South Africa’s biggest union is considering pulling out of the ANC-aligned Cosatu labour federation to form its own political entity, a split that could hurt the ruling party in next year’s elections, senior union sources said on Tuesday.
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) is increasingly at odds with the African National Congress (ANC) and Cosatu – part of an official, three-way governing alliance that also includes the Communist Party – over labour policies it says are too pro-business.
Coupled with anger at a perceived increase in corruption under President Jacob Zuma, the 350 000-strong union is now on the brink of walking out on a 25-year relationship forged in the common struggle against white-minority rule.
If Numsa took some smaller unions with it, Cosatu – the ANC’s most effective ‘get-out-the-vote’ machine – could lose half a million members who would normally have campaigned faithfully for Nelson Mandela’s former liberation movement.
Numsa officials told Reuters union bosses were circulating a document ahead of a key December meeting asking whether it should form a labour party, civic movement or a worker federation to go head-to-head with Cosatu.
“It is a draft document which will be discussed at our congress but it shows that we are not happy in Cosatu and in the alliance with the ANC,” one union official, who did not want to be named, told Reuters.