The ANC has admitted that a split in its alliance partner Cosatu has the potential to weaken the ruling party.
“The ANC will not be as good as it is when it has a strong alliance,” party secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said in Joburg on Monday.
However, he made it clear that the party would continue to attract new members even with a weakened alliance and ruptured Cosatu.
The trade federation, a member of the alliance along with the ANC and SACP, is the most fractured it has been in its nearly 30-year history.
On Saturday, the federation expelled its largest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), despite a plea by the ruling party not to do so.
Most of the federation’s central executive committee decided to give the union metalworkers the boot after it refused to budge on resolutions to extend its scope, which many believe is code for “poaching” members from sister affiliates. The union was also in hot water for pulling its support for the ANC during the May elections after accusing the ruling party of no longer being pro-worker.
Numsa is forming its United Front of unions and civil society to fight struggles in the workplace and communities, and is also considering forming a workers’ party.
While Mantashe was at pains on Monday to convince the press briefing, called in reaction to the expulsion, that the ANC was not concerned about its future at the polls, it has faced a drop of more than seven percentage points in votes since 2004. Before that, votes for the party were on a steady rise.
Political analysts warned it would be dangerous for the party to ignore signs of disenchantment, especially in the country’s urban areas.
While the ANC faces less support in the metros, Numsa’s membership has grown in some of them, such as Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape. The ANC got 49 percent of the vote in the Nelson Mandela Bay in May, and over the past few weeks it has sent its high-level national working committee to the area to strengthen the metro and improve service delivery.
Mantashe said on Monday that those who claimed the ANC’s demise was on the cards because of Numsa’s non-support should remember that unions did not have a bloc vote in the ANC, as it was about individual votes.
“People are coming from Numsa who want key positions in the ANC,” he said.
The ANC attempted to broker a peace deal for Cosatu, which included proposals that the federation desist from expelling the metalworkers. It has described the expulsion as “disappointing and tragic”.
“We reaffirm our position that the expulsion of Numsa … is bad for Cosatu itself, is bad for the ANC, bad for the alliance, the progressive forces as well as society in general,” Mantashe said.