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CityPress - - News - POLOKO TAU poloko.tau@city­press.co.za

he de­feat of Frans Baleni, the gen­eral sec­re­tary of the Na­tional Union of Minework­ers (NUM), is be­ing seen as a tri­umph by al­lies of axed labour fed­er­a­tion Cosatu boss Zwelinz­ima Vavi. Baleni, who lost to Free State sec­re­tary David Sipunzi by nine votes on Fri­day night at the NUM’s na­tional congress, was one of the ar­chi­tects of Vavi’s ax­ing from Cosatu three months ago. He was also in­stru­men­tal in the ex­pul­sion of the Na­tional Union of Me­tal­work­ers of SA (Numsa) from the labour fed­er­a­tion in Novem­ber last year.

Baleni’s de­feat is a blow to the Cosatu fac­tion led by its pres­i­dent, Sdumo Dlamini, and comes only a month be­fore a spe­cial congress where the fu­ture of the fed­er­a­tion will be de­cided. Vavi’s ax­ing and Numsa’s ejec­tion will top the agenda at the congress. Of the top five pro-Dlamini lead­ers, only the NUM pres­i­dent, Piet Matosa, sur­vived. Vavi was among the first to cel­e­brate Baleni’s fall. “The pro­le­tariat has spo­ken,” he tweeted, adding that it was “an ex­tremely sig­nif­i­cant devel­op­ment which could change the cause [sic] of his­tory. I hope elec­tion of the new NUM lead­er­ship may be what we need not only to save NUM but Cosatu from de­struc­tion. That’s the union that pro­duced me but was turned against me by a few. [I] will have a very peace­ful sleep.”

Also in a cel­e­bra­tory mood was Numsa gen­eral sec­re­tary Irvin Jim, who took to Twit­ter to gloat.

“Baleni out, yes. You can fool all other classes but there is one class you can’t fool for­ever; the work­ing class, it makes his­tory,” wrote Jim.

Ac­cord­ing to in­sid­ers at the NUM, the lead­er­ship over­haul could be a game changer in the Cosatu wars and the suc­ces­sion battle in the ANC. They said it could de­rail the cam­paign by some NUM lead­ers to throw the union’s weight be­hind for­mer gen­eral sec­re­taries Cyril Ramaphosa and Gwede Man­tashe for ANC pres­i­dent and deputy pres­i­dent, re­spec­tively.

A re­gional sec­re­tary of the Free State re­gion since 1999, Sipunzi is still car­ry­ing the wounds of los­ing a chal­lenge for the deputy pres­i­dent’s post to Piet Matosa in 2009. Matosa took over as pres­i­dent when for­mer NUM head Sen­zeni Zok­wana was elected agri­cul­ture min­is­ter last year.

Del­e­gates told City Press Baleni had not fore­seen his down­fall. His ri­vals had lulled him into a false sense of se­cu­rity by wag­ing an “un­der­ground” cam­paign while pro­fess­ing to back him.

One del­e­gate said: “Baleni was def­i­nitely ex­pect­ing a land­slide victory, for­get­ting that he had de­tached him­self from the branches. With nine re­gions be­hind him and only two for Sipunzi, it seemed ob­vi­ous. But un­der­ground lob­by­ists had pre­pared some re­gional mem­bers to shout his name but vote oth­er­wise.”

Del­e­gates and the NUM vet­er­ans said Baleni had dug his own grave by al­low­ing the once-pow­er­ful union to de­te­ri­o­rate. On his watch, it had lost ground to the ri­val As­so­ci­a­tion of Minework­ers and Con­struc­tion Union (Amcu), which is largely led by the NUM lead­ers Baleni and his pre­de­ces­sor, Man­tashe, had marginalised. The NUM has plunged from al­most 300 000 mem­bers to its cur­rent 231 000.

One del­e­gate said: “He or­ches­trated the purg­ing of

PHOTO: EL­IZ­A­BETH SEJAKE

TRI­UMPHANT Zwelinz­ima Vavi

NEW MAN David Sipunzi

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