Natasha Marrian Political editor: Business Day
David Sipunzi. Picture: NUM
David Sipunzi. Picture: NUM

The push by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) for a Cyril Ramaphosa presidency will not compromise its stance on workers’ rights, the union’s general secretary David Sipunzi said on Tuesday.

The NUM was the first organisation among alliance and ANC structures to throw its weight behind Ramaphosa ahead of the ANC elective conference in December 2017. Ramaphosa was the first secretary of the NUM and was among its founding leaders.

But in the past six months, the NUM has taken on a decidedly anti-ANC stance.

It threatened to withdraw its support for the ANC in the 2019 election shortly after Ramaphosa was sworn in as president of SA when the government signed agreements with 27 independent power producers.

"We were the first trade union to say Ramaphosa for president and we still maintain that, but we also have not forgotten that Ramaphosa is now the president of the country.

"After all, Ramaphosa is mostly under the influence of business rather than the workers because in any country, in any democracy, government is influenced by business and therefore we would fight him as we would fight anyone, even [Nelson] Mandela," he said.

But the NUM’s stance has been interpreted differently in some ANC and Cosatu circles. Insiders have alleged that Sipunzi is angling to shift the union out of Cosatu and into new federation the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu).

Sipunzi has denied this, and the NUM issued a statement dismissing these reports as false.

Sipunzi said if anything, the expelled National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), which is Saftu’s largest affiliate, should return to Cosatu.

Numsa was expelled from Cosatu in 2014 over its stance towards the ANC. Numsa took a conference decision not to support the ANC and was subsequently axed from the federation. The NUM and Numsa were on different sides of the factional divide during that battle.

There is also a long-standing dispute between the unions over workers at Eskom. Numsa was accused of encroaching on the NUM’s territory in terms of organising workers at Eskom.