Workers' party gains traction

10 January 2014 - 02:12 By OLEBOGENG MOLATLHWA
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EFF leader Julius Malema. File photo.
EFF leader Julius Malema. File photo.

The idea of a "workers' party" gained traction yesterday with Julius Malema's Economic Freedom Fighters expressing interest in talks with the National Union of Metalworkers of SA.

Malema all but threw in his lot with Numsa with a view to forming a coalition similar to the United Democratic Front of the 1980s that would lead to the formation of a party "led by workers".

Numsa, with its 330000 members, would be a force to be reckoned with if it combined with the EFF's claimed 400000 members.

Malema said the EFF and Numsa shared the same political ideas, especially on the nationalisation of key sectors of the economy.

"We believe there are areas that require open and official engagements to discuss and establish common ground.

"None of the revolutionary formations, including Numsa and the EFF, hold an exclusive monopoly over the ideological character and content of the struggles of the working class; hence we need a united front to confront capitalism and its political representative."

Numsa proposed a UDF-like coalition of leftist organisations during its special national congress last month.

At the congress it dumped the ANC and the SA Communist Party in favour of establishing a "Movement for Socialism".

The movement would contest elections, possibly the 2019 general election, but Numsa would first try to capture labour federation Cosatu and steer it in this direction.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union , the Workers' and Socialist Party , the Democratic Left Front and other s were expected to form part of the envisaged coalition of the left.

Malema called on other worker organisations to emulate Numsa.

"All workers should be like Numsa and appreciate that the ANC is not, and will never be, a vehicle to liberate the working class because they still believe that social grants and RDP houses are means to emancipate the working class," he said.

The formation of a workers' party has sparked talk of a realignment of left-wing politics and speculation about who could lead it.

Suspended Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi is seen as likely to emerge as the face of the envisaged workers' party.

Vavi this week rejected his nomination by ANC branches for a seat in parliament, saying that he preferred championing a radical economic transformation "from the ground up".

This led to accusations - not least from ANC national executive committee member and former Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni - that Vavi was preparing himself for a starring role in a new political formation led by workers.

Mboweni yesterday demanded on Twitter that Vavi reveal if he was in talks regarding such a move.

Political analysts Steven Friedman and Ralph Mathekga agreed that it would take months of talks before a workers' party could be launched.

Said Friedman: "I don't think it is going to happen. Who will be the driving force? I do agree that there is unhappiness with the ANC and, though this might be a driving force for a workers' party, there is no clear sense about what to do about this unhappiness."

"The EFF comes from a different tradition," said Mathekga. "They are disgruntled youths from the ANC. These are your convenient revolutionaries. They are yet to be tested."

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim has questioned Malema's links to multi million-rand tenders in Limpopo but noted that the EFF and Numsa shared similar policies.

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