Numsa plans ANC sabotage

2013-12-22 10:01

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Powerful union to throw a spanner in the ruling party’s election machinery

Metal workers’ union Numsa wants to sabotage the ANC during next year’s general election to pressurise the party to sack President Jacob Zuma.

At its congress in Boksburg this week, the union called for Zuma to resign immediately for “pursuing neoliberal policies” and for having an administration characterised by “scandals, nepotism and patronage”.

Newly elected Numsa president Andrew Chirwa said although the policy belongs to the ANC, Zuma is the face of this policy in the party and in government.

With 338?000 members, Numsa is the largest Cosatu affiliate. It also played a major role in propelling Zuma to power in 2007 and lobbied for the sacking of former president Thabo Mbeki the following year.

Chirwa said: “Zuma has maintained the same neoliberal programme Mbeki was criticised for. Zuma has done nothing but accelerate what we recalled Mbeki for. If we were the ANC, Zuma would be leaving, as in yesterday.”

But Chirwa admitted that the campaign to unseat Zuma could take months, if not years.

Numsa plans to turn up the heat against Zuma in various phases:

»?“Step one is to go public and make sure that every Tom, Dick and Harry knows that Numsa has adopted this position,” said Chirwa.

»?Numsa will lobby its position in Cosatu and use workers to pressurise its leaders. Chirwa said some leaders in Cosatu have decided to support the current administration, no matter what. “What we are going to do is develop a programme that will go to the grass-roots,” he said.

»?A pamphlet will be drawn up to “simplify the crisis in Cosatu” and to explain to the “rank and file” its stance on why Numsa thinks Zuma should go. “If it is to gain momentum, the rank and file must understand and grasp this to be morally wrong,” said Chirwa.

»?Eight other unions that are sympathetic towards Numsa will be engaged to support its stance in Cosatu. These are nurses’ union Denosa, food and allied workers’ union Fawu, municipal union Samwu, commercial catering union Saccawu, communication workers’ union CWU, public and allied workers’ union Pawusa, football union Sapfu and finance union Sasbo.

»?Numsa cannot rely on the affiliates to help them, so its “hope is on the most vulnerable, including the unemployed”, said Chirwa. It will push for the establishment of a United Front (similar to the UDF in the 1980s) and a Movement for Socialism to fight neoliberal policies by 2015. Numsa plans to work with community organisations, other labour formations and parties who share their aims, and even find “electoral opportunities”.

»?Numsa will not endorse the ANC or campaign for the party in the run-up to next year’s elections, nor will it pay its R500?000 annual political levies to Cosatu. Chirwa said if the ANC performs badly in the elections, this might push the party to recall Zuma.

Numsa called this week’s conference because it says Cosatu is dragging its feet in organising a special conference to decide on suspended general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi’s fate.

Social activist Zackie Achmat labelled the congress outcome as “the most momentous decision in post-apartheid politics and struggle”.

Achmat, who has been running a petition to impeach Zuma for allegedly lying to Parliament about Nkandla, said this would open the road for “progressive forces” to take over in 2019.

Professor Edward Webster from the Society, Work and Development Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand said Numsa’s congress was “the first clear rejection by a major Cosatu affiliate of the alliance with the ANC and the SA Communist Party”.

Although the majority of Numsa members were still sympathetic towards the ANC, its refusal to again deploy ANC campaigners full-time ahead of the elections could hit the party hard. “If you couple that with the statement of demand for the resignation of the president, that is a powerful signal,” said Webster.

He added that Numsa was pushing for a change in Cosatu’s leadership and direction, rather than a breakaway.

What came to the fore this week was “the contestation between the two traditions in Cosatu” – one a more radical shop floor tradition, while the other is more cosy with the ANC. In labour terms, Numsa’s declared intention to recruit along value chains instead of sectors reflected a “restructuring of labour globally”, said Webster.

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