he new general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is set to ruffle feathers in his quest for the reinstatement into labour federation Cosatu of the ousted Zwelinzima Vavi and metalworkers’ union Numsa.
Sipunzi has already had a chat with Vavi, but he was quick to say it had merely been a courtesy call from the former Cosatu general secretary congratulating him on his new role.
Sipunzi’s radical views, which include his declaration that Cosatu members are not obliged to join the ANC, will not go down well with the faction that supports Sdumo Dlamini, president of the labour federation.
It has been plain sailing for the Dlamini faction since eight unions boycotted Cosatu’s central executive committee following Numsa’s expulsion. The eight unions are still deciding whether to attend Cosatu’s special national congress early next month. The arrival of Sipunzi will add a strong voice to the calls for the reinstatement of both Vavi and Numsa.
Under former general secretary Frans Baleni, the NUM was fully behind Dlamini and had been instrumental in the sacking of Vavi and behind the federation getting rid of Numsa.
But the election of Sipunzi has changed the game and could drastically alter the relationship between not only Cosatu and the mine workers’ union, but the greater alliance with the ANC.
Sipunzi seemed to rub Dlamini up the wrong way this week when he spoke out about his desire for the reinstatement of Vavi and Numsa, and that workers did not need to support the ANC-led tripartite alliance to be Cosatu members. Dlamini later told a daily newspaper that Sipunzi’s comments were “uncalled for and unfortunate”.