Numsa responds to the “Plotters” document

Photo by Werner Beukes, SAPA

How Numsa and the United Front exposed attempts to gather intelligence on their members

In December 2014, around the same time Themba had State Security Agency officials sitting in his office, in another part of the country, the leadership of the National Union of Mineworkers of South Africa (Numsa) called a press conference. They were responding to a dossier sent anonymously to the media which claimed to expose details of a “secret regime change plot” by Numsa’s leadership.

Claiming to be written by “concerned members within Numsa”, the document accused Numsa’s leaders of trying to destabilise South Africa with a programme of land-grabs, agitation and violence, as well as the launch of a new political party.

“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” Numsa statement

(This is apparently a reference to the United Front, a proposed alliance between Numsa and community organisations which is seen as a critical alternative to the alliance between the African National Congress (ANC), South African Communist Party (SACP), and Cosatu.)

The document also accused six external “plotters” of being involved, including several academics – and Brian Ashley, the political activist who the SSA questioned Themba about.

Read it here:

Numsa’s leaders tore into the document, calling it a desperate attempt to divide Numsa and discredit its leadership in the aftermath of its departure from the ANC-led alliance. Read their full statement here.

The Numsa leaders pointed out that the ‘leaked document’ was similar to many other anonymous, fake ‘intelligence’ reports that have been used in smear campaigns in South African politics in the past.

Karl Cloete, Numsa’s Deputy General Secretary, also revealed that several shop stewards and United Front activists had reported similar experiences to that of Themba. (See here, here and here.)


  • • What does it mean for democracy if political activity is being mediated without our consent, by non-transparent institutions?
  • • If the intelligence structures are interested in the activities of the United Front, is this a sign that these structures are serving the interests of the ANC?
  • • If these are bona fide intelligence activities, are they legal? The Constitution forbids South Africa’s security services to “prejudice a political party interest” or “further, in a partisan manner, any interest of a political party”.

Download the report:


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