Business Day

Shiva sorry for NUM meddling — Baleni

- CAROL PATON Writer at Large

SHIVA Uranium, the mining company accused of interferin­g in the National Union of Mineworker­s (NUM) leadership battle, has apologised for its conduct, says NUM general secretary Frans Baleni.

Shiva is owned by close associates of President Jacob Zuma — Atul Gupta and Jagdish Parekh — and a black empowermen­t consortium that includes his son, Duduzane Zuma. Its mine is near Klerksdorp, an important political base for Mr Baleni’s failed challenger, Oupa Komane.

Mr Baleni and NUM president Senzeni Zokwana last week accused Shiva Uranium of funding candidates in the contest for the union’s leadership. The contest was decided at its congress, which ended on Saturday.

“Shiva conceded to me and apologised and said that this was something done by local managers without the knowledge of the directors,” Mr Baleni said on Sunday. He repeated this on SAfm radio yesterday, but did not name the company.

Shiva Uranium spokesman Gary Naidoo denied that the company had provided any resources to anyone who had participat­ed in the NUM leadership election. He said Mr Baleni must have been referring to another company.

Mr Baleni said the extent of resources made available by private companies to individual­s in the election race “was amazing”.

One candidate had been provided with a rented vehicle, and lobbying groups had received money for accommodat­ion, petrol and food. In return, he alleged, the lobbyists had promised “there would never be a strike”.

A large venue in Kempton Park, near the NUM congress venue, was rented by a company for the use of a factional group, Mr Baleni said. Ironically, the faction that Shiva was said to have backed was identified with the “prochange” — or anti-Zuma — lobby in the union. Mr Baleni is viewed as a supporter of Mr Zuma.

Mr Baleni and the rest of his leadership corps were returned with a 60:40 majority.

“We witnessed alien behaviour like the funding of individual­s by private companies,” he said. “If corrective measures are needed, we (the NUM) must take them.”

HE re-election of Frans Baleni as the general secretary of the National Union of Mineworker­s (NUM) has far-reaching implicatio­ns for the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), particular­ly for its own secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi.

Mr Baleni’s views are aligned more to those of Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini, and as the general secretary leading the largest delegation to Cosatu’s national congress in September, Mr Dlamini’s more diplomatic approach to issues such as leadership and alliance relations is likely to hold sway.

Mr Baleni’s ascendancy means the group close to Mr Dlamini has more authority to neutralise Mr Vavi, who has been critical of President Jacob Zuma’s government.

While Mr Vavi’s voice in the federation will not shrink, those in the Zuma camp within the unions have been boosted by the re-election.

Mr Baleni is close to African National Congress (ANC) secretaryg­eneral Gwede Mantashe and South African Communist Party (SACP) general secretary Blade Nzimande, key players in Mr Zuma’s re-election bid. Mr Baleni replaced Mr Mantashe as general secretary of the NUM.

Among Mr Vavi’s key supporters is Irvin Jim, the vocal general secretary of the National Union of Metal Workers of SA (Numsa). Unlike the NUM, Numsa is more militant in its approach and closer to Mr Vavi.

With his re-election all sown up, Mr Baleni is now poised to tackle Numsa over membership, sources say. The two unions often clash about representi­ng workers in the industries in which they operate.

It is a numbers game and a battle for control of Cosatu. The NUM congress resolved to compel Cosatu to aid it in having about 7 000 members — employed at Eskom and organised by Numsa — returned to the mining union, from Numsa. Mr Baleni said Numsa had even begun recruiting workers from the mining and constructi­on sectors — which is solid NUM terrain.

Delegates at the NUM’s four-day congress told of regional leaders who had lost out in elections being spotted recruiting for Numsa.

“Not only is Numsa not handing over membership but starting to recruit in pure mining and also in constructi­on. That’s hardening attitudes,” said Mr Baleni.

Delegates mandated the NUM’s national executive committee to deal with the matter. One of the options it would explore is forcing Cosatu to intervene by threatenin­g to withhold the NUM’s subscripti­on fees. Unions pay a monthly subscripti­on to be affiliated to Cosatu, and that of the NUM is R800 000. It is one of the wealthiest unions in the country.

Mr Baleni said its current total savings stood at R220m and it had amassed R134,4m in reserves over the past three years.

The reserves would be used to “cushion” the union in case of a dramatic loss of membership, he said.

However, Mr Baleni said, the national executive committee would have to weigh its options carefully, as withholdin­g subscripti­on fees may have constituti­onal implicatio­ns for the union.

Mr Vavi, as organisati­onal head, is likely to be tasked with ironing out the matter. This would place him in a tight corner, given his proximity to Mr Jim.

Numsa and the NUM historical­ly have been at odds with one another over their posture towards politics, with Numsa often labelled as a “workerist” union — a term for a narrowly focused union — which is more removed from political parties in the ruling alliance.

The NUM is historical­ly close to the parties, with its top leadership — president Senzeni Zokwana and Mr Baleni — on the SACP’s central committee.

The NUM has provided a powerful platform to catapult the political careers of its general secretarie­s — former ANC secretary-general Cyril Ramaphosa, current secretaryg­eneral Gwede Mantashe, and ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe all held the position at one time or another.

“If you can run the NUM and lead this complex organisati­on, you are tested in many forms, you have to be a shrewd administra­tor, you have to be a financial accountant, you have to be a legal person, you have to be a negotiator, you have to be a politician at the same time, so it’s a platform that makes you rounded and if you can’t learn in this office, you will never learn,” Mr Baleni said on the sidelines of the congress last week.

A loss for Mr Baleni, and a victory for his challenger Oupa Komane would have been ideal for Mr Vavi, says a union source.

It would have given him control of the biggest union, allowing him to direct Cosatu in his own way, especially as they head towards the ANC’s leadership conference in December. With Sam Mkokeli

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