The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has warned that the governing African National Congress (ANC)-led alliance is in danger of imploding because it has become "engulfed in an orgy of public bickering and ill-discipline".
The NUM is an influential affiliate of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), which is expected to influence the direction of the ANC as it discusses policy proposals and prepares to elect leaders in December.
In a political report, due to be read this morning at the NUM’s conference in Boksburg, general secretary Frans Baleni said: "Unless we arrest these internal scuffles within the democratic movement, it is not far-fetched that this movement, built over many years, will implode."
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The report offers a frank analysis of the problems within the ANC and the alliance, but also recognises that the battles for control of the organisations often get in the way of solving them.
Mr Baleni said party leaders needed to be bold and consistent. "We are indecisive as a movement, even on agreed positions, and debate endlessly instead of moving forward." Poor "unity of purpose" and an inability to solve differences in a constructive way was a "real obstacle to progress" in the movement.
"This creates fertile ground for opportunism to take root and for self-seeking agendas to assert themselves," he said.
Leadership contests threatened components of the movement, he said, instead of being used as a moment of renewal.
Mr Baleni warned against a "modern, narrow, nationalist tendency" wanting to hijack the ANC and steer it to serve a new black elite. He was referring to an increasingly anti-communist sentiment in the ANC, a resuscitation of the great ghost of "rooigevaar".
These attacks were largely aimed at unionists and communists in both the ruling party and government. "This offensive is undertaken to ensure that (empowerment) enclaves of tenderpreneurship can continue to rob our people with skewed and half-baked service delivery projects. This Africanist tendency is driven by national factionalism."
He said social protests that erupted now and then across SA reflected the people’s dissatisfaction with or lack of service delivery.
This should not be dismissed as being driven by a "third force", but should be "captured" by the ANC as they represented "legitimate expressions of the frustrations of our people", he said.
Speaking at the conference, Ekurhuleni mayor Mondli Gungubele said power battles and corruption in the ruling alliance were eroding the confidence voters had in the ANC. He said the support of the millions who back the ANC should not be taken for granted.