The plot is definitely thickening in the feud within the labour federation, Congress of South African Trade Unions(COSATU) and its affiliates over the expulsion of one of its feeder unions, National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA). Amid the numerous goings on within the federation, there has emerged no less than seven other feeder unions which have come out in support of NUMSA as well as the embattled Secretary General of the federation, Zwelinzima Vavi.
This emerged after COSATU’s Central Executive Committee(CEC) voted early on Saturday to oust the metalworkers union from the federation for, among other things, refusing to vote for the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in the last election. The liberation party won the election but it was with the lowest majority since it came into power in 1994. The union has vowed to fight their expulsion in a court of law. In a press conference after their expulsion, the union’s Secretary General, Irvin Jim warned that Vavi would be the next head to roll in the CEC’s cleansing drive. Jim went further to say that forming a counter federation to the COSATU was not far from their plans. This was supported by some political analysts who argue that it made logical sense for Vavi to leave the federation with NUMSA since he had shown indications that he was also not happy with the performance of the ANC.
However, there have been other unions which are within the COSATU who, though affirming their support for both NUMSA and Vavi, have drawn a line in the split of the nearly thirty year old workers’ federation. The Food and Allied Workers Union(FAWU), the Nurses Union(DENOSA), Football Players Union (SAFPU), Public and Allied Workers Union of South Africa(PAWUSA), Communication Workers Union(CWU), South African State and Allied Workers Union(SASAWU) and the South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union(SACCAWU) all have come out in support of both Zwelinzima Vavi and NUMSA continuing their stay in COSATU and are vehemently opposed to the formation of a competitor federation.
The ANC has also made concerted efforts to reunite the federation, which has formed a huge partner in its ascendency to power. The efforts of Vice President Cyril Ramaposa, who was also a union leader, have come to nought with the infighting and the bickering escalating. He was bent on ensuring that the metalworkers union remains in the mother federation as the ANC, according to political analysts, cannot afford the divided COSATU. This was reiterated by the Secretary General of the ANC, Gwede Mantashe, who described the expulsion of NUMSA as “disappointing and tragic,” adding that the expulsion was “bad for CCOSATU, bad for the ANC, the alliance, as well as for society in general.”