S. Africa’s Numsa Discussing New Labor Party With Unions

South Africa’s largest labor union is in discussions with other workers’ organizations on forming a new labor party.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa will deliberate the matter at a special congress planned for Dec. 13 to Dec. 16 in Johannesburg, according to documents the group released today. An internal survey of Congress of South African Trade Unions shop stewards last year showed 65 percent would join a new labor party. No margin of error was given.

“Engagements are happening,” Andrew Chirwa, deputy president of Numsa, said today. He declined to say what unions were participating in the talks.

The 323,000-member Numsa has opposed a decision by Cosatu leaders to suspend General-Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi after he admitted having an extra-marital affair with a subordinate. The union is holding talks on whether to form a breakaway labor group and drop its support for the ruling African National Congress in next year’s parliamentary election.

Cosatu is in a political alliance with the ANC and the South African Communist Party.

Vavi, a critic of the ANC’s economic policies, has said his suspension is part of a political plot to weaken Cosatu. Numsa President Cedric Gina quit on Nov. 26, citing divisions in the union and opposing a split from Cosatu as his reasons for leaving.

The ANC has won more than 60 percent support in every election since 1994, gaining more than four times the votes of its nearest rival, the Democratic Alliance, in the last election in 2009. The ruling party is facing challenges from a number of new parties, including Economic Freedom Fighters, formed by expelled ANC youth leader Julius Malema.

“The direction adopted by the ANC and SACP is not in line with Numsa’s perspectives,” Irvin Jim, secretary general of the organization, said today.

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