Numsa couldn’t trust the EFF and its compromised leaders to team up and build a strong worker aligned movement – Ralph Mathekga.

Why the EFF should be worried about Numsa’s Workers’ Party

As is always the case before the elections, South Africa is experiencing a mushrooming of new political parties intending to compete in the 2019 polls.

Among the newly formed political parties is the Numsa-created Socialist Revolutionary Workers’ Party. The party has held its pre launch conference in the last few days. If the name is anything to go by, the new party will certainly focus on consolidating leftist aligned workers in the country. That will require that the party distinguishes itself from Cosatu or any other Cosatu aligned political parties. The Worker’s Party need to make it clear why they should not be confused with the SACP (South African Communist Party) or any party with leftist pretensions in the country.  

Since Numsa was expelled from Cosatu in 2014 following their public criticisms of Jacob Zuma ‘s presidency, the union has taken a fight against Cosatu and also the SACP. Channelling much resources to fight against the SACP or Cosatu may just be an overkill for the Numsa political party. The SACP and Cosatu have respectively incurred a serious reputational crisis under Zuma ‘s presidency. Both the SACP and Cosatu are no longer a formidable platform through which the ANC can access the worker’s vote. The mere expulsion of Numsa from Cosatu has defragmented the worker’s vote.

The damage that has been caused by Zuma ‘s presidency on the tripartite alliance has had the SACP contesting local government by-elections on its own in 2017. The level of deterioration was such that the SACP preferred to compete against the ANC in the by-elections, instead of supporting the party. Therefore, Numsa ‘s Worker’s Party need not worry much about Cosatu and the SACP; the damage has already been done on that front.

What is quite interesting about the Worker’s Party is how the party will position itself in relation to Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). Since its formation before the 2014 elections, the EFF has relished on the decline of Cosatu and the SACP as the voice of workers. The EFF has been able to pursue leftist rhetoric whilst the traditional leftist formations such as Cosatu and the SACP were figuring out how to forge a political life after the Zuma years.

After the expulsion of Numsa from Cosatu, speculation was rife that the union could team up with the EFF to build a stronger worker aligned movement. However, an alliance between Numsa and the EFF never took place simply because EFF leaders just could not shake off the character of tender-loving politicians who will always have to account on where they stand in relation to corruption and tenders in general. Having survived a gruelling battle with a Zuma aligned Cosatu, Numsa could not risk their leftist political capital by teaming up with the EFF whose commitment to a meaningful revolution will always be questionable.

Revelations such as the VBS scandal shows why Numsa might have been so cautious when it comes to handling the EFF’s attempt to lure the union.

In snubbing the EFF and ultimately forming a Worker’s Party, Numsa has sent a direct message to the EFF: we don’t think you can be trusted with anything, let alone a worker driven revolution.

The EFF should be very worried about the formation of a worker’s party, particularly if such as party is led by individuals with no outright credibility problem. Numsa’s party will have to discredit the EFF as an imposter. Both the EFF and Numsa prefer to show RED. The question is; which RED will fade quicker, and which one will stay brighter.

There is just one problem the Socialist Revolutionary Workers’ Party should try to avoid. The party should not elect leaders with reputational problems because that would result in a public relations nightmare for the party from day one.

– Ralph Mathekga is a senior researcher at the Centre for Humanities Research (CHR) at the University of the Western Cape. He is author of When Zuma Goes and Ramaphosa’s Turn.


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