Zwelinzima Vavi. Picture: BLOOMBERG/NADINE HUTTON
Zwelinzima Vavi. Picture: BLOOMBERG/NADINE HUTTON

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) dealt a major blow to its affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) on Tuesday, by rejecting its newly registered Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party (SRWP).

The party, which was founded by Numsa, hopes to attract workers’ support as it considers whether or not to contest the 2019 national elections.

The rejection also signals what has been described as “fraught” relations between Numsa and Saftu leaders.

Saftu was formed in the wake of Zwelinzima Vavi and Numsa's expulsion from union federation Cosatu. Vavi was general secretary of that labour federation, and took up the same position at Saftu. 

In a statement issued on Tuesday after its national executive committee (NEC) meeting, Saftu reiterated its political independence, saying it would “resist being stampeded into becoming a labour desk for, or forming an alliance with, any political party”.

Instead, Saftu said it would discuss the possibility of forming a socialist-oriented workers party of its own with other organisations of a similar ideological posture.

Saftu was one of more than 140 organisations that participated in a working-class summit earlier in 2018, and it resolved to explore whether a workers’ party was a viable vehicle through which to pursue the struggles of poor people and workers.

The Numsa-backed SRWP also plans to mobilise communities and workers in its pursuit of state power and a socialist society.

However, the federation has agreed to work with political parties that are “genuinely taking up workers’ demands”, singling out the EFF, which it has collaborated with on campaigns in the past.

The Saftu NEC also resolved to meet the EFF leadership to discuss its “hostility” towards Numsa over the formation of the SRWP.

“The EFF sees Numsa as a political opponent, as if Numsa has ceased to be a bona fide trade union but a political formation that EFF must compete with and liquidate,” it said.