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S.Africa’s largest union eyes new political party

Published on 02/03/2014

South Africa's biggest trade union, the 340,000-strong National Union of Metalworkers (NUMSA), said Sunday it was laying the ground for a new "working class" political party.

Union spokesman Castro Ngobese announced the launch of a new platform, called the United Front Movement for Socialism, that would group together left-leaning organisations to fight for better education, healthcare and municipal services for South Africa’s poor.

This would be “a build up to the formation of an independent political party of the working class,” he told AFP.

Last year, NUMSA broke with the ruling African National Congress (ANC), complaining the policies of the former liberation movement had become too capitalist.

“We should work closely with social and community organisations as part of making sure that we connect NUMSA with working class issues,” stressed Ngobese.

NUMSA has called a nationwide strike on March 19 to demand more pro-labour government policies as an election looms in Africa’s largest economy in May.

The union’s executive committee will discuss the new party next year, he said.

Since 1994, support from trade union umbrella group COSATU — of which NUMSA is the biggest member — along with the Communist Party has helped the ANC coast to victory in every election.

But for many millions of poor, little has improved since the end of apartheid.

South Africa, which is the continent’s wealthiest country but dogged by stubborn levels of inequality, is rocked every year by hundreds of violent protests over substandard delivery of housing, electricity and water.