Cape Town – A luta continua. The fight continues.
That was the simple message on Sunday from the press conference of the National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa).
What it means is that a special national congress will probably be fought for through the courts.
On Monday the seven Cosatu affiliates that remain in support of Numsa will stage their own press conference where they are likelyl, in line with the Cosatu constitution, to support this call. This will mean that Cosatu’s embattled general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi will then make his stand clear by making a public announcement on either Wednesday or Thursday.
His announcement will almost certainly follow a series of frantic, behind-the-scenes negotiations as it now seems to have dawned on many of the Cosatu leadership, who backed the expulsion of Numsa, that there is a groundswell of support for that union.
It is this that is credited with the peculiar statement by National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) general secretary Frans Baleni, that Numsa needs only to apologise to gain readmission to the federation.
The apology, he said in a radio interview Sunday morning, should relate to Numsa breaching the Cosatu policy of one industry, one union.
However, this policy has been observed in the breach over the nearly three decades of the federation’s existence. Cosatu, for example, houses two separate nursing unions, Denosa and Sadnu, while its large public sector affiliate, Nehawu, also organises nurses.
Numsa has traditionally organised in the mining industry, although mainly in the engineering, welding and smelting sectors. Similar “cross-overs” exist with almost every Cosatu union.
Baleni is fully aware — as are the rest of the executive members — that the only way an expulsion or suspension of an affiliate can, constitutionally, be revoked or ratified is via a national congress of delegates.
In previous years, NUM has had the lion’s share of such delegates, being, before the massacre at Marikana, the biggest union in Cosatu.
NUM is now a shadow of its former self, with many of the defecting members having gone to Numsa and others going to the Nactu-affiliated Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) or falling by the wayside. Numsa’s membership has ballooned from little more than 216 000 a year ago to probably close to 340 000 today.
Other affiliates supporting the majority on the Cosatu executive have also lost members. After the expulsion by the teachers’ union Sadtu of its president, a large section of the Eastern Cape membership in particular, is in rebellion. The major transport union, Satawu, has also suffered a split.