The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) stands firmly behind the decision of the Central Executive Committee of COSATU to expel NUMSA from the Federation.
Taking the decision was not easy but after months of being taunted by NUMSA, the COSATU CEC had to expel NUMSA from the Federation amid cries that this would lead to a split in COSATU.
NUMSA has been sowing divisions by failing to observe the “one union, one industry” policy destabilising other affiliate members in the industries where they organise.
For months the federation has been bullied by NUMSA with multiple threats of splits and the formation of a so called workers party going against previous resolutions and policies. In our view, the relationship between NUMSA and the federation can be characterized as an abusive marriage in which a partner stays for the sake of material benefits but in this case it would have been for nothing but their numbers.
The expulsion of NUMSA is by no means a cause for celebration as it is the working class that will suffer the most. In the recent SADTU National Congress, the members gave us a clear mandate to do whatever was possible to ensure the unity and cohesion of the federation. We can state without any fear of contradiction that preserving unity in COSATU was becoming almost impossible with an affiliate that had afforded its self a "super affiliate" status within our fold.
Let us make it clear that membership to the Federation is by application. Admission is conditional and not a birthright or automatic. Membership is not acquired through rhetoric or inherited. The admission of an applicant is on condition that the applicant conforms to the Preamble and constitutional requirements.
Section 2.3 of the COSATU constitution states that an affiliate has to comply and abide by the Federation`s constitution and policies, NUMSA has spectacularly failed on both these counts without any fear consequence, a clear indication that it just did not consider itself as a part of us anymore.
For instance, one of the important principles in the preamble says, " Organize the unorganized workers and build effective trade unions based on the democratic Organization of workers in the factories, mines, shops, farms and other workplaces". The critical question that we must ask NUMSA therefore is that, are members of SATAWU, NUM and CEPPAWU unorganized? Why are they organizing the organized members of the sister unions within COSATU?
We thus want to reject the claims that have been made by others that seek to give an impression that the expulsion of NUMSA is just a decision of a few individuals. They have reduced a legitimate constitutional structure being the CEC into what they call "a palace". It is interesting to note that they themselves have been part of this "palace" and only choose to label it so when decisions taken democratically do not favour them.
Let us emphasize that according to the federation`s constitution as amended in 2006, the Central Executive Committee ("CEC") manages the affairs of the Federation between meetings of the National Congress and Central Committee and has such powers and duties, which customarily vest in an executive body. Further to this, representatives of affiliates who are mandated through their own structures constitute the CEC.
We find it highly unacceptable that some have labeled this legitimate structure a "shebeen" with NUMSA in the forefront. We are mandated to serve in that structure and represent the interests of our members not our own. We know what our members are saying in this context and maybe a question must be raised to the leadership collective of NUMSA, are their actions of undermining a federation built through the sweat and blood of their very members a true representation of the views on the ground?
The General Secretary of NUMSA has done everything possible to humiliate the leadership collective of the federation including the Central Executive Committee. Vladimir Lenin once said, "The semi-anarchist elements can and should be tolerated but only within certain limits". This is the attitude that we have adopted when it comes to NUMSA, in essence, we are saying better fewer but better.
Unfortunately and out of desperation to play the victim, some affiliates who have equally defined themselves outside of the federation decided to reduce a collective decision of the CEC into that of an individual being the president of the federation. Some have even gone as low as resorting to insults directed at the President, naturally as teachers and education workers we are concerned with this degenerating state of our discourse, we can only hope that the young minds that we are molding in our classes every day see such as a living example of how one must not conduct themselves.
We also want to echo the words of the President of COSATU when he warned the two former General Secretaries of COSATU, Mbhazima Shilowa and Jay Naidoo to stay out of our federation. They had their chance to lead and were afforded the space to do so. We find it unacceptable that suddenly they have the best of ideas on how the challenges in the federation can be mitigated. What is unfortunate is that the 2 former GS`s know where the offices of the federation are located and could have easily accessed the NOBs if they had some valuable advice, instead they choose to engage us through the media, seeking popularity and profiling themselves as the paragon of righteousness. For Jay Naidoo to ridicule the nursing profession reminds us of the ridicule we have suffered when there were those who questioned whether a teacher can lead a revolutionary federation like COSATU during the Madisha era. This ridiculing of the professions and workers must be rejected and that Naidoo must mind his own business. He has no interest of the workers and the working class at all except his friendship with Vavi.
Lastly, we want to strongly speak out against the incumbent General Secretary of COSATU`s refusal to implement a decision of the CEC. This unprecedented move is an indication of a leader who has clearly grown bigger than the organisation. The General Secretary must be reminded that he is serving us in that office and not his own interests or views.
COSATU is not a personal project and he must implement the decisions of the collective instead of writing us letters in his "personal capacity" explaining why he has no intention to do so. If he is writing in his personal capacity why is he using the letterhead of the Federation? He is confusing COSATU with his own properties. We urge him to serve COSATU and had he disciplined NUMSA at the time this affiliate started dividing all the affiliates of COSATU we would not find ourselves in this situation. He chose to represent the interest of NUMSA at the expense of all the workers. NUMSA has destroyed everything in the Federation and all Unions are dealing with tribalism and regionalism as a result of this ‘super affiliate’ interfering in internal affairs of other affiliates.
The General Secretary of COSATU has expressed his views in the meeting and once a decision was taken democratically and constitutionally all other views expire including the owner of COSATU himself. His accusation that a decision was taken by a faction are unfounded and must be rejected because when the seven unions convened a joint press conference prior to the NUMSA court application and after the CEC he didn’t see that as factionalism because in the COSATU constitution there is no clause that allow those affiliates to define themselves outside the constitution.
Each of those affiliates applied as an individual union not as a subsidiary of NUMSA Pty Ltd.
SADTU is committed to a stronger and united federation, we will do everything in our power to defend COSATU and will not shy away from this responsibility.
What we will not accept is to be a property of NUMSA as if we don’t have a constitution. If NUMSA is prepared to be a discipline and constitutionally bound affiliate it must follow the processes of the COSATU constitution and stop insulting leaders with the hope that everyone in the country will be fooled by the insults and noise they make. They took decisions that violate the constitution and policies of COSATU and this is unacceptable.
We support the CEC decision because we are a disciplined affiliate that respect policies. The Office Bearers of COSATU do not vote and therefore the workers must not be misled by those who have chosen to disrespect the constitution.
ISSUED BY: SADTU Secretariat