The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa's (Numsa) general secretary, Irvin Jim, has warned that Numsa will not campaign for the ANC in next year's election if the ruling party uses the contested National Development Plan (NDP) in its election manifesto.
Numsa, the largest affiliate of the trade union federation Cosatu, is at loggerheads with the ANC over the "neoliberal" plan and the suspension of Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.
Jim also criticised the past weekend's economic summit at which Cosatu and its alliance partners, the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP), discussed economics.
"We will not adopt the alliance position if the fundamental issues are not addressed," he told the Mail & Guardian. "The alliance summit was used as a vehicle purely for elections.
"But the working class can't just be used to collect votes. Workers must reap the benefits. The alliance already won political power. But we are not using that to win economic transformation. Why don't we deal with issues of control and ownership?
"The ANC used the alliance summit to further decisions already taken at the party's national conference in December. They [the ANC] made it clear they will go ahead and implement. They said we could discuss [policies] until we are blue in the face. They seek to co-opt us into the failed 1996 class project, which introduced Gear [growth, employment and redistribution]."
Jim also lashed out at the ANC's secretary general, Gwede Mantashe, accusing him of sowing divisions in Cosatu. He said Vavi's suspension represented a political victory for Mantashe and other senior ANC leaders, including the SACP general secretary and Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande.
Mantashe rejected Jim's allegations, saying the views he has expressed in the past about Cosatu were not his own views, but those of the ruling party. "He must not talk about me. Once I express a view, it is the view of the ANC. You can't make it Mantashe's view," he said.
Earlier this week, Mantashe reportedly dismissed Jim as a "howler" who had failed to attend the alliance summit, which discussed the Cosatu crisis. Last month, Mantashe said trade unions that threatened to leave the ANC were gambling with the revolution and could give way to "conservative forces" to determine the state's approach to labour relations.
Nzimande's spokesperson, Malesela Maleka, rejected Jim's claims and said: "The ploy of blaming communists and Nzimande in particular for whatever problems people encounter has reached its sell-by date. That Jim has resorted to this trick, one that is preferred by [the] most backward in society, finally exposes him for what he is.
"As it has happened in the past, we are confident that workers will not fall prey to those who pose as magicians in dealing with their problems."
Jim said Mantashe started showing signs of "anti-worker tendencies" immediately after he was elected to his position at the ANC's watershed elective conference in Polokwane in 2007. He said this was responsible for the frequent clashes between him and Vavi.
Jim cited as examples Mantashe's furious responses to Cosatu's decision to convene a civil society conference without the ANC in 2010, Cosatu's criticism of the NDP and the federation's campaigns, such as the e-tolls, labour broking and its call for decent work.
Jim also claimed that Mantashe was behind the "propaganda wars" being waged against Vavi and Numsa, spreading allegations that they were working with "imperialists forces" to destabilise the ANC and the government under President Jacob Zuma.
"The propaganda war against those who are pushing for radical policy changes is a dirty campaign; it is liquidationist by character. It says that Cosatu under Vavi and Numsa were working with imperialist forces and have positioned themselves as oppositionists. The intention here is to placate us," said Jim.
"Gwede [Mantashe] started this after his election in 2007. He thought, as a former trade unionist, he was going to tell us where to get off. He said Cosatu was demanding too much. For instance, on the issue of decent work, which is a resolution of the ANC, he said a job is a job, meaning workers should be grateful for any job even if it was of low quality."
Jim claimed that the language used by both Mantashe and Nzimande over the past few years showed they were relying on fabricated intelligence reports, including the one released recently by Vavi, shortly after his suspension.
"The suspension of Vavi is a victory for them," Jim said. "They want Cosatu to move beyond Vavi. Their contribution is not about uniting the federation. They've got a hand in these divisions."
But Maleka said: "Our initial and continued attitude has always been to elevate the unity of the movement and ignore provocations from Jim and his ilk to draw the SACP into an ugly public spat that is not aimed at deepening our strategic agenda.
"The moment requires all of us to be focusing on uniting alliance components to enhance our attention to dealing with the triple challenges facing our country.
"Our efforts to strengthen the relationship between Numsa and the SACP are thwarted by Numsa's continued wayward behaviour. We have a huge challenge and that is to unite Numsa first, then Cosatu and the entire alliance around our strategic goals and the outcomes of the recently held alliance summit. We are confident that workers will be with us throughout," said Maleka.
Jim also accused Mantashe and Nzimande of leading a drive at Cosatu's national congress in September last year to get workers to reject Vavi's political report, which was critical of the ANC and Zuma's administration. "[But] workers rejected their [Mantashe and Nzimande] political agenda."
Jim also claimed that Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini prejudged the outcome of the special central executive committee (CEC) meeting at which Vavi was suspended, by circulating an intelligence report that aimed to discredit Vavi.
"We know that Sdumo circulated the report. Why are people not questioning that? Instead, you get communists endorsing the 'fact' that Vavi and Numsa were working with imperialists. Who is an imperialist between someone who pushes radical economic policies such [as the] nationalisation of mines and other key sectors of the economy and someone who is protecting neoliberal policies?"
Dlamini denied Jim's allegations and accused Jim of spreading lies about him circulating the fabricated intelligence report.
"For the record, Jim is lying," he said. "He has been lying to the public while he knows the truth about who circulated the report to journalists. I have nothing to do with the circulation of the intelligence report," Dlamini said.
Jim defended the decision by Numsa, the Food and Allied Workers' Union and the South African Football Players' Union to take Cosatu to court to contest Vavi's suspension, which they argued was unconstitutional.
"They [Dlamini's supporters] flouted the convening of meetings and the constitution and, prior to the CEC, the president of Cosatu circulated the intelligence report. We had not option but to go to court."