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New Numsa president slams ANC, Cosatu

Andrew Chirwa says the ruling party and tripartite alliance have done too little to reform the economy.

Numsa leadership (with Andrew Chirwa at far right) with suspended Cosatu Secretary General Zwelinzima Vavi (second from right) at the union's special congress, 18 December 2013. Picture: Govan Whittles/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) President Andrew Chirwa says his union sees no reason to continue supporting the ruling African National Congress (ANC) which has done little to move away from the economy inherited after apartheid.

The union's newly-elected leader says various issues have not been addressed and half the population still lives in poverty.

During its special congress last week, Numsa called for the resignation of President Jacob Zuma and for trade union federation the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) to withdraw from the tripartite alliance with the ANC and South African Communist Party (SACP).

Chirwa says there are too many outstanding issues with the current government, including e-tolls, the youth wage subsidy which was recently implemented in the Employment Incentive Act, and the National Development Plan, "which is nothing other than an attack on workers' rights."

The union also said last week that the more than R200 million upgrades to Zuma's Nkandla home were unacceptable.

Explaining that nothing has changed since apartheid, Chirwa says, "Wealth continues to be dominated by a very low percentage of our population, which is 12 percent, and the majority of our people are outside the economic system."

At the same time, Chirwa says Numsa now has little in common with Cosatu and that not enough is done to address race, class and gender questions.

He says they will consult Cosatu, but workers must be mobilised.

"We need to develop a programme; we have, in actual fact, developed a programme," he says, adding that there's a growing need in South Africa to mobilise workers.

At the congress last week, General Secretary Irvin Jim said all hopes of reclaiming the tripartite alliance had faded, and further options needed to be explored.

Jim said a united front, similar to the United Democratic Front (UDF) of the 1980s, would be formed and headed by Numsa.

He said it would be aimed at engaging with the theory of socialism and putting it into practice.

The union announced it would withhold its R800,000 monthly affiliation fees to Cosatu.

Jim also said the Zuma administration wrongly pursued neo-liberal economics and was "characterised by scandals, nepotism and patronage."

NEW PRESIDENT, NEW VALUES?

Chirwa was elected to the presidency of the party during the special congress.

The 33-year-old was previously the first vice president of the union and is now filling the role abandoned around a month ago by Cedric Gina.

Gina told Eyewitness News his resignation came because he felt he was being undermined by certain members of the union's management.

After more than 20 years filling various roles in the union, Gina said Numsa appeared to be wavering from its original path.

He hinted at his dissatisfaction with Jim's push to withdraw support from the ruling party and said he didn't believe the decision was being properly discussed with Numsa members.

But Chirwa's stance on these matters appears to be in line with Jim's, and he is supportive of Cosatu's suspended Secretary General Zwelinzima Vavi who Numsa is fighting to have reinstated.

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