Friday, February 22, 2019
David Sipunzi

David Sipunzi

The National Union of Mineworkers

WILL the change of guard at the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) see the organisation regaining the numbers it lost to rival union, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU)? It’s perhaps too early to tell, but Sipunzi’s narrow and surprising triumph over Frans Baleni at NUM’s 15th congress in June, 2015 will most certainly shake things up in the ranks of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), the over-arching confederation to which the NUM belongs. Sipunzi, who has steadily come through the ranks of NUM, didn’t mince his words when he was elected. He said workers don’t need to support the ANC-led tripartite alliance to be Cosatu members. This could herald in new dynamics in NUM’s association with the labour confederation and in turn Cosatu’s relationship with the ruling party. A faction in NUM that was disgruntled by the expulsion of Cosatu leader Zwelinzima Vavi and the National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa) is said to have chosen Sipunzi who seems to take a more co-operative stance towards AMCU. “I would say to [AMCU]: ‘Let’s unite our strengths and focus them on the employer and not each other,’” City Press quoted him as saying.


Sipunzi joined the mining industry in July 1985 at Harmony Gold – and in the same year he was recruited into the National Union of Mineworkers. He became an NUM shaft steward in 1986. Five years later, he was elected the NUM Free State deputy regional secretary. In 1999 he became NUM’s Free state regional secretary, a position he held until he dethroned long-standing NUM general-secretary, Frans Baleni.