South Africa’s largest trade union on Tuesday said the ruling ANC, a traditional ally, should be brought down like the apartheid regime if it did not deliver on its promises.
Government policy was failing to address poverty, joblessness and inequality, warned Irvin Jim National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) secretary general speaking at a special congress.
“If the ANC does not deliver the goods you must do to it what you did to the apartheid regime,” he said, saying he was quoting Nelson Mandela’s words to the labour movement 20 years ago.
With 338,000 members, NUMSA is the largest affiliate of the 2.2-million-member Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) — a long-time close ally of the ANC.
The union held the special congress, drawing more than 1,000 delegates, to consider severing ties with the umbrella group, a move that could cost the ruling ANC crucial votes in next year’s election.
The union has hinted of a break away amid deepening ideological differences.
NUMSA accuses the umbrella group of not blocking the government’s free-market economic policies.
“A decision must be taken about where we go from here if we do not get the Cosatu that we want,” said Numsa president Andrew Chirwa.
Cosatu is “fatally paralysed… as if it has been knocked by a big truck,” he told the opening session of the talks.
“The state of the working class is in shambles, the working class is leaderless.”
Through its affiliates, Cosatu not only bankrolls the party’s elections campaigns but is a vital source of votes.
Together with the Communist Party, the ANC and Cosatu have been locked in a “strategic tripartite alliance” for the past 23 years.
The ANC relies on the alliance to sweep elections.
But NUMSA’s vice president Christine Olivier said the crisis in Cosatu has “led to a serious discussion on whether we should support the ANC in the upcoming elections in 2014.”
Chirwa accused the alliance of only emerging around elections and vowed “we will not be voting cows.”
NUMSA in a conference document said most of the ANC’s 2009 manifesto pledges “had not been kept”.
“Current government macro-economic strategy is failing to solve the triple crisis,” said Jim in his report.
It was time to address “fundamental questions” about the “ownership and control of the South African economy”, he said.
In a discussion paper the union said it and Cosatu had invested people, money and organisational resources toward “ANC victory”.
“Should we continue to support the ANC with the resources of the union at the 2014 election?” it asked.
Chirwa also suggested that the congress demand that President Jacon Zuma steps down over a scandal around his private rural home, which was controversially revamped using $20 million of taxpayers’ money.
“Should we not ask that our own president Jacob Zuma who benefitted from this saga, resigns in the interest of the poor? Must we not ask that he resigns to preserve the legacy of Nelson Mandela?” asked Chirwa.