The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) congress had a rocky start as regions were questioning the credentials of other provinces delaying the congress for about 3 hours. Northeast region and PWV (Gauteng) were not happy with the number allocated to them.
After long bickering over credentials, all sides agreed to start the congress started three hours later. Piet Matosa the NUM acting president took to the stage to open the congress. Back to basics theme and members first was the key message. He accepted that they have been unaccountable to workers and saw the consequences of that.
Matosa also thanked the Congress of South African Trade Union (COSATU) for their support during their displacement in the platinum belt and mildly attacked the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) as he mentioned “Cosatu stood firm when there was an internal wrangling that was meant to confuse the workers.” Amid loud cheers when some of the leaders were mentioned, the silence was deafening from the floor when Matosa welcomed the newly formed union the Liberated Metalworkers Union of South Africa (LIMUSA) into COSATU’s fold, a clear indication of where the rank and file of the union stood.
Matosa believes that besides the problems of E-tolls and labour broking, as the NUM they still think there is no alternative to the ANC. He urged workers to defend and swell the ranks of the ANC, an appeal by COSATU leaders war cry for a very long time that has proved unsuccessful over the years. Leader after leader from COSATU and the SACP joined ANC ranks only to be swallowed into its politics as capitalist rulers as Blade Nzimande, Gwede Mantashe, Jeremy Cronin, Cyril Ramaphosa and several other leaders have shown.
NUM acting president, Piet Matosa is adamant though that the unions in the Platinum belt have made employers to be more aggressive when dealing with workers because of their actions. This position is consistent with the view held by many that the NUM is soft when dealing with employers.
When Sdumo Dlamini took to the podium with gusto shouting viva NUM about 10 times his mission was clear, to attack those he felt were the enemies of COSATU. He said he wanted “to set the record straight” on many issues as he claimed that lies were peddled about COSATU around the world.
He went on the offensive as he claimed that NUMSA called COSATU leadership liars and right wing “when they themselves were in a meeting with the worst right wings” referring to NUMSA’s civil society meeting on the electricity crisis that was held in Booysens Hotel on the same day. “…Those who say COSATU is in paralysis are fooling themselves,” he continued.
The COSATU special congress will be held on the 13 – 14 of July, but the change of leadership at NUM might put a spanner in the works. The new Secretary General David Sipunzi, a former Free State provincial secretary did not beat around the bush when he said, “There can be no unity without NUMSA” and also sounded very sympathetic to expelled COSATU SG Zwelinzima Vavi. Vavi on the other hand was voicing his interest to come back to COSATU if he is “given an opportunity to address workers personally.” He announced that immediately after addressing the civil society conference. But Sdumo Dlamini earlier stated very clearly that NUMSA’s appeal won’t be heard in the special Congress because their appeal is scheduled for the main Congress in November. He also said that Vavi’s matter will not be entertained until he makes his own appeal.
It remains to be seen what the special congress will deliver, but if Sdumo Dlamini has his way it will be to consolidate the new COSATU, without NUMSA its biggest affiliate of 350,000 members, and with its new metal union, LIMUSA with not even 10,000 paid up members.