The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa’s (Numsa) elective conference that gets under way in Durban on Monday will be one of the main political events this week.
The union has become a critical voice in South African politics and can be expected to continue with its tough talk on policy.
President Jacob Zuma and Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi are among the guest speakers at the week-long conference. The union has been critical of the African National Congress’s policy direction as it tries to pull Cosatu and the ANC towards more radical and left-leaning policies such as the nationalisation of mines. It would also like to see the Reserve Bank coming under more political control and for it to drop inflation targeting as its main tool.
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Irvin Jim, the union’s general secretary, and the president, Cedric Gina, are expected to be re-elected unchallenged.
The union is battling for dominance within Cosatu. Numsa is one of the unions that has backed Mr Vavi in Cosatu’s power battles. Mr Vavi and Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini are often at loggerheads, with Mr Dlamini benefiting from the NUM’s support.
Mr Dlamini is linked with the group that wants Mr Zuma retained as president of the ANC, while Mr Vavi is associated with the group that wants leadership change.
With its membership of about 300 000, the union is second only to the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which has 330 000 members. The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) is third, with about 250 000 members.
Numsa is one of the unions that have backed Mr Vavi in Cosatu’s power battles. Mr Vavi and Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini are often at loggerheads, with Mr Dlamini benefiting from the NUM’s support. Mr Dlamini is linked with the group that wants Mr Zuma retained as president of the ANC, while Mr Vavi is associated with the group that wants leadership change.
Mr Dlamini scored a morale-boosting victory during the NUM’s elections, when union leaders sympathetic to him were retained.
Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande will host his counterparts from other Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries for a two-day conference starting on Monday. The meeting is expected to formulate a policy vision for higher education in the region.
Meanwhile, the ANC Youth League will hold a press conference on Tuesday, following its policy summit in Pretoria at the weekend. The league is expected to call for new departments to be set up.
It wants a department of nationalisation and a new ministry of free education to be set up. These will be among its proposals to be put to the ANC policy conference later this month.
Also on Tuesday, mining and nationalisation are some of the topics expected to come up at a mining lekgotla to be held in Midrand. NUM general secretary Frans Baleni, business leader Bobby Godsell and Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu are among the main speakers on the first day.
On Wednesday, Mr Vavi, Mr Zuma and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan will address the meeting.
On Thursday, the ANC’s Northern Cape electoral congress is scheduled to start, with an address by Mr Zuma. Provincial chairman John Block is expected to be re-elected to lead the ANC’s smallest province in terms of membership numbers.
Under Mr Block’s leadership, the Northern Cape has been hostile to Mr Zuma and can be expected to campaign for leadership change in December in Mangaung.
On Friday, the South African Local Government Association provincial executive will visit Lesedi municipality in Heidelberg.
Service delivery protests saw at least eight councillors’ houses and other municipal buildings set on fire in March. Power cuts, high electricity rates and problems with inaccurate municipal bills were among the complaints of the residents.
The angry residents used petrol bombs to burn down a municipal building adjacent to a police building, in scenes reminiscent of apartheid-era defiance.
In the provincial legislatures, MECs will continue delivering budget speeches throughout the week, as will their counterparts in the National Assembly.
Eyes will also be on Richard Mdluli, former head of South African Police Service (SAPS) crime intelligence, who suffered a setback when the labour court ruled in favour of an application by the SAPS to set aside the lifting of his suspension.