January 30 2015 at 01:11pm
By Amy Musgrave
Johannesburg – The United Front’s (UF) mission to build an alternative centre for worker and community campaigns kicks off with a vengeance this year, and will prove to be a thorn in the ANC’s side just over a year before the next round of elections.
The campaigns, aimed at helping the UF grow its membership base ahead of its official launch in June, will centre around South Africa’s most pressing issues such as electricity, education and xenophobia.
“We have to organise for action. We have to make demands so strong and so sustained that they (the ANC) absolutely have no choice but to say that they, the majority, are saying this is how we have to move forward,” said co-convenor for the UF, Kwezilomoso Mbandazayo.
“Our communities and many of us went to sleep a little bit in terms of living in this post-aparthied democratic South Africa where we do not feel like, or need to, or must challenge the powers that be, and the front is trying to organise those struggles and act as the base to amplify all of the voices so that they are not in isolation.”
While the ANC has publicly tried to underplay the threat of the United Front, which was spearheaded by its one time ally, metalworkers union Numsa, there are already signs the ruling party is gearing up for the challenge heading into next year’s municipal poll.
Party leaders have started paying more visits to areas where the UF has strong support and where the ANC is particularly weakened by infighting, such as the Nelson Mandela Metro in the Eastern Cape. The party barely held on to the city in the 2011 election.
Although the UF is issue driven and politically nonpartisan, if its campaigns are successful, it will present a direct challenge to the ANC’s hegemony, particularly in townships and other traditional strongholds.
The front’s campaign against xenophobia has already been launched, with the next meeting in Soweto, South Africa’s biggest township, on Saturday.
The meeting will be attended by the UF’s steering committee, the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee, Gauteng Concerned Residents, Voice of the Poor and the Democratic Left Front.
The government has denied that the recent outbreak of violence against shopkeepers around Johannesburg is a result of xenophobia, blaming it on criminals instead .
Ronnie Kasrils, a member of the steering committee and a previous intelligence minister, said the ANC did not want to scare off foreign investment by admitting that Afrophobia existed in the country.
He also said that if the government admitted that the attacks were xenophobic, it would be an admission that decisions taken to deal with the matter following a spate of attacks in 2008, had not been implemented.
The United Front will also focus its energy on the upcoming national budget, as well as provincial and municipal budgets.
It is planning its first march when the national budget is announced on February 25, warning that further austerity measures are likely.
Demands will include a redistributive tax system instead of relying on financial markets, that at least 5% of the country’s GDP is used for building decent housing located in active economic zones, and the universal roll out of water and sanitation.
The UF is also planning to organize community assemblies on April 27, so that “political elites no longer appropriate the day to mouth off meaningless platitudes that demobilise and undermine the mass of our people”.
The assemblies will be key to laying the foundation for the UF’s “The South Africa We want Campaign” it adopted last year. This campaign will start with the front giving an alternative to President Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation address on February 11, a day before the president delivers his speech.
Group Labour Editor
Ronnie Kasrils is a member of the UF’s steering committee. Picture: Boxer Ngwenya