Suspensions of Numsa “unconstitutional and invalid”, conference prohibited – Labor Court
Members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa demonstrate in Johannesburg.
Photo: Gallo Images/Sharon Seretlo
- The labor court ruled that the suspension of Numsa officials before its conference was invalid and unconstitutional.
- He further said that the union had been banned and prevented from holding its national conference on Monday, until it complied with its own constitution.
- The decision means that, if the Numsa conference goes ahead as planned, Numsa Second Vice President Ruth Ntlokotse and other suspended officials will be able to attend and participate.
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The Johannesburg Labor Court on Saturday declared the suspension of the second vice-president of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), Ruth Ntlokotse, and that of 30 other officials “unconstitutional, invalid and unenforceable in law”.
In addition, the union is banned and forced to hold its 11th National Congress scheduled for July 25-29, until it fully complies with the terms of its own constitution.
Ntlokotse had urgently approached the court last week for the court to declare his suspension from the union invalid or halt the start of the Numsa conference until the nature of his suspension and those of other officials were clarified.
Labor court judge Graham Moshoana said Numsa had “put the cart before the horse” when he suspended the civil servants.
The main issue argued by the lawyers during the industrial court appearance was whether the suspensions were legal under the union’s constitution.
Numsa’s constitution states that the union’s regional and national executive committees have the power to “suspend any shop steward…for sufficient cause and to take over the management of their affairs until another shop steward or committee be elected”.
But Moshoana said Numsa members deserve better and proper protection. “Having a leadership or structure that shamelessly flouts the founding document of the constitution is not in the best interests of the entire membership,” he said.
READ | More than 50 civil servants banned from Numsa conference as shop steward drama escalates
In May, Ntlokotse was elected president of Numsa’s umbrella federation, the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu). She says in her affidavit that she planned to run for president of Numsa against Mac Chavalala, whom she defeated for president of Saftu.
The elective conference scheduled for next week will elect the leaders of South Africa’s largest union, with more than 300,000 members in its ranks.
It will also set the tone for the power dynamics in Saftu, with Ntlokotse now working alongside Saftu General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, who is a longtime friend of Numsa General Secretary Irvin Jim, but is not a agree with him on whether the federation should align itself with a political party. .
In his opinion, Moshoana was scathing about Numsa’s leadership. “Unions need to start shedding the apprehension of leadership disputes to ensure their compliance with their own constitutions is sanitized,” he said. “…[A] the union exists for the workers and not for the management. [Numsa] in their opposing documents suggested that Ntlokotse had taken a political case to court. This suggestion is, with respect, absurd in the extreme.”
The judge added that Ntlokotse’s case was nothing more or less than a “lament for respect” for the Numsa constitution.
“The struggle for leadership within workers’ organizations is getting cancerous in this country and it is certainly hijacking what is supposed to be a workers’ association into…staff fiefdoms.”
He said Numsa’s central committee must “think carefully and do serious soul-searching” with guidance from its own constitution.
The decision means that, if the national Numsa conference goes ahead as planned, Ntlokotse and other suspended officials can attend and participate.
Numsa could not be reached for comment.
Additional reporting by Khulekani Magubane.