India, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Egypt, among other countries.

From South Africa, participants included the Democratic Left Front (DLF), the Pan Africanist Movement and the ANC Veterans League - but Cosatu national office bearers avoided the event.

Meanwhile, Numsa may have to fight for its place in the trade union federation (Cosatu) on Tuesday when a special central executive committee meeting is convened, with a report back from the ANC on its mediation efforts on the agenda.

This comes on the back of the ruling party’s last-ditch efforts to prevent Numsa from mobilising voters against voting for the ANC before the May 7 elections.

At that time, the ANC deployed its deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, and its deputy general secretary, Jessie Duarte, to facilitate a ceasefire between warring Cosatu factions - but that did not last long.

And while Numsa has had its hands full with the month-long strike in the metal industry - which continues in some provinces - deputy general secretary Karl Cloete has said the union is still waiting to meet Ramaphosa and Duarte.

However, Duarte in particular, appears to have earned the ire of Numsa through comments she made at the National Union of Mineworkers’ central committee meeting in July, when she referred to the union as scaring off ANC funders.

But on Monday, the Numsa national executive would meet in Joburg to discuss the killing of Dube, Ntuli, and Maphumulo, Cloete said.

In a long-ranging interview, Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said former Numsa president Cedric Gina’s Metal and Allied Workers Union of SA (Mawusa) was behind the killings.

“Jomo (Khoza) must be investigated. When last did police meet with him?” he said, referring to Mawusa’s new general secretary.

Khoza, meanwhile, contends that the three were part of the “core forming Mawusa” - a claim rejected outright by many at this weekend’s symposium.

As the second anniversary of the Marikana tragedy looms this weekend, it will be interesting to see if tension continues to mount this week, or if the ANC’s ceasefire will hold.

Political Bureau