“Numsa was… advised that in terms of the constitution they have a right to appeal to the national congress,” Cosatu deputy general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali told reporters in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
“What happens if two months after the congress has met and you are dismissed by the congress? Does it mean the congress must be brought forward so that you can be able to present your case or not? It [the constitution] doesn’t say so.”
He said it was a constitutional matter and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) would have to wait until the next congress to appeal against its expulsion.
The Congress of SA Trade Unions is expected to hold its next national congress in September next year.
Asked whether the metalworkers union would wait that long, its deputy general secretary Karl Cloete on Tuesday said Numsa had the possibility to take the matter to court on the grounds that its expulsion was “unconstitutional, unlawful and unprocedural”.
He accused Cosatu of using the section of the constitution dealing with an appeal to “frustrate everything”.
“[so by that time] the issue will be stale in the sense that Numsa is outside Cosatu and [Zwelinzima] Vavi would be dismissed,” Cloete said.
Numsa was expelled from Cosatu at a special central executive committee meeting which ran into the early hours of Saturday morning.
The union and Cosatu have been at loggerheads since the suspension last year of the trade union federation’s general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.
Numsa, a strong ally and supporter of Vavi, took Cosatu to court to have the suspension overturned. The union won its bid and Vavi returned to work earlier this year.
Vavi was not present at the briefing on Tuesday, with spokesman Norman Mampane saying Vavi was “consulting his lawyers”.
Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini said Vavi was dealing with the defamation case against him lodged by the woman he had an affair with last year.
The relationship between Vavi and the other five Cosatu national office bearers has come across as strained since his suspension.
Dlamini said this was not the case.
“No matter what happens nothing will take away the ubuntu amongst ourselves.
“We have a comrade relationship, a friendship relationship… we are comrades in arms,” he said.
Vavi has remained silent on Numsa’s expulsion except for a few comments on social networking site Twitter in which he described it as a “disaster”.
Dlamini said the formal letter notifying Numsa of its expulsion was sent to Numsa on Tuesday.
The letter was signed by Ntshalintshali. It was rumoured that Vavi refused to sign the letter.
However, Dlamini denied this saying Vavi was at a meeting with his lawyers so could not sign it.
Ntshalintshali said all of the trade union federation’s structures had to accept the decision to oust Numsa.
“The decision to expel Numsa is a CEC decision and is binding on all the structures of the federation and its leaders,” he said.
“All [are] expected to observe it without exception.”
On Monday seven unions — the SA Commercial Clothing and Allied Workers’ Union, the Communication Workers’ Union, the SA State and Allied Workers’ Union, the Public and Allied Workers Union of SA, the SA Football Players’ Union, the Food and Allied Workers Union and the Democratic Nurses’ Organisation of SA vowed to have the expulsion reversed.
They said they would also not participate in Cosatu’s CEC meetings.
Ntshalintshali said Cosatu would convene meetings at all of its structural levels to explain the CEC’s decision.
The national office bearers said the decision taken by the seven unions had not been communicated to them as yet, so it would continue to call meetings and operate as normal.
UPDATE: SAMWU EASTERN CAPE OPPOSED TO NUMSA EXPULSION
The SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) in the Eastern Cape on Tuesday said it was opposed to Numsa’s expulsion from Cosatu.
“The defence of Cosatu includes in our view defending Numsa as we remain opposed to the dismissal of Numsa in Cosatu because they also seek to defend the soul of the federation,” provincial secretary Siphiwo Ndunyana said in a statement.
“The reason why we defend Cosatu is that there is a grouping that is hell-bent on liquidating Cosatu to be a sweetheart union of the ruling class and the party.
Ndunyana said the unions which voted to expel the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) did not understand how the Congress of SA Trade Unions operated, as every affiliate had the right to make their own resolutions.
“There is nothing sinister in what Numsa has done except just an agenda to defend the neo-liberal agenda and donate Cosatu on a [silver] platter to the highest bidders by those opposed to the progressive and radical trade union movement.”