Sun, Nov 09, 2014 - Page 6 News List

S Africa’s ANC-aligned union body expels critic

KEEP IT MOVING:The excluded metalworkers union said it would pursue its socialist goals with the launch of a new movement called the United Front

Reuters, JOHANNESBURG

South Africa’s biggest trade union was expelled from the ruling African National Congress-aligned labor federation yesterday, a major blow to the coalition that has governed since apartheid ended.

After meeting through the night, delegates from the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) voted 33-24 in favor of expelling the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), the largest group in the federation and vocal critics of South African President Jacob Zuma’s administration.

“We were expelled this morning, a predetermined decision was evident, the reasons for them kicking us out were not enough,” NUMSA treasurer Mphumzi Maqungo said.

“It was painful; it was as if someone had died,” he said of the 27-year relationship forged in the fight against racial oppression, which eventually brought down white minority rule in South Africa.

The expulsion has been on the cards for months, after the union said in December last year that it would not campaign for the ANC in the May general elections, and accused Zuma’s government of promoting business instead of workers’ interests.

It also said it would form a political movement called the “United Front” to advance a socialist agenda.

COSATU is in a three-way governing alliance with the ANC and the South African Communist party. The workers federation is seen as a powerful vote-winning machine, which also makes significant financial contributions for elections.

In a last-ditch attempt to stave off expulsion, NUMSA’s general secretary Irvin Jim told COSATU’s top leaders on Friday that the federation that once struck fear into South Africa’s apartheid-era bosses was now in a state of “paralysis.”

Jim said COSATU wanted to expel NUMSA because it had spoken out against rising levels of corruption and “political bankruptcy” in the ANC under Zuma.

“It is a division between those who recognize the political bankruptcy of the ANC/SACP government and those who do not,” Jim said. “Between those who support the interests of the working class, as our constitution requires us to do, and those who are prepared to sacrifice those interests for a class alliance.”

Most of NUMSA’s members are black workers in key sectors such as car manufacturing. Some COSATU unions are also upset at NUMSA’s attempts to “poach” their members.

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