The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) wants to know why the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) has rejected its efforts to register a workers’ party, despite the union’s belief that it has followed all the relevant procedures.
Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said this week the union would appeal the decision by the commission to reject its attempt in July to register a workers’ party on the basis of its proposed name and logo.
The IEC confirmed to the M&G that it had a problem with the proposed name and logo and was considering Numsa’s appeal.
“The application was rejected by the chief electoral officer in terms of the Electoral Commission Act. It was rejected on the basis of the party’s name bearing a close resemblance [to] existing registered parties,” the commission said. “The party logo resembles that of at least two other parties,” it added.
According to the commission, the name Socialist Revolutionary Workers’ Party (SRWP) could confuse voters because it was too similar to other parties, such as the Workers’ and Socialist Party (WASP), and the logo was too similar to that of the South African Communist Party.
But Numsa is not accepting this because there have been no complaints from either the SACP or the WASP.
“Something we find highly suspicious and have serious difficulty accepting is that the IEC, which has in the past registered parties that are near identical to one another, would take exception with our registration on the basis of the above reasons when our logo is very distinct,” Jim said.
“It is the IEC that have raised these technicalities, but what is extremely worrying beyond just raising them, the IEC is not categorical in spelling out what must be done in order for us to be able to register the workers’ party. The danger exists that, even if we meet their demands, they might come up with new sets of demands and conditions.”
The logo illustrates two hands holding a yellow hammer and sickle against a bright-red background. The commission believes the colours and choice of images are too similar to those of the SACP’s logo.
But Jim said the hammer and sickle did not belong to any political party and were common among socialist and communist organisations.
“The hammer and sickle are universal symbols of working-class struggles towards communism. They are the intellectual property of an ideological tradition, not a single electoral party. “Nevertheless, even among other socialist and communist formations, the logo of SRWP is distinct and distinguishable.”
Jim said Numsa had appealed the decision in early October, but had not yet had a reply from the electoral commission.
Numsa has been threatening to form a workers’ party since 2014 when it was expelled from ANC-affiliated trade union federation Cosatu. At the time, Numsa said a workers’ party might contest the 2016 municipal elections, an ambition that never came to fruition.
At the beginning of this year, the union urged workers to make it their New Year’s resolution to join the new workers’ party, again suggesting that the formation of the party could be imminent.
Although it was hoped that the SRWP would be launched by December this year, the dispute with the commission threatens to see another failed start for Numsa’s political ambitions. Jim said there had been developments, including setting up structures to get the party moving.
“We are calling on the IEC to move with speed in meeting with us so that we can address whatever concerns they might have, as the working class on the ground is busy rolling and launching structures of the workers’ party, and it is restless and wants the formal launch of its vanguard, mass party.”
But he was vague about whether the party, if registered, would contest elections as soon as next year.
“The question of contesting state power is a strategic and tactical question, which any serious revolutionary workers’ party cannot rule out. However, the party we are building is a party that must mobilise the working class and weld it into a class for itself and to take up working- class struggles,” he said.