More than 20 suspended National Union of Metal Workers of SA (Numsa) members said they want Numsa leaders such as Irvin Jim and Andrew Chirwa to renounce their leadership positions and be thrown into prison for being in contempt of court.
A few days ago, Numsa held its National Elective Congress (NEC) in Cape Town, where Jim and Chirwa were re-elected to their positions. The congress was held despite a court interdict prohibiting the congress from proceeding. The Labour Court in Johannesburg had also lifted the suspension of a number of Numsa leaders, including the chairperson of the Mpumalanga region and Numsa’s second deputy president Ruth Ntlokotse.
On Monday, Ntlokotse and her supporters charged Numsa leaders with contempt of court for failing to respect the Labor Court’s decision.
The group of suspended leaders claimed that they were suspended as part of a plan to stop them from going to congress. They also claimed that they were being victimised for speaking out about corruption in the union.
“We are praying for the decisions taken by the congress from the first day up until the last day because we are of the view that the congress took place under the pretext of an interdict,” Ntlokotse said.
Ntlokotse told The Star that the national leaders of the union had wasted money that belonged to workers. She said efforts could have been made to save the union R39m that was spent on the two-day congress.
“The court cannot allow the delinquents to undermine the constitution of the country. We are saying that there must be prosecution 30 days minimum,” Ntlokotse said.
The Star understands that the group of suspended leaders also want the court to hold Numsa leadership responsible should they embark on illegal processes in the future.
“We are saying that within a period of a year, if they repeat a similar offence until such time we go to congress, they should not commit a similar offence,” Ntlokotse said.
Ntlokotse said despite accusations that she was breaking down the union by challenging some of the union’s decisions in court, she had no choice but to fight for what was correct.
“We are of the view that the congress was a wastage of worker subscriptions. How can leaders just spend workers' money like that? We are not going to keep quiet when wrong things happen,” Ntlokotse said.
The infighting among Numsa leaders takes place as bargaining season is underway with key negotiations in the auto and motor sectors. Ntlokotse said the battles in the union could affect wage talks in these sectors.
“The constitution of the union is a cornerstone which should be followed to the latter. These court battles are happening at a very critical time, and it is unfortunate,” Ntlokotse said.
Meanwhile, Numsa said it would appeal the Labour Court’s decision to deny the union leave to appeal the courts earlier decision. The union was expected to approach the Labor Appeals Court. The matter was expected to be heard on Friday.