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Irvin Jim draws first blood against Vavi in battle for soul of Saftu at congress

Numsa wins motion over unconstitutionality of acting president to chair the gathering

Numsa boss Irvin Jim and his union drew first blood in his tussle with Saftu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi for the soul of the trade union federation.

In a dramatic start to the conference in Ekurhuleni, Jim opposed the conference being chaired by Saftu acting president Atwell Nazo.

Jim argued there was no mention of “acting” in the Saftu constitution, insisting the federation’s first deputy president Nomvume Ralarala do the opening in the absence of suspended president Mac Chavalala.

A heated debate ensued, with the Food and Allied Workers’ Union (Fawu) insisting Numsa and Jim were out of order by calling for debate before the official opening of the conference.

Numsa was not backing down, with its president Andrew Chirwa echoing Jim’s sentiments.

“As Numsa, we are rising as a legitimate affiliate and firmly move for what has been advanced by the secretary of KZN, that we are in this congress having communicated with you last night saying we want the leadership of Saftu that was suspended back,” said Jim to thundering applause.

“To the extent that we are at the opening, the first deputy president that we elected in the launching congress must open the congress and chair it until we get to the point we want to raise.”

Unions supporting Vavi moved that the conference be opened by the acting president as he was installed by a national executive committee meeting (NEC) in which Numsa was present.

Said Fawu general secretary Mayoyo Mngomezulu: “As Fawu, what we want to say is that when we were in meetings of the NEC and decisions were taken, in the event that there are comrades and affiliates with contrary views to those decisions, they have a right to prioritise their own interests in the discussions of this conference.

“But remember, the congress has not started — it must start first and then you prioritise whatever you want to prioritise. We have not even adopted the agenda and have not formed [a] quorum. Let the congress start.”

Chirwa defended Numsa’s position, saying the union wanted the congress to proceed but not in contravention of its own constitution.

“We want a congress that is convened in line with [the] Saftu constitution. That decision [to install acting national office bearers] was unconstitutional. We are protecting this congress from being challenged from unconstitutional decisions of the national executive committee.”

Vavi tried to intervene, accusing Numsa of wanting to collapse the conference, a move Jim dismissed on the spot.

After a protracted debate over the impasse, it was concluded that the national office bearers make a decision — and with that, Jim emerged victorious as Ralarala took to the podium to chair and open the congress to loud cheers from the Numsa section.

Numsa is Saftu’s biggest affiliate and has 40% of the 708 voting delegates attending the elective conference, convened at the Birchwood Hotel in Ekurhuleni.

Jim and Vavi have been at each other’s throats in recent months over the direction Saftu must take.

After national office bearers attempted to suspend Vavi, they were in turn suspended at an NEC meeting late in March.

Numsa has said it will champion a call that the suspension of the officials opposed to Vavi was unconstitutional, one of whom was Vavi’s deputy Moleko Phakedi who will challenge for the top position this week.




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