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National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa

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Title: National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa  
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Language: English
Subject: Trade unions in South Africa, Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union, South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, Congress of South African Trade Unions, COSATU
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa

Full name National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa
Founded 1987
Members >338,000 (2013)
Affiliation WFTU
Key people Andrew Chirwa, president
Irvin Jim, general secretary
Office location Johannesburg, South Africa
Country South Africa

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) is the biggest single trade union in South Africa with more than 338,000 members, and prior to its expulsion on 8 November 2014, the largest affiliate of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the country's largest trade union federation.[1][2][3]


The union considers itself to be Marxist-Leninist, but has had a fraught relationship with the South African Communist Party (SACP). Post-1994, NUMSA has become known within the Tripartite Alliance between COSATU, the SACP and the ruling African National Congress (ANC) for its refusal to remain silent on controversial ANC policies, especially its promotion of privatisation and its failure to end mass poverty in the country.

As of 2013, the union has over 340,000 members throughout South Africa.[4]

Rejection of ANC and SACP

At the conclusion on 20 December 2013 of a special national congress held in Boksburg, NUMSA withdrew support from the ANC and SACP altogether, and called for an alternative movement of the working class. The union stated that it would not endorse any political party in the 2014 South African general election, but that individual members were free to campaign for the party of their choice, provided they do so in their own time using their own resources. It called for COSATU to break from the Tripartite Alliance and form a united front of left-wing forces similar to the United Democratic Front (UDF) during the struggle against Apartheid.[5] As part of this, it called a conference for 2014 to explore the possibility of establishing a new workers' socialist party.[1] NUMSA remained a COSATU affiliate until 8 November 2014, although it resolved to cease its R800 000 monthly subscription fee payments to the federation.[5] In December, 2013 the union also said it would also stop paying contributions to the South African Communist Party (SACP). Up until that time they had been paying the SACP R1-million a year.[4] It has issued a call for the resignation of Jacob Zuma as President of South Africa.[6]

Rejection of the EFF and WASP

The union also distanced itself from Julius Malema and his Economic Freedom Fighters citing concerns about corruption, authoritarianism and a limited conception of anti-capitalism. It has also been critical of the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP).[7][8][9]

Expulsion from COSATU

In the early hours of the morning of 8 November 2014, after an "excruciating" 15 hour debate, the delegates of COSATU's Central Executive Committee (CEC) voted 33–24 in favour of expelling NUMSA from the trade union federation. After the vote was announced, a row occured when COSATU president Sdumo Dlamini told the NUMSA CEC delegates to leave the meeting, but general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi intervened, citing the COSATU constitution to argue NUMSA would need to be informed in writing of its expulsion before it become valid. This did not calm matters, with both sides becoming ever more frustrated until the NUMSA delegates walked out and NUMSA secretary general Irvin Jim announced the union's expulsion to journalists waiting outside COSATU House. The meeting was adjourned shortly after without the remaining items on the agenda having been discussed.[10]

The Democratic Left Front (DLF) has stated that NUMSA's expulsion "brings an end to Cosatu as a fighting trade union" and that "Cosatu will degenerate further into essentially a sweetheart and bureaucratised union".[3][10] Jim has stated that "the fight is not over" and has outlined a strategy of mobilising the union's membership, and the membership of other COSATU unions, to fight its expulsion from COSATU. This may involve court action. He stated that the union will not abandon its plans of launching a united front of left-wing forces to oppose the ANC. Frans Baleni, the general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), meanwhile "pleaded" with NUMSA to apologise to COSATU, but Jim has called Baleni a "hypocrite" who "led the fight against Numsa" and is now "saying that a mere apology would have saved Numsa". Jim stated that NUMSA rejects "his fooling of the public".[11]


  1. ^ a b Lydia Polgreen (20 December 2013). "South Africa’s Biggest Trade Union Pulls Its Support for A.N.C.".  
  2. ^  
  3. ^ a b Zandi Shabalala (8 November 2014). "South Africa's ANC-aligned union body expels vocal critic".  
  4. ^ a b Zine George (22 December 2013). "Numsa breaks official link with ANC alliance".  
  5. ^ a b Matuma Letsoalo and Mmanaledi Mataboge (20 December 2013). "Gatvol Numsa cuts ties with ANC".  
  6. ^ SAPA (20 December 2013). "Numsa wants Cosatu to split from ANC". Independent Online (South Africa). Retrieved 24 December 2013. 
  7. ^ NUMSA (9 January 2014). "NUMSA's assessment of the EFF". (South Africa). Retrieved 9 November 2014. 
  8. ^ Shanti Aboobaker (29 December 2013). "Numsa wary of 'capitalist' Malema". Independent Online (South Africa). Retrieved 9 November 2014. 
  9. ^ Verashni Pillay (7 February 2014). "Full Marx at Numsa's political school". Mail & Guardian (South Africa). Retrieved 9 November 2014. 
  10. ^ a b Qaanitah Hunter (8 November 2014). "Numsa expelled from Cosatu". Mail & Guardian (South Africa). Retrieved 16 November 2014. 
  11. ^ Sarah Evans (9 November 2014). The fight is not over' - Numsa to fight Cosatu expulsion"'". Mail & Guardian (South Africa). Retrieved 9 November 2014. 

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