Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim. File photo: Steve Lawrence

Johannesburg - It is time for the working class to start organising itself, Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said on Thursday.

“We all love the ANC a lot... but I think the time has come for the working class to organise itself,” he told the Daily Maverick Gathering Conference at Gold Reef City in Johannesburg.

“Our recent past has demonstrated that we are busy following symbols and people don't eat symbols and slogans... people care about basic necessities.”

Jim was speaking about starting a political party.

Last year, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) resolved not to support the African National Congress in May 7


He said on Thursday that it had become very difficult to lobby within the ANC.

Jim used the party's 2012 Mangaung conference as an example.

Most delegates had supported the policy on the nationalisation of mines, however a “key individual made sure that resolution was cleaned out”, he said.

Power relations needed to change.

Numsa is championing the full implementation of the freedom charter which it has accused the ANC of ignoring.

“The truth is the very same movement (the ANC), when it comes to election, campaigns on the basis of the freedom charter, because it's true our people live by the freedom charter,” said Jim.

Jim, former trade unionist Jay Naidoo and economist Iraj Abedian were speaking at the conference on a panel about the political economy.

Naidoo said he believed people were scared of the current government.

“I believe that we are scared. The type of fear we have in this country reminds me of the fear we had under apartheid,” he said.

Public servants were scared to be whistle-blowers because they were worried they would lose their jobs or be attacked.

“There isn't a law today (that is used) that protects whistle-blowers... there is fear among civil servants,” he said.

The country had faced some of the biggest scandals Ä the Marikana shooting and the security upgrades to President Jacob Zuma's private home in Nkandla Ä however people were afraid to make a finding on these matters.

People needed to start organising themselves and start tackling the many issues the country is facing.

“We fought for freedom. Freedom was about the freedom to have your voice heard. I wish I was 50 years younger, it's an organisers dream here,” Naidoo said.

“You have a democratic government, who won't throw you in jail. We have rights today and you still ask the question of 'what can I do?'.”