20 December 2013

South Africa: Numsa Union Cuts Political Ties to ANC

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa has said it will no longer back the ruling African National Congress, starting with elections next year. The move could prove a big blow to President Jacob Zuma.

South Africa's largest trade union on Friday said it would cease its political support for the ruling African National Congress, ending an affiliation dating back to the Apartheid era.

"NUMSA as an organization will neither endorse nor support the ANC or any other political party in 2014," said Irvin Jim, general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA). Jim also advocated the resignation of President Jacob Zuma (pictured above), who faced boos at a December 10 memorial service for the ANC's first president, Nelson Mandela.

NUMSA's move breaks up the ANC's "Tripartite" alliance, which has helped it secure victory in all elections since Mandela's victory in 1994. The ANC benefited from logistical and political support from the COSATU trade union umbrella group - of which NUMSA is the largest member - and the South African Communist Party.

The union, with around 330,000 members, has been increasingly at odds with the government in recent months, accusing the ANC of neglecting workers, and demanding further investigations into the police killing of 34 miners at the Marikana platinum mine last year.

"The congress called on President Jacob Zuma to resign with immediate effect because of his administration's pursuit of neo-liberal policies ... steeped in corruption, patronage and nepotism," Jim said on Friday. "The time for looking for an alternative has arrived."

The ANC is expected to win next year's election, but its share of the vote may drop below 60 percent for the first time in years.

Zuma himself has courted the headlines in recent weeks, as a state-funded $21-million (15.4-million-euro) security revamp to his private residence came under public criticism.

Jim said that NUMSA members, many of whom also hold ANC membership, would still be free to campaign for the ruling party, albeit "in their own time and using their own resources."

msh/ph (AFP, Reuters)

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