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Numsa targets land reform, the Constitution -- and Pravin

Matuma Letsoalo

Ahead of the ANC policy conference, Cosatu's second-largest affiliate is flexing its muscles - calling for nationalisation and radical land reform.

National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) general secretary Irvin Jim. (M&G)

National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) general secretary Irvin Jim wants the union’s national conference in Durban this week to discuss the review of the South African Constitution, including changes to the property clause, seen by some within the ANC-led alliance as an impediment to social and economic transformation in the country.

“It [the property clause] must be dumped so that we can take back the land and key strategic sectors of the economy without compensation and in our view it’s time for a thorough [return to] national democratic revolution that takes the class alliance led by the ANC back to its true revolutionary character,” said the firebrand unionist at a rally in Durban on Sunday.

The Numsa conference, which begins on Monday in Durban, will be addressed by alliance leaders including president Jacob Zuma, Cosatu deputy president James Tyotyo, SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies and Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus. 

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi will not address the conference, as he had already addressed the union’s 25th anniversary rally on Sunday, where he also called for radical policy changes, including nationalisation mines and land redistribution.

ANC policy conference
}The Numsa conference comes a week before the ANC’s policy conference at Gallagher Estate, where key economic policy discussions, over matters that include nationalisation of mines and land redistribution, are expected to take place.

As the second largest affiliate of Cosatu with more than 300 000 members, Numsa’s position on policy matters is likely to have a significant bearing on the outcome of the ANC policy conference this month.

The ANC has increasingly come under pressure from its constituency to fast-track the pace of economic transformation and reduce inequality between the rich and the poor in the country. 

Like Jim, some ANC leaders have in the past few months called for the Constitution to be amended in order to do away with the property clause. 

Jim said on Sunday, among other things, that his union would demand a new macroeconomic framework, a new redistributive industrial strategy and the implementation of the Freedom Charter.

Nationalisation of strategic assets
“Numsa will be seeking to make things very clear that the Freedom Charter can only be implemented through nationalisation of mines, and all key strategic and commanding heights of the economy that include the Reserve Bank, Sasol and ArcelorMittal.”

Numsa will essentially be calling for ownership and control of strategic sectors of the economy by the state, so that the state may not only meaningfully champion manufacturing and industrialisation of South Africa but also change ownership patterns as the only mechanism to deal with power relations in society, said Jim.

He again accused Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan of pushing policies similar to those of the Democratic Alliance, such as the wage subsidy in defiance to the ANC’s Polokwane resolutions.

“He [Gordhan] is very busy. [Too busy to take] ownership of mass poverty, mass unemployment, [or] the fact that South Africa has become number one in terms of inequalities in the world today as a result of right-wing policies that ... are directly responsible for this national crisis,” said Jim. “No, our minister has no time ... that’s despite the ANC having said at Polokwane that all macroeconomic policy must be revisited to create decent jobs.”

“Instead of doing that he is busy working very hard to privatise roads – and the Cabinet, instead of creating decent jobs by banning labour brokers,  remains ambivalent, defending exploitation,” Jim said.

Radical change
Addressing the same rally, Vavi also called for radical policy changes.

“Cosatu agrees with Numsa fully that at this point in our history one of the biggest lessons we must learn is that we can’t continue drinking the same old wine in new bottles,” said Vavi. “We can’t listen to the advice of those not wearing our shoes that we must double the medicine, when clearly that medicine has not worked for the past 18 years.”

Neoliberalism and its cousins – privatisation, commodification of basic services, outsourcing, high interests rates, inflation targeting, low budget deficits – have failed the poor not only in South Africa, but everywhere in the world, said Vavi.

He echoed the call by Numsa and the ANC Youth League for the nationalisation of mines and key sectors of the economy.

“We agree with Numsa that the time has come for us to implement the Freedom Charter unapologetically. We continue to demand that the land and wealth be shared and that all mineral wealth beneath the soil, monopoly industry and banks be transferred to the people as a whole.”

“We want radical programmes,” said Vavi, “not piecemeal peripheral interventions that reproduce unemployment and poverty.” 

‘Not just any jobs’
“We want total emancipation. We want jobs. Not just any jobs – we want decent jobs. We want an end to poverty and inequalities; we want an end to the abuse by the labour brokers; we want a public transport system that is reliable, efficient, accessible and safe. We want houses near our places of work; we want recreation facilities for our children; we want a national health insurance; we want all efforts be made to improve the education crisis that continue to sideline our youth,” said Vavi. “Let this year of celebration be the year of rededication as well, so that we don’t end with a better life for some but a better life for all.”


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