In what will go down in history as South Africa’s first socialist party to ever contest national elections post-1994, the Socialist Revolutionary Workers’ Party (SRWP) was launched in Benoni on Thursday – a development set to pose a significant challenge to the governing African National Congress (ANC) in next month’s polls.
With National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) general secretary Irvin Jim being the face of the SRWP campaign – endorsed by the fledgling South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), led by Zwelinzima Vavi – the SRWP is expected to garner a sizable number of votes in the polls, which could significantly dent the ANC’s support base.
Numsa, an affiliate of Saftu, is the country’s largest trade union with 370,000 members, while its federation’s membership is currently sitting at 531,000.
In its manifesto, the SRWP said it wanted to see “a South Africa that is free of oppression and economic exploitation”.
At its colourful inaugural congress attended by a singing and chanting crowd of over 1,000 people who thronged a giant white marquee at the Birchwood Hotel, the SRWP unveiled its draft manifesto and constitution adopted by 944 delegates, drawn from the country’s nine provinces.
Among key features of the SRWP’s 10-point plan in its manifesto, the party said it sought to:
- Ban the buying, selling and rental of land for public use;
- End the heavy progressive or graduated income tax;
- Centralise credit in the hands of a workers’ state by means of a national bank with the workers’ state having an exclusive monopoly on credit;
- Centralise and control the means of communication and transport in the hands of a workers’ state;
- Abolish child labour;
- Introduce lifelong, free and equal quality education for all;
- Gradually abolish the distinction between urban and rural areas through an equitable distribution of the population in the country.
The congress, which was also attended by socialist leaders from Argentina, Brazil, Morocco, Tunisia, Zambia, Namibia, Sweden, Spain, United States and Nepal, called on the Brazilian government to free that country’s imprisoned most popular politician and former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has been incarcerated on charges of corruption.
Inside the venue walls, large red-coloured banners with photographs of socialist heroes adorned the walls.
They included Mbuyiselo Ngwendu, Chris Hani, Che Guevara, Fieldmore Mapeto, Fidel Castro, Claudia Jones, Ruth First, Hugo Chavez, Amilcar Cabral, Mao Zedong, Emma Mashinini, Karl Marx and Nadezhda Krupskaya.
Clad in red berets, delegates wore green t-shirts with Castro’s message written at the back: “No thieves, no traitors, no interventionists! This time the revolution is for real!”