Numsa's ANC boycott a serious blow - analyst

2013-12-21 06:30
Numsa supporters. (Picture: Sapa)

Numsa supporters. (Picture: Sapa)

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Johannesburg – The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa’s (Numsa) boycott of the ANC in the 2014 elections is a serious blow to the ruling party, a political analyst says.

Numsa announced on Friday that it will not be supporting the ANC next year’s elections.

"This is a very serious blow to the ANC. Numsa represents the core of the urban African working class in sectors such as manufacturing, and this is the defection of that historically," said political analyst Nic Borain.

Numsa also said it planned to seek new members in other industrial sectors, overturning a central anti-poaching principle in the union movement, and posing a threat to the Cosatu-aligned National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

Union support helped propel President Jacob Zuma to power in 2009, but the relationship has soured since police shot dead 34 striking miners at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine last year.

There has also been a public outcry over a R206m state-funded security upgrade to Zuma's Nkandla home.

Numsa is the biggest block in the Cosatu labour grouping, which is itself part of a formal three-way governing alliance with the ANC and South African Communist Party (SACP).

However, Numsa has been increasingly at odds with all three over the last year, accusing them of neglecting workers in favour of "neo-liberal" pro-business policies.

Borain said if Numsa competes with NUM and Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) for members, it significantly raises the risks for instability in the mining sector.

"There is a strong sense there is a rural, ethnic pole on one side, and an African, urban working class pole on the other and it is the latter that is leaving the ANC," Borain said.

Until recently South Africa's biggest union, NUM has lost tens of thousands of members in the platinum belt in the last two years to the upstart Amcu in a bloody turf war in which dozens have died.

Numsa's encroachment into the domain of either union could destabilise already fractious labour relations.

Earlier the 330 000-member Numsa called on Zuma to resign.

The loss of the union's support is another sign that the broad labour alliance forged with the ANC is falling apart.

"Numsa as an organisation will neither endorse nor support the ANC or any other political party in 2014," general secretary Irvin Jim said.

Jim said that Numsa officials or workers could campaign for the ANC, but would have to do this "in their own time and using their own resources”.

"It is clear that the working class cannot any longer see the ANC or the SACP as its class allies in any meaningful sense," he said.

The ANC is expected to win next year's election, although there will be serious questions about Zuma's leadership if the party falls short of 60% of the vote after being in power for two decades.

In recent elections the party has exceeded 60% by comfortable margins.

Numsa's decision could hurt the ANC by depriving it of a formidable "get out the vote" machine.

Read more on:    sacp  |  cosatu  |  amcu  |  num  |  anc  |  numsa  |  jacob zuma  |  nic borain  |  irvin jim  |  johannesburg  |  nkandla upgrade  |  politics  |  marikana inquiry  |  labour

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