Leaders of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) – longstanding supporters of the African National Congress (ANC) – wish to withdraw their association with the country’s ruling party and, in what could be a defeating move, want to deter their members from voting for the ANC in next year’s general elections.
Numsa, which is also the country’s largest metalworker’s union, with almost 232 000 members, is reported to be considering either initiating a civic movement or forming a new political party thus completely severing its association with both the ANC and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).
According to The Sunday Independent newspaper, next month’s union congress will hold discussions of a breakaway labour party which, if initiated, could irreversibly change the political grounds in South Africa.
Further reports on the matter reveal that Numsa’s leaders want the union to fall away from the tripartite alliance in order to form a socialist party and, if the need arises, create a well-supported federation of its own and invite allies to join their stance.
With its large membership and significantly larger contributions, Numsa pays an estimated R800 000 in Cosatu subscription fees and contributes millions to the ANC’s election campaign, all of which the tripartite alliance will lose should the union break away.
Eight-million rand’s worth in campaign fees have been held back by the union since the suspension of Zwelinzima Vavi, implying Numsa’s distaste of its associate parties was initiated by the internal battles within the alliance.
This withholding of funds supported by the union’s threat to leave the alliance seems to be a heavy bargaining tool against Vavi’s suspension. The majority of Vavi’s support originates from Numsa and its members, which have a large influence among the working class.
The tripartite alliance seems to be placed between a rock and a hard place as its failure to fulfil the ultimatums could result in a heavy blow to the ANC’s support base, causing the party to perform poorly in next year’s elections.