Over the last 10-days, a document that alleges that Numsa leaders are involved in an underground plot to destabilise South Africa has been doing its rounds. The document which is entitled; Exposed: Secret Regime Change Plot to Distabilize(sic) South Africa names two elected national officer bearers of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), Irvin Jim and Karl Cloete as the kingpins of the plot.
In their plan to effect “regime change” in the country the two office bearers are joined by two union officials Dinga Sikwebu and Azwell Banda. Assisting what the document characterises as “rogue elements within the Numsa leadership” are four professors: Chris Malikane, Noor Nieftagodien, Patrick Bond, Peter Jordi; former South Africa’s Minister of Intelligence Ronnie Kasrils; political analyst Moeletsi Mbeki; and Brian Ashley who is the director of the Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC).
What the document claims?
Claiming to be authored by “concerned members within Numsa” the “secret regime change plot” document outlines what it describes as a plan of the “plotters” to destabilise South Africa. Amongst the strategies of the plotters are the following:
• instigation of widespread violence, land grabs and instability
• establishment of “their own” intelligence structures in collaboration with foreign governments and international companies
• destabilisation of the mining sector
• the formation of a political party, the United Front (UF)
• the recruitment of other political parties to support the regime change agenda.
To achieve their objectives, it is alleged that the “plotters” use socialism and socialist rhetoric as a “quick fix” solution to the country’s challenges. Up the sleeve of the “plotters” is an insidious plan to exploit institutions of higher learning to confuse communities and to indoctrinate the ‘fallible’ through use of “socialist philosophy”. In all their strategies, “the rogue elements within Numsa’s leadership” and their South African collaborators; have a team of 12 foreigners from Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Egypt, Germany, Greece, India Uruguay, Philippines, Venezuela that endorse the regime change efforts in our country. These “foreign-players”, it is claimed attended Numsa’s symposium of left parties and movements held on 07-10 August 2014 in South Africa.
Objectives of the so-called exposé:
We have no doubt that the circulation of this document and its nefarious accusations is part of a well-orchestrated plan to destroy Numsa and deter from its chosen path. We also have no doubt that prompting all these dastardly and desperate acts are our December 2013 Special National Congress (SNC) resolution:
• to call on Cosatu to break from its alliance with the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP)
• to lead in the formation of a United Front that brings workers and communities together
• to explore the establishment of a socialist political organisation or Movement for Socialism.
Now that our resolutions are finding traction, there is panic all over. Even the president of the ANC Jacob Zuma had to admit at the aborted ANC Youth League conference that not only the youth is in crisis but the parent body was in dire straits.
The plan to deal with Numsa has many prongs. Amongst these are:
• to expel Numsa from Cosatu
• to delay the registration of the amendments that the Special National Congress effected to our union’s constitution
• to openly support for a rival union in the sectors that Numsa organises in.
The “dirty tricks” document is part of this well-orchestrated plan. This intervention aims to criminalise and demonise Numsa. The strategy is to cast aspersion on what our agenda is and separate the union’s leadership from its base.
Let us upfront say what we are unapologetic about:
• Firstly, Numsa is a socialist union and believes the crisis facing our people can only be finally resolved under socialism. There is nothing criminal or subversive about this. Socialism is one of Numsa’s founding principles. By the way Cosatu has socialism as its founding principle. We propagate it and we discuss it with our members.
• Secondly, our Special National Congress mandated us to call for the union federation’s break from the ANC-SACP-COSATU Alliance. We are continuing with that mandate.
• Thirdly, the Special National Congress resolved wtoe build a United Front and to explore the establishment of a Movement for Socialism. We are busy with that.
• Like many in the country, we think that the ANC has taken the nearest off-ramp from its mandated position. We are not apologetic about that.
• Before anyone else made the call, our Special National Congress said that President Jacob Zuma must step down. Many people are being convinced of this position.
Rebutting the ludicrous accusations:
The first thing that we need to point out is that no Numsa member could have written the document. In Numsa we do not have a Secretary-General (SG) or Deputy Secretary-General (DSG). These are titles and a vocabulary of the African National Congress (ANC). In Numsa, we have a General Secretary (GS) and Deputy General-Secretary (DGS). Our preliminary investigation shows that the document was lodged in John Myburg’s dropbox which contains only one document; the ludicrous exposé. The document’s properties indicate that it was written by John Carelse who claims to be an official of Numsa. Our membership system reflects no member by the name of John Myburg nor do we have a staff member called John Carelse.
Secondly, those who penned the so-called exposé could not have been at the Numsa symposium. Orange Lopez from the ruling Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV), the general secretary of Central de Trabajadores de la Argentina (CTA) Pablo Micheli and international relations secretariat of Bolivia’s Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) Leonilda Zurita were not at the symposium. Although the three had been invited and had accepted our invitation, due to unforeseen circumstances they pulled out. Their absence was explained at the symposium. Clearly, those who wrote “the regime change” document sat with an old draft programme. The fact that there were changes to the programme did not matter to the writers of the irresponsible document.
Thirdly, what is interesting is the similarity in the jargon in the so-called exposé and in the statement that came out of the South African Communist Party’s (SACP) augmented Central Committee held on 28-30 November 2014. The clarion call of the SACP and the first line in its statement is: expose the regime-change agenda! According to the communist party in the aftermath of the African National Congress (ANC) victory in the May 2014 elections, there has been an intensification of an “anti-majoritarian regime-change agenda emanating from disparate quarters”.
Like the “secret regime change plot” document, the SACP accuses those who are behind plans to overthrow the government –“neoliberals and pseudo-left populists alike” – of exploiting the persistence of the crisis of unemployment, poverty and inequality to further their aims. Similar to the so- called exposé, the SACP warns metalworkers against what is their union’s resolution to explore the formation of an alternative political party. The communist party pleads with union members “not follow a leadership clique within Numsa that is diverting union resources into its personal agenda of launching a political party”.
Fourthly, the document has all the hallmarks of documents that recently emanated from apparatuses and individuals linked to the State Security Agency (SSA). A feature of these documents is to accuse all and sundry of being involved in attempts to overthrow the South African government. Those accused are alleged to be working with foreign agencies or on the payroll of foreign donors.
The recent example of this rogue activity is the intelligence report that surfaced last year and accused the general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) Zwelinzima Vavi of being part of an advisory committee that Mamphela Ramphele led to set up a political party. The US agencies National Endowment for Democracy (NED), World Movement for Democracy (WMD) and wealthy Belgian business people were purported as funders of the project. The bogus intelligence report also reported on the Associated Mining and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa reporting on talks he was having with Irvin Jim to destabilise the mining sector.
A pattern is emerging:
The emergence of the “secret regime change plot” document is not an isolated event. Since the Special National Congress of Numsa in December 2013, what we suspect as Sate Security Agency (SSA) agents have been trying to recruit our shopstewards and activists in Ekurhuleni and Eastern Cape to spy on the union’s activities on the proposed United Front. We have evidence of this and affidavits from these shopstewards.
We also experienced what looked like intelligence work when we convened the international symposium of left parties and movements in August 2014. Our national spokesperson received a phone call from the French Embassy asking for names of French citizens that were to attend the symposium. The embassy explicitly said that they had been reliably informed that the symposium was subversive.
Three international delegates to the symposium were for various reasons turned back as they made their way to South Africa. The delegate from the French’s Left Front Christophe Aguiton was held overnight in holding cell when he arrived at OR Tambo International and put back on the next Air France flight back to Paris.
In recent weeks, cars of our officials have been followed, broken into and laptops stolen. On Friday 28 November 2014, suspicious-looking convoy followed the car of Numsa’s General Secretary; jumping red traffic lights as he tried to shake the tail behind him.
But as we all know, this has not been directed only at Numsa. It happens to activists in social movements involved in ‘service delivery protests’. It happens to investigative journalists digging up all the rot on corruption. It happens to all those who are critical of the status quo. There is a pattern where intelligence forces are used to deal with legitimate and lawful struggles and campaigns. It is a sign of creeping authoritarianism.
What are going to do?
The first thing that we want to assert is that what we are involved in is lawful political activity which is consistent with the rights of citizens to engage in lawful political activity and to freely associate with political parties/movements of their choice. Our decisions to lead in the formation of a United Front and to explore the establishment of a Movement for Socialism are above board and lawful. We will not be deterred from pursuing what our members mandated us to do. We will also pursue these noble goals with whoever we feel as Numsa are likeminded people, here and abroad.
Secondly, it is our belief that the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa requires that intelligence and counter-intelligence activities of the country’s agencies are in compliance with the Constitution and legislative frameworks of South Africa. It is for this reason that one of the first pieces of legislation in the new democratic dispensation was the Intelligence Services Oversight Act of 1994; that created the office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence to play a civilian oversight role over our intelligence services.
As Numsa and all of those accused of being involved in the “regime change plot”, we intend to file a formal grievance and complaint with the Inspector- General of Intelligence, Advocate Faith Doreen Radebe. We will ask her:
• to investigate the source of the document that is maligning us and our union.
• to ascertain whether there is any surveillance of Numsa office bearers, leading officials and a range of “friends of Numsa”.
• to establish whether there is any interception of voice or electronic messages from Numsa office bearers, leading officials and a range of “friends of Numsa”.
In this regard, we will provide the Inspector- General of Intelligence with a dossier with affidavits detailing what we have outlined above as well as a list of people who she must establish whether they any form of surveillance or not. As a union we will also seek an urgent meeting with the Minister of State Security David Mahlobo to demand that no legal union and political work is criminalised.
Thirdly, as a union we plan to mobilise human rights organisations, organisations campaigning for press freedom, human rights lawyers and other social movements to call on the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to investigate through public hearings any possible abuses or infringements of the rights to privacy, freedom and security by intelligence operatives and other securocrats.
The mandate of the Human Rights Commission is clearly outlined in the constitution. The Commission has the duty to promote and protect human rights. The Constitution enjoins the Commission to investigate, monitor and assess the observance of human rights. According to the Constitution, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has the power “to take steps to secure appropriate redress where human rights have been violated”.
As indicated above the incidents directed at Numsa currently are not isolated. It is not the first time that intelligence operatives are interfering in the exercise of hum rights in our Constitution. We need a public investigation on the abuses of power by securocrats. South African Human Rights Commission must do its work!
Fourthly, as Numsa we believe that in the final analysis our members and communities are our forest and the best form of defence for the organisation and rights of our people. We commit ourselves to inform our members and their communities about what is happening as well as explain to them what the real agenda behind the recent shenanigans.
While we are serious about approaching the Inspector- General of Intelligence, the Minister of State Security and the South African Human Rights Commission; we will not fold our arms while our rights are being violated and our activities. We will therefore have a discussion at Numsa’s Central Committee that meets on 08 to 12 December 2014 about the forms of campaigns that we need to take in defence of our organisation. Such discussion will include marching to the Department of State Security or the Department of Labour that is delaying the registration of the amendments of Numsa’s constitution.
It is our firm belief that after many states seized on the events of 09/11 to call for greater ‘national security’ and to blur lawful and unlawful activities of their citizenry, peddling documents such as Exposed: Secret Regime Change Plot to Distabilize(sic) South Africa not only puts in danger the lives of many activists fighting for social justice in South Africa, but threatens our international allies in their work in their own countries and in their travels.
As Numsa, we have informed those listed as being part of the manufactured plot about the sinister document and are working with them to determine an appropriate response. We have assured them that no one will choose who Numsa’s friends are. Those in the so-called exposé remain our allies and comrades and we will share whatever we do politically in the country to expose the real source of the document with them.
As a union, we are determined to continue on the path that we have chosen politically and organizationally. There will be no going back on our December 2013 Special National Congress. As the workers who established Numsa’s predecessors in 1973 and on whose footsteps we march, our slogan is loud and clear: Asijiki! Enough is enough! There is no turning back!
Castro Ngobese: Numsa National Spokesperson – 083 627 5197