The National Union of Metalworkers SA (Numsa) remain resolute in their criticism of President Jacob Zuma’s ANC government and says the party has only shed votes since 1994. Speaking to the media on Thursday, the union is still saying 'if' they start a workers’ party they’ll contest elections. But the 'if' looks like only a matter of 'when'. By GREG NICOLSON.
With plans to potentially establish a political party and contest future elections, Numsa’s been crunching voter numbers. “Indeed the ANC received 62.15% of the valid votes cast, but 64% of South Africans DID NOT vote for the ANC,” read the union’s statement after a meeting of its central committee meeting this week. The 64% figure reflects the number of eligible voters who didn’t register or registered and didn’t vote ANC. The slow decline of ANC support shows there’s an opening in the political spectrum on the left, said the union.
For now, Numsa’s United Front, set up after a special congress resolution in December, is a collective of organisations seeking to unite the working class. Asked whether it’s going to be a political party, union’s general secretary Irvin Jim responded, “I’d say logically yes. The bottom line is that, as we speak, workers in the mining belt are in a four month strike and the rest of the country is in service delivery protest. Even on the eve of the elections people were taking to the streets.” He cited inequality figures and said the working class needs to be united, educated and embark on mass rolling actions to fight for its interests.
“There is no turning back from where we stand in forging ahead to form a movement for socialism. In other words the working class need their own political party,” Jim said. “At an appropriate time we will contest elections if that party is formed.”
While Jim wouldn’t speak categorically about the union’s plans, he suggested that it is likely to contest the 2016 municipal elections. The union says it knows the ANC won’t win Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality and it doesn’t want the DA to win, suggesting its workers party hopes to contest for the prize.
Jim said it won’t set up an opportunist party, perhaps a reference to the EFF. He continued to criticise the SA Communist Party – “The working class needs a political party that doesn’t do double speak.” Jim said there are “henchmen” who have been trying to destroy Numsa since it took its resolution not to support the ANC.
Jim said EFF should be applauded for its election success and said Julius Malema and his colleagues show there is support for the radical implementation of the Freedom Charter, despite the ANC expelling him when he tried to raise issues such as nationalisation.
Jim was clear that while the union has problems with Cosatu, it’s the ANC which has led the federation astray and it was the ANC who hasn’t focused on the socialist principles of the Freedom Charter. Numsa wants Zuma to resign over the Nkandla scandal and says all the ministers involved must also resign. In its statement the union said, “Nkandla is nothing other than the ruling elite spending a huge amount of public money, the money of ordinary workers and the poor, on a private residence for one man and his family.”
The union remains committed to engaging Cosatu while it tries to work through divisions but Jim said they don’t expect Cosatu President Sidumo Dlamini to accede to their demand for a special national congress, which could elect new leadership. “We are not going to run away from that engagement. We will dialogue with whoever,” said Jim.
While it wants to remain within Cosatu to influence the working class, Numsa believes factions in the federation are determined to expel the union. It’s submitted court papers calling on Cosatu’s president to hold a special national congress. The union will write to Cosatu’s national office barers demanding information on the costs incurred to defend its position in court on the suspension of general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. It also wants Dlamini suspended over the suspension of Vavi, which was overturned by the courts. Numsa is also waiting for a response to its letter to Cosatu detailing why it should not be suspended from Cosatu.
It appears Numsa is already looking outside of the halls of Cosatu, as the union stood to the defence of mineworkers on strike in the platinum industry. While Cosatu leaders have mostly focused on criticising the Association of Mineworkers (AMCU) leadership during the strike and defending their rival Cosatu affiliate, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Numsa used the strike as a clarion call for workers’ interests and criticised the platinum companies.
“What is even more disgraceful is the fact that the ANC has after 20 years of democracy not done anything to break down the apartheid capitalist colonial economy which is based on super exploitation of black and African labour,” the union stated on Thursday. Numsa also criticised the move by Zuma last week to limit the scope of the Marikana Commission, which could mean government leaders don’t appear for cross-examination. The union will look at the legalities of the changed term of reference.
Oh and there was some actual union work also going on. Numsa members in engineering will soon embark on a massive engineering strike. DM
Photo: Irvin Jim (Sapa)
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