Numsa congress: Heralding a new party

Cape Town - If there was any doubt about an irreparable rift existing between the National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa) and its supporters and the ANC-led alliance, it was laid to rest today.  

At the 10th Numsa national congress in Cape Town, Numsa president Andrew Chirwa set the pattern with an hour long speech in which he lambasted the alliance.

The fact that Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was the first guest speaker (followed later — and at length — by expelled Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi) did not indicate any rapprochement.  Gordhan spoke clearly, stressing that the economy needed to be transformed, but claimed much had been done.

The finance minister was popular, but his intervention did not alter what appears to be the overall view that the ANC has “no other place except in the dustbin of history”.  And it was not only President Jacob Zuma but Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa who was roundly condemned.  Clearly, the putative alternative is already in operation.

What sort of alternative was also quite clearly outlined by Chirwa.  And with the delegates all wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the face of the late Fidel Castro Cuba is obviously a template.

According to Chirwa, "Long after imperialism had triumphed over Russia, Cuba has remained standing as a socialist country and a beacon of hope to the world working class who are struggling for socialism.”  Clearly, therefore, what existed in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe is also something of an example to emulate.

However, at the same time, both Chirwa and Numsa general sceretary Irvin Jim stressed the need to continue debating the way forward to “socialism”.  And that was over-riding message of this congress:  change must come soon — and that change is labelled socialism.

So far as Numsa is concerned — and delegates seem in firm support — the ANC and its allies, Cosatu and the SA Communist Party, have not only lost their way, they have become “counter revolutionary”.  As such, no distinction is drawn between Zuma and Ramaphosa.

Chirwa also went further, stating that “the miners in Marikana [were] murdered by Cyril Ramaphosa and the ANC government”.  In this context, leading Numsa members admit that they see a minister such as Gordhan as at best naive, “thinking he can change things from inside”.

As Vavi made clear, he and Numsa were once in the position of changing tings from within.  But Numsa officials also point out that Numsa has not been a union to toe the line;  that Numsa supported the removal of President Thabo Mbeki.  Now they want Zuma — and the ANC out.

But they do not see any advantage in the “right wing” Democratic Alliance.  But it is admitted that many workers vote DA because “they are sick and tired of the ANC”.  However, this is a case of the DA “pulling the wool” over the eyes of the workers.

All that remains amid all the rhetoric and confusion, it seems, is for the formal announcement of a “workers’ party”.  Or, perhaps, as one delegate put it: “A united front alliance.”

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