NUMSA – National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa

NUMSA is the official acronym for the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa.

The union which currently has over three hundred and forty thousand workers was founded in 1987.

NUMSA is officially affiliated with the World Federation of Trade Unions – WFTU.

Andrew Chirwa serves as the current president of NUMSA while the current general secretary is Irvin Jim.

The trade union is officially headquartered at Johannesburg in South Africa.

NUMSA is currently the largest Trade Union in South Africa.

It was also the biggest affiliate of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) before its expulsion on the 8th of November 2014.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions is one of South Africa’s trade union federations. COSATU was founded in 1985 and is currently the largest South Africa’s three main federations.

With twenty one affiliated unions, COSATU has 1.8 million workers under its umbrella.

NUMSA VS COSATU: The Expulsion Saga

NUMSA remains the first and only party expelled from COSATU since COSATU’s inception.

The Nation Union of Metalworkers of South Africa was charged with the violation of COSATU’s constitution.

On the 8th of November, 2014, after a 15 hour debate, the Central Executive Committee voted in favor of expelling NUMSA at 33-24.

After the announcement, an argument erupted when Sdumo Dlamini (The president of COSATU) told the NUMSA delegates to exit the meeting.

However, Zwelinzima Vavi (the then general secretary of COSATU) intervened in the matter, using the COSATU constitution to NUMSA’s defense, stated that NUMSA needed a written confirmation of the expulsion before it could be considered valid.

Despite this, the situation remained aggravated leading the NUMSA delegates to eventually walking out. The general secretary of NUMSA – Irvin Jim – then made the announcement to journalists outside the COSATU house.

The COSATU meeting was adjourned after the disruption with none of the remaining items on the agenda being discussed.

The expulsion of the union of Metalworkers from COSATU was met with backlash and criticisms from various angles including inside their own house in the form of Zwelinzima Vavi.

Zwelinzina was so openly opposed to the expulsion of NUMSA that he too was expelled from COSATU on the 30th of March 2015 by COSATU’s Central Executive Committee with the votes coming in at 31-1 in favor of expelling Zwelinzima Vavi from COSATU.

In response to NUMSA’s expulsion, 7 unions announced on the 10th of November that they were voluntarily suspending their relationship with COSATU in solidarity with NUMSA.

The seven trade unions are:
CWU – Communication Workers Union
DENOSA –Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa

FAWU – Food and Allied Workers Union
PAWUSA – Public and Allied Workers Union of South Africa

SACCAWU – South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union
SAFPU – South African Football Players Union

SASAWU – South African State and Allied Workers’ Union

Brief overview of NUMSA

The Union which was founded in 1987.

NUMSA largely considers itself to be Marxist-Leninist has a strained relationship with the South African Communist Party (SACP) which NUMSA believes no longer adheres to the fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism.

Marxism-Leninism is a political philosophy that has built on the ideas of Leninism and Marxism. The philosophy seeks to create and develop socialist states.

Marxism-Leninism supports the idea of a one-party state and is in firm opposition to capitalism.

It is the official ideology adopted by the ruling parties of Cuba, China, Vietnam, among others.

NUMSA is known for its vocal opposition of South Africa’s ruling party – the African National Congress, the SACP, the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
Corruption and a limited understating of anti-capitalist fundamentals are some of the reasons NUMSA has cited for distancing themselves from these institutions.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa is just one of many trade unions in South Africa. Some of other trade unions in South Africa includes:

CEPPWAWU – Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers’ Union
CWUSA – Creative Workers Union of South Africa

NEHAWU – National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union
NUM – National Union of Mineworkers

POPCRU – Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union
SACCAWU – South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union

SACTWU –Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union
SADNU – South African Democratic Nurses’ Union

SADTU – South African Democratic Teachers Union
SAMA – South African Medical Association

SAMWU – South African Municipal Workers’ Union
SASFU – South African Security Forces Union

SATAWU – South African Transport and Allied Workers Union