Leadership overhaul at NUM congress changes what might happen in Cosatu conflict and ANC succession struggle
highly competent organisers over some minor differences and created fertile ground for divisions and factions, with most people following their leaders into the hands of rival unions.”
A delegate from the platinum belt said: “Even a blind man could have seen that Baleni was laying this union on a silver platter for the dogs to tear into.”
Yesterday, Sipunzi downplayed the significance of his victory, saying “people like making mountains out of molehills”. But he did indicate a change of direction, saying he would like to share a table with Amcu.
“We could engage Amcu in unity talks in a bid to level the ground for healthy competition among the rival unions. Nothing prevents us from doing that,” he said.
He said the NUM had lost members because “some were given false promises and others were expelled rightfully or wrongfully”. On Cosatu, he said it was the NUM’s duty to unite it. “At the moment, we have some affiliates inside and outside the federation. Cosatu must go back to where it was,” said Sipunzi.
Numsa deputy general secretary Karl Cloete said the union would make a public appeal to the new NUM leadership about resolving divisions in Cosatu.
“If they want unity in the federation, we’ll ask them to identify aspects of what went wrong in Cosatu without any interference from the ANC and the SA Communist Party,” said Cloete.
He was optimistic about Vavi’s future, saying the NUM’s “ordinary members never took it for granted that their union had dealt with its own in a very despicable manner under Baleni”.
The Food and Allied Workers’ Union (Fawu), one of those backing Vavi and Numsa, said the NUM’s hunger for members might prevent it from fighting for Numsa’s reinstatement.
But Fawu general secretary Katishi Masemola said Vavi’s NUM roots would ensure that the new leadership would fight for its own.
“This kind of leadership change bodes well for a change of stance in Cosatu, especially for Vavi,” he said.
One of Baleni’s long-term lieutenants, who described Sipunzi as “a brave unionist”, said the change in leadership would have a big impact on the upcoming Cosatu congress.
“The likelihood is the NUM train will change direction regarding Vavi and Numsa, and they might want them back on board,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Baleni faction’s push for a Ramaphosa/Mantashe ticket at the ANC’s 2017 conference could be dead in the water.
If he had retained his position, Baleni would have been a forceful driver to get NUM branches – many doubling as ANC branches – to back Ramaphosa and Mantashe.