National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa general secretary Irvin Jim briefing media on its central commitee meeting in Newtown, Johannesburg on Thursday. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO
National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa general secretary Irvin Jim. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO

THE National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) on Thursday flatly rejected the National Development Plan (NDP), calling it a "right-wing document" and claiming it had been copied from Democratic Alliance (DA) policy documents.

Numsa upset the careful show of unity in the African National Congress (ANC)-led alliance, with its general secretary Irvin Jim saying the ANC leadership that emerged from Mangaung was not "working-class orientated".

Ironically, Numsa’s criticism of the NDP — the product of extensive, nationwide consultation — echoes a boast made by DA leader Helen Zille that the NDP’s land reform section is based on DA policies implemented in the Western Cape.

Numsa’s rejection of the NDP casts a shadow over its implementation as the ANC and the state have embraced it as the centrepiece of policy-making until 2030. Numsa is also positioning itself as a voice critical of the ruling party as attempts to silence Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi unfold behind the scenes.

Speaking after a meeting of Numsa’s top brass in Newtown on Thursday, Mr Jim described the NDP as a "right-wing deviation from the Freedom Charter". Numsa did not elaborate where it thought DA policy and the NDP intersected. He said it would soon present its detailed critique of the document, and would then highlight the similarities.

Mr Jim claimed the NDP attacked workers. "It says workers must be dismissed very quickly, they don’t want a lengthy process to deal with workers. It’s a right-wing document and from where we stand, we have no option but to characterise it as such," he said.

Numsa is set to fight the NDP’s implementation "in the streets" and push for policies contained in the Freedom Charter, such as nationalisation of mines and banks. "Our failure to take this thing on, will actually bring us closer to the situation where one day there will be an implosion in the country as a result of poverty, unemployment and inequality purely to buy business confidence," Mr Jim said.

Numsa president Cedric Gina suggested the ANC delegates at Mangaung who endorsed the NDP were not fully apprised of its contents.

"Those who know the NDP from page one to page 430 are its 25 commissioners, so you cannot say the same about the 4,500 delegates of the ANC in Mangaung," he said.

Important information may have been left out when a presentation was made to the delegates.

Political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi noted that the NDP was not yet a plan, rather a vision for the country, and had yet to be turned into concrete policy — despite comments from President Jacob Zuma and his Cabinet. Numsa’s stance was "not surprising", given the reservations expressed by Cosatu even before the Mangaung conference about the policy direction of the ANC.

"This is basically a resuscitation of the unhappiness with the leadership and policies which emerged even before Mangaung. Where they (Numsa) are right is in arguing that the Mangaung conference did not adopt a radical economic shift."

Numsa also expressed disappointment over the stance on the economy adopted at Mangaung, as it hoped the ANC would seek to radically transform the economy. "There was no sign of the fundamental transformation of the economy, which remains in the hands of white monopoly capital," Mr Jim said.

The National Planning Commission on Thursday night responded to Mr Jim’s criticism, saying he claimed for himself “power much greater than the 4,500 delegates” who participated in the Mangaung conference.

“Mr Jim suffers from an infantile disorder that manifests as an acute aversion to anything rational,” said the commission in a statement posted on the Presidency’s website.