Jessie Duarte. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Jessie Duarte. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

THE African National Congress (ANC) says it is not worried the internal turmoil in its trade union allies will hurt its election effort next year, but has not ruled out talks with militant newcomer the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte said on Monday there was "no reason why" the party should not talk to Amcu.

Her approach is in marked contrast to the attitude alliance leaders have taken towards their labour adversary, with Blade Nzimande having called it a "vigilante union", while Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu and ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa have criticised Amcu.

Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa said on Monday he was not aware of any talks with the ANC, nor were there any plans to enter into any interaction with it.

Amcu has emerged as a key player along the platinum belt in the mining sector, dethroning the ANC-aligned National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). The NUM has lost thousands of members along the platinum belt, prompting fears that this could corrode the ANC’s support in the area.

Centre for the Study of Democracy analyst Steven Friedman said Ms Duarte’s comments "most definitely" marked a shift from the ANC’s earlier position.

Until now, the party had maintained that an attack on the NUM was an attack on the ANC. Mr Friedman said this could mean the party had realised that closing its eyes to the problems in the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) would not make them disappear, and that it had to begin a dialogue with other players in the mining sector.

Ms Duarte said Cosatu played a "enormous role" in "energising" workers to vote ANC. The mood on the ground, gleaned from door-to-door interaction with workers, was that the infighting in Cosatu was a "separate issue" to workers supporting the party next year.

Ms Duarte said the ANC would continue to assist Cosatu to overcome its problems, but that the party was also talking to other federations and unions whose members also formed part of the party.

She said even though workers may not be within the Cosatu fold, it did not mean they would not vote for the ANC.

The ANC was treating the 2014 polls as it did the first democratic election, in 1994.

"We’re looking at it as if this is 1994. We’re starting again, we plan to touch every voter four or five times," Ms Duarte said.

She believed the ANC’s base remained strong and that the party would win "decisively". Its base was strongest among women. Pundits anticipating a drop in the party’s share of the vote were merely indulging in "wishful thinking".

Threats from new parties such as the Economic Freedom Fighters and Agang SA were appearing only in the media. The parties were not visible on the ground, where it mattered most, Ms Duarte said.

Even in Seshego, Limpopo, the home base of Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema, people had not even heard about the party, she said.

She added, however, that the party viewed all opposition parties as a threat. "It’s no holds barred.… If you put yourself out there like a toffee, expect to be chewed."

The ANC’s election manifesto will be the culmination of widespread consultation with all sectors of society. The manifesto would be released next year but before that the ANC would consult citizens in the 45 major municipal areas.

In a bid to wrest the Western Cape from the Democratic Alliance, while also attracting the youth vote, the ANC is targeting about 9-million mostly young people, to ensure that they have identity documents and are registered to vote.

The party had identified that many people had not registered to vote, particularly in the Western Cape, because they did not have identity documents.

The party was currently "looking for" 9-million voters between the age of 18 and 35. While many in the Western Cape did not have identity documents, in other parts of the country those who had them had not yet registered to vote.

Party elections chief Amos Masondo said voter turnout was a worry for the ANC and it was "working hard" to turn the situation around, particularly in ANC strongholds.