8 Dec 2014
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On November, 22 at a panel discussion co-hosted by SACSIS and Norwegian People's Aid (NPA), Dinga Sikwebu, co-ordinator of Numsa's United Front talked to an international audience about the metalworkers' union expulsion from Cosatu, saying that the reason underpinning its expulsion was that Numsa took a decision that Cosatu should break its relationship with the ruling ANC because South Africa needed an independent trade union movement.
Sikwebu argued, "the people at Cosatu expelled Numsa because they think that it is a policy for the federation to stay in the alliance and that Numsa violated that policy." There are other charges against the metalworkers' union, but in the main, Numsa sees its expulsion from Cosatu as being politically motivated.
According to Sikwebu, over the past 20 years, the South African government embraced policies that went against ordinary and poor people. Numsa has traced this since the beginning of South Africa's democracy and feels that this embracing of neoliberalism by the ANC requires embarking on a different path. Numsa feels that the ANC has been captured by capitalist interests and that there's a need for a new political party that will represent workers and ordinary people.
Sikwebu said that Numsa is on a journey of discovery. He made it unequivocally clear that while on the hand Numsa is exploring the establishment of a new political party, on the other, it has decided to establish a United Front. The two are related, but separate. Decisions about the form and nature of the political party will be taken in the future, he said.
The United Front is a coalition between unions, social movements and protest organisations. There will be collaboration with and between these groups, but Numsa wants these organisations to retain their autonomy. The partnerships will be based on joint campaigns.
Sikwebu explained that the issue of youth unemployment was an important issue that affects both workers and people in communities given that 70% of people under the age of 29 are unemployed. This is an issues that a United Front campaign has already been mobilised around.
According to Sikwebu, there has been an upsurge of strikes in the past few years around the issue of wages because members are unable to ensure that they secure a decent livelihood for their families. While this may not seem overtly political, the source of these bread and butter struggles is political, he contended.
Those in power have not seen the revolt on the shop floor as the rebellion of the poor, but Numsa hopes that the relationship between the two will become clearer, concluded Sikwebu.
Sikwebu made these remarks at a panel discussion co-hosted by SACSIS and Norwegian People's Aid under the banner, "The Relationship between Labour and Civil Society in the Struggle for Social Justice". The panel took place at the Civicus International Civil Society Week hosted at Wits University in late November. The event brought together civil society activists from all over the world.