Wednesday, December 18, 2013

South Africa: Historic NUMSA Congress

"It's an extraordinary, uplifting congress now underway in the unlikely mall-saturated suburb of Boksburg near the OR Tambo airport. Sitting through yesterday's proceedings, I was really impressed not only by the rigorous 155-slide show Irvin Jim began presenting - interrupted by the need to screen Rehad Desai's new Marikana Massacre film - but just as much by the opening speech by Numsa president Andrew Chirwa. He replaced former president Cedric Gina yesterday, and came across as articulate, witty and a principled leftist of the highest caliber. Gina and one other former Numsa official - SACP spokesperson Alex Mashilo - are now firm opponents of this militant leadership of Africa's largest union. So I was not surprised by the extent of the intra-Alliance rupture, especially the vitriol flowing both ways, as the SACP re-issued their smeary e-pamphlet that I'd sent around last week. The main wedge pushing the split to break-point seems to be Blade Nzimande, who someone said is acting like a knife apparently trying to cut off a great many Numsa small-c communist noses to spite the SACP face. But what Nzimande's recent pronouncements about Numsa leaders really do, is apparently reconfirm to the 1300 delegates and guests that the old umbilical cord is now decisively sliced, and a new, healthy baby can now move forward whichever way is desirable - a direction we'll learn by Friday afternoon. The conference is entitled, propitiously, 'Breaking new ground'. Watch, also, for encouraging announcements about forthcoming national struggle-unity events in January and February. Historic times! Comment from Patrick Bond

NUMSA President: Andrew Chirwa
18 Dec 2013
The Mercury
Lebogang Seale and Sapa
Numsa: Time for Zuma to go?

NUMSA’S new president, Andrew Chirwa, says it could be time to call on President Jacob Zuma to resign.

Chirwa was elected president of the metalworkers’ union yesterday at the start of its special national congress in Boksburg. He replaced Cedric Gina who resigned last month. Gina was perceived to be a Zuma ally. By quitting, Zuma would be demonstrating he was serious about serving the interests of the people and not just himself, and preserving Nelson Mandela’s legacy of selflessness and accountable governance, Chirwa said.

Referring to Nkandla, he asked: “Should we not ask our own President Jacob Zuma, who benefited from this saga, to resign in the interest of the poor?”

It is expected that Numsa members will decide whether or not Numsa should break away from Cosatu and possibly form an independent, socialist oriented workers’ party. The union is Cosatu’s biggest affiliate by numbers, with an estimated 328 000 members.

Chirwa said the SACP had abandoned its role as a workers’ vanguard party and allowed itself to be “swallowed” by the “bourgeois” ruling ANC, whose policies entrenched “extreme poverty” among blacks and extreme wealth among a tiny white population.

“It has therefore become necessary for metalworkers to decide how they must confront the continued political and economic dominance of white monopoly capital and imperialism in South Africa post-1994, and its surrogate backers in the liberation movement (ANC),” Chirwa said.

Former president Thabo Mbeki reportedly said in an interview last week that Zuma should do the “honourable” thing by stepping down if South Africans and the ANC party asked him to.

In a hard-hitting speech, Chirwa was scathing in his condemnation of the ANC and SACP for leaping to Zuma’s defence and attacking Public Protector Thuli Madonsela in the face of the public outcry over his alleged role in the misuse of public funds at Nkandla.

“We expected the ANC and SACP to join us in saying: ‘Wow, what a waste of public funds.’ Instead, both the ANC and the SACP are more worried about the leaked public protector’s report on Nkandla than the gross abuse and theft of such a massive amount of public money,” Chirwa said.

He added: “They must tell us what is revolutionary about the state when R200 million is used to build the home of one man. Instead they are calling for a tribunal for those who booed Zuma.”

Numsa accused the alliance of being toothless, appearing only when it was election time, and of being incapable of ending poverty and inequality.

There was no amount of unity that could change the plight of the poor. The only solution was the Freedom Charter, he said.

“Numsa has become a lone voice in the mass democratic revolution.”

Chirwa said Numsa was still waiting to see the ANC’s radical programme which it had mentioned in the discussion document released at its elective conference in Mangaung last year. It made reference to the second phase of the transition.

“That second phase – it’s the second phase of etolls.“

Chirwa said that Cosatu had been hit by a train and paralysed.

“It’s as if it’s been hit by a truck, a big truck, no, a train, a train is bigger,” he said.

“We called a special congress to rescue Cosatu from its paralysis.”

He accused Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini of elevating himself above the trade union federation by not convening a special Cosatu congress.

Cosatu had not been the same since its congress last year, he said.

Numsa could not fight for Cosatu, which was like a house which had been abandoned, and only the sign “Beware of the Dog” remained, Chirwa said.

“That’s not the Cosatu we are prepared to fight for.”

Suspended SA Democratic Teachers Union president Thobile Ntola was among the guests at Numsa’s special congress yesterday.

Suspended Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi is expected to address Numsa members today.

There is speculation that Vavi could join Numsa’s mooted workers’ vanguard party, should Numsa decide to break away from the ANC led tripartite alliance.


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