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Numsa tells ANC: us or NDP

628 Treasurer general Zweli Mkhize during the ANC 53rd congress held at UFS in Mangaung, Bloemfontein. 181212. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

628 Treasurer general Zweli Mkhize during the ANC 53rd congress held at UFS in Mangaung, Bloemfontein. 181212. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Published Dec 1, 2013


Johannesburg - The National Development Plan (NDP) has become the economic fault line dividing the ruling party and its tripartite alliance, and now the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) has warned that it will not finance the ANC’s national election campaign, may not vote for it next year and will not campaign for it unless the plan is scrapped.

Matters have reached a head with ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize calling on the tripartite alliance – and Cosatu in particular – to overcome personal and ideological differences and find unity behind the positive aspects of the NDP, which they could all support.

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But his calls, made at the Cape Town Press Club last week, appear to have fallen on deaf ears. Numsa’s fiery general secretary Irvin Jim – who has long led the charge for nationalisation of key sectors of the economy, including banking and mining – has the solid backing of his union executive.

He is expected to again lead the charge when the union considers, at a special congress later this month, to leave the ANC, possibly forming a competing labour movement to Cosatu and back a new pro-labour – and socialist – political party.

Notably Jim is a confidante of suspended Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, while the former president Cedric Gina, who resigned last week, was wary of supporting Vavi and criticised the latter addressing a recent Numsa meeting.

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In a charged statement, South Africa’s biggest union – and the biggest block with 320 000 members in Cosatu – has recommitted itself to “a worker controlled, socialist, revolutionary, militant, democratic Marxist-Leninist inspired industrial and manufacturing” philosophy. There was no mention of support of the NDP, not even in part.

Instead, its virulent opposition to the NDP is captured in a cartoon series on the internet, which shows Trevor Manuel, the former finance minister, standing with DA leader Helen Zille with Jim walking past looking dismissive of their collusion. It is headlined, “Numsa explains the National Development Plan”.

It carries a caption under a drawing of a jolly-looking Manuel, agreeing with Zille, saying: “That’s exactly what we mean here, in the NDP. Cosatu insiders, unemployed outsiders.”

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The cartoon character of Jim says: “They have always tried to divide us as the working class and the poor.”

Another cartoon entry shows the DA as saying: “We have to enforce ownership rights and create a stable and predictable regulatory environment.”

The NDP is quoted as saying: “We agree. We have to make sure there is no uncertainty about property rights, especially when it comes to mining.”

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It then says Numsa believes: “We have left the mines and banks in the hands of capital and what has happened? Have they used their profits to build factories so we can use the minerals they dig? No. They have paid it into the pockets of their shareholders and invested it in other countries where they can make more profit.”

In a message to union members the national office bearers said: “We want to state very categorically and without fear of any contradiction, that in Comrade Irvin Jim, Numsa has an able, intelligent, courageous, militant, Marxist-Leninist revolutionary and democratic general secretary.”

There was no grey area – Jim had the support of his union, Gina – whose wife is an ANC MP – no longer enjoyed the union’s backing. Gina had “removed himself from… office, by his own resignation”, the statement said.

The remaining office bearers are: Andrew Chirwa, first vice-president; Christine Olivier, second vice president; Mphumzi Maqungo, national treasurer; and Karl Cloete, deputy general secretary. The latter is a SACP provincial chairman in the Western Cape.

The office bearers also warned that “no individual in Numsa” or constitutional structure or organ of the union “can re-instate Comrade Cedric Gina as president of Numsa”.

Meanwhile Manuel, who led the National Planning Commission that drew up the NDP – told the Helen Suzman Foundation that there was no such thing as implementing only some of the NDP. “So this idea that there won’t be any implementation of some parts of the NDP until everything is agreed, think again. Go online. Check the TV. You’ve got many stations now. Check all of them.”

Noting that the National Assembly had passed the Employment Tax Incentive Bill – effectively a youth wage subsidy which Cosatu and Numsa vehemently opposed, Manuel said: “The president (Jacob Zuma) will assent to start implementation in earnest in January. It is fundamentally important. I think it also sends a signal beyond the piece of legislation, the signalling effect of that legislation is fundamentally important to drive other changes.”

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