Response to Media reports that Numsa benefited from the ‘ARMS DEAL’

23 November 2012

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) note Sweden’s TV4 story and subsequently The Star’s Business Report as well as the Mail & Guardian Online reports pertaining to Numsa’s allege involvement in the controversial arms deal.

It is important to put the record straight that Numsa as an organization never received any money from the arms deal.

We further note with concern that journalists are not asking us whether Numsa received money but the line of questioning is about how many millions Numsa received.

The current Numsa National Office Bearers (NOB’s) categorically deny that we had knowledge of the so-called R10m hand-out to build a Training School in exchange for political support and endorsement for South Africa’s government to purchase Swedish-built Gripen fighter jets.

When these claims surfaced earlier this year in the media, particularly from Sweden’s TV4, we immediately contacted our out-going National Treasurer comrade Philemon Shiburi and our employee comrade Petros Ngcobo, to solicit a deeper and informed understanding or basis of these allegations in the interest of safeguarding the political prestige and integrity of the union.

We want to point out that these allegations or claims are not new, but they are publicly known and recorded.

When the then Independent Democrats (ID) leader Ms Patricia De Lille in 1999 made these damning allegations in parliament regarding corruption and bribery on the arms deal, she went on a solo and public crusade to charge that Numsa was amongst the beneficiaries.

The union then took the allegations as made by Ms De Lille very seriously and immediately took steps to get to the bottom of these allegations.

Importantly during that period when these allegations were first made, Numsa had suffered a major and tragic blow as a result of the death of its General Secretary at the time, comrade Mbuyiselo Ngwenda, which created a vacuum in the office of General Secretary.

We should also place on record that the South African government did engage the country into the arms deal which was a big mega project for South Africa. One question at the time that, we assume, the then Numsa leadership would have been engaged on by government would have been the question of the offsets that were about targeting jobs.

Numsa has always been about championing manufacturing and skilling of the workforce. That is the basis upon which Numsa would have been engaged by both the South African government and Saab.

A Numsa team was put together in 2000 with a view of undertaking an investigation to enable the union to concretely deal with these claims once and for all.

A report was furnished by the team and was processed through Numsa’s Central Committee to accurately inform our members as custodians of the union on our findings and approach in dealing with these allegations or claims moving forward.

It is indeed worth mentioning that through our investigations an offer to build a Training School was allegedly made to the union, given our strategic position or location in the manufacturing sector of our country’s economy.

But the Training School offer was rejected by the Numsa Central Committee on the basis that it was linked to the arms deal.

When Numsa said no to the training school the Swedes then handed over money/machines to various FETs in South Africa. One was Tshwane South College – there they put in a CNC machine to train unemployed youth.

When Ford retrenched workers it was also the place where workers were sent to be retrained. The importance of this aspect of the information shows that Numsa did not get the money and that’s why the Swedes supported these FET colleges instead.

This matter predates both the present and previous leadership of Numsa. Why has it become important today or why is this old story revived?

If truth be told this has become important purely for political interest and political agendas that are targeting Stefan Lofven who is currently the leader of the Social Democratic Party in Sweden who will contest elections next year.

The Swedish investigating journalist who interviewed the General Secretary and Deputy General Secretary on 10 November 2012 tried very hard to use Numsa’s decision to reject the School as ammunition to launch an offensive against Stefan Lofven because at the time Numsa visited Sweden for an investigation he was a leader of IF Metall.

This is something we completely rejected but they would stop at nothing but strongly suggesting that Stefan Lofven acted in the interest of Saab in influencing Numsa to be part of the arms deal something we refuted and rejected as complete cheap propaganda.

It is true that Numsa has a long and strong relationship with IF Metal and when our delegation visited Sweden would have met with IF Metal.

This cannot be used to make the insinuation that they are corrupt. Numsa has refuted this allegation as being nothing less than political bankruptcy.

Numsa will continue to hold the leadership of IF Metal in high regard and we value our relationship with this union.

The decision Numsa took was voluntarily and it had nothing to do with IF Metal. The arms deal was a program implemented by the South African government. Our decision not to accept the Training School offered by Saab to the then leadership of Numsa, must not be used to demonize IF Mettall in particular Stefan Lofven.

The Numsa National Office Bearers reject this as cheap politicking. We reject it with the contempt it deserves. Journalists investigating the arms deal must produce their own proof instead of making up stories that are not factual or correct.

These reports are not class neutral, but have more to do with influencing the electoral outcomes in Sweden.

Therefore, the ruling class in Sweden in collaboration with its counterparts in South Africa have forged a toxic and unholy alliance to derail the electoral victory and ascendency to power of comrade Stefan Lofven, the current leader of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), a former Trade Unionist and IF Metal leader. This ill-informed strategy will be rejected by the working class in Sweden!

As Numsa we remain open to be subjected to any investigation under the ambit of a credible institution of justice, as opposed to the media’s attempts to rubbish Numsa without the facts so as to influence public opinion.

Our members are fully conscious of the fact that this is a back-handed compliment to Numsa’s growing influence within the Alliance and broader society in the struggle or class battles to dent the back-bone of domestic and foreign monopoly capital amidst the triple crisis of poverty, unemployment and deepening inequalities.

Issued by National Office Bearers (NOB)

For interview requests contact:

Castro Ngobese, National Spokesperson +2783 627 5197