THE United Front (UF) believes it can win 10 of the 43 wards it is contesting in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, which may position it as a kingmaker in the Eastern Cape.
This is according to National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) general secretary Irvin Jim who has been campaigning for the UF in the metro since Saturday.
The UF was set up in 2015 by Numsa as a “social movement” meant to unite workers and communities ahead of the formation of a political party by the union.
Numsa decided not to campaign for the ANC. Instead, at a special national congress at the end of 2013, the union decided to set up the UF — which was to be followed by a political party. This led to Numsa’s expulsion from the ANC-aligned Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).
Numsa and former Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi played a key role in ensuring the ANC’s return to power in Nelson Mandela Bay in 2011.
Vavi, who was expelled by Cosatu in 2015, said on Sunday that, for the first time, he will not vote for the ANC on Wednesday. He has been campaigning with Jim for the UF in the metro.
Jim on Tuesday said the UF was contesting 43 of 60 wards in Nelson Mandela Bay and “conservatively” estimates that it could win 10 of them outright.
He said it was to early to talk about coalitions.
“If they (the UF) were to do well, they could end up being kingmakers, but it is difficult at this stage to talk coalitions … it’s best to wait until after the election and assess how well the ANC and the DA perform,” he said.
Jim said initially Numsa did not want the UF to contest this election, but its members on the ground had decided that they would prefer to “test the waters”.
Numsa decided to support them, particularly after its central committee meeting last week at which the union decided to push ahead with the formation of a “political organ” for the working class and the poor, which would contest future elections.
UF structures would form the base for the proposed political party, Jim said.
UF activists campaigning for the election said Wednesday’s polls were not as important as the aftermath. The process was providing an opportunity to do groundwork and create infrastructure that would eventually be absorbed into Numsa’s yet to be formed “political organ”.
Numsa will announce the details of its central committee’s decision about the planned political party at a media briefing next week.
Local elections 2016
The UF is registered to contest elections in several provinces under different names — another first for SA.
In Gauteng, the UF of Civics will contest wards in Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni, and one in Sedibeng.
In Plettenberg Bay and Bitou, in the Western Cape, a UF affiliate, the Active United Front, will contest the election.
There are also UF affiliates in Limpopo and Mpumalanga, but the UF of the Eastern Cape — a Numsa stronghold — has the largest presence.
Its spokesman Mziyanda Twani said apart from contesting 43 of the 60 wards in the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality, the UF is also standing in wards in Buffalo City, Sterkspruit and the Chris Hani district municipalities.
Shop stewards were dealing with workers’ issues by day and campaigning by night, Twani said.
Numsa’s political ambitions were initially stalled by job shedding in the steel and manufacturing sectors as well as by financial troubles, but mainly by internal differences over whether the proposed party should be “mass-based” or a “vanguard” in the image of the South African Communist Party.