The top leadership of the ANC goes into a week-long konkel this week to forge a policy manifesto in election year but its main opposition on the left, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) is going full-steam ahead to set up a United Front of socialists and won’t give its “neo-liberal” policies the green light.
President Jacob Zuma will shore up his personal support in the wake of the Nkandla and Gupta scandals of the last year at this week’s national executive committee meeting, focusing his party’s attention instead on the National Development Plan (NDP) as a unifying text for his government for the next five years.
Zuma, expected to call a national election for April or May, will deliver the ruling party’s annual January 8 statement – which is delayed to Saturday – to unite his political troops behind the National Planning Commission’s blueprint to kickstart significant job-creating economic growth during his second presidential term.
Meanwhile Numsa, the first union under Cosatu’s umbrella to announce its withdrawal of support for the ANC, said the ANC and the DA were becoming mirrors of each other.
Sikwebu Dinga, Numsa’s education co-ordinator, said Zuma had already given an indication that the “neo-liberal” NDP, backed by the DA, would be the focus on the campaign.
“The distinction between the ANC and the DA for us [in Numsa]… has disappeared,” said Dinga.
He believed that on Saturday Zuma would avoid direct mention of the NDP, which has become a loaded political description, but all the key elements of economic policy would be drawn from the plan engineered by former finance minister Trevor Manuel.
Promises of the provision of decent jobs and an end to labour broking, which were contained in the ANC’s 2009 election manifesto, had not been implemented, he said.
“The ANC has previously been good in terms of its manifestos [reflecting the interests] of working people. But the actual implementation has been very different.”
A drop in support for the ANC as a consequence of unionists withdrawing their vote would be good for democracy and possibly also good for the financial markets, he said. “I am not going to comment on how markets operate… but it should be better for the markets.”
He said while the unions were not interested in how the markets performed, bringing the ANC down from an overwhelming majority – of nearly 66 percent in 2009 – “would be good for democracy”.
Irvin Jim, Numsa’s general secretary, said at the union’s special congress in December that Numsa had noticed Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) at least rhetorically backed socialism. Dinga said the union had deep concerns about the lack of democracy and accountability in the new party.
“We want elected leaders, not leaders who are anointed,” said Dinga, noting that a new Movement for Socialism, a political arm for the left discussed at the Numsa congress, would take some time to set up and would not fight the national election this year.
Numsa would study left radical movements in Greece, Brazil, Venezuela and Bolivia and would try to avoid the kind of mistakes made by the Movement for Democratic Change in Zimbabwe and the labour movement in Zambia.
A deadline for consideration of establishing a Movement for Socialism was set for the Numsa central committee in 2015.
Dinga said he could not predict how well the EFF would do but the union did note at its congress that the EFF professed to be socialist. “How well that translates into votes is another thing.”
Numsa promised to lead the formation of a new United Front – similar to the anti-apartheid United Democratic Front of the 1980s – “to co-ordinate struggles in the workplace and in communities”.
One of the first campaigns would be a to stop the youth wage subsidy, which Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan ushered in on January 1. There would be a mass strike on February 25, soon after the opening of parliament.
Peter Attard Montalto, Nomura International emerging markets economist, said in his Economic Insights this week that the ANC could drop to as low as 56.2 percent of the vote. The DA would gain 27 percent of the vote in this year’s election, compared from just under 17 percent in 2009. He also predicted that the EFF and Mamphela Ramphele’s AgangSA would take some seats.
However, Montalto said: “We think the election is unlikely to be market moving… The key reason is that we separate the political structural and policy implications of the ANC losing vote share from the event of the election itself as we think the market will do the same.”