Cosatu 8th National Congress: Cosatu supports Amina Lawal

It’s the last day of Congress and we’re behind schedule. Numsa General Secretay approaches a microphone. He speaks to the international resolution that is being discussed. Before sitting down, he sponsors a special resolution on Amina Lawal, the Nigerian woman who has been sentenced to death by stoning for having a child out of wedlock. Congress accepts the resolution and a few comrades leave the congress to join the march led by the ANC Women’s League in Pretoria at the Nigerian Embassy.

Cosatu delegates first join the prayer at the cathedral in the city centre. The cathedral is full. The woman priest acknowledges the arrival of Cosatu in their red golf t-shirts and red flags to loud applause from an audience of mainly women from different churches, businesses and communities. The verse ‘he who has never sinned must pick up the first stone’ is quoted from the bible. The church in unison calls for equal punishment for the man who made Amina pregnant to thousands of ‘AMEN, AMEN’.

From the cathedral, marchers board buses to a spot nearby the embassy to cater for those marchers with high blood pressure. The march is well organised. Police are assisting (they have no choice, Nomvula Mokonyane , Gauteng MEC for Safety and Security, is in attendance!).

The Cosatu delegates are very energetic, too energetic for other marchers, Mokonyane asks them to cool down a bit.

Amid singing of church hymns, the memorandum is read out to all. But first the newly elected President of the ANC Women’s League, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula explains, “this memo is being given to our comrades from Nigeria . We appeal to you marchers not to sing derogatory songs about anyone’s religion or President Obasanjo’s regime. We are not here to condemn any religion, but to request that the life of Amina be saved.”

Numsa’s second vice president, Angie Moeng, disappears inside the embassy with other leaders to hand over the memorandum to Nigerian comrades.

Meanwhile other delegates have joined the march. However their spirits are down because they can’t sing their special song for the occasion. ‘Wenzeni u Amina, Wenzeni uAmina, Obasanjo awuphendule ngoba nguwena olawula eNIGERIA” (loosely translated as ‘what did Amina do, Obasanjo must respond because he rules Nigeria ‘).

The boredom persists. Some in red golf t-shirts start to leave but others stay enjoying the church hymns that they haven’t sung for years because of their busy trade union activities.

After about 30 minutes the leadership emerges from the gates of the tiny, tinted windows of the Nigerian Embassy. They are warmly welcomed by the High Commissioner of Nigeria. He promises to convey the message to President Obasanjo. He assures the leaders that the people of Nigeria are against the Shaira law of stoning, and it has never happened before that any Nigerian citizen has been stoned.

The National Anthem is sung and we disperse peacefully. We are content that we have made our presence felt in this practical implementation of an 8th National Congress resolution that says that “Cosatu must take up people’s struggles”.