Editorial Comment

Over the last few months, we as national office bearers have addressed thousands of metalworkers in KZN, Western Cape and Eastern Cape to deal with organisational challenges including the issue of poor service given to members.

In the Eastern Cape Regional Congress of April 22-23, I made reference in my address to the following extract from the Kuomintang National Congress held in 1924, “Whenever we made serious mistakes on these three matters: discipline-theory, using the method of self-criticism and linked with the masses of the people, the revolution suffered setbacks.

Taught by mistakes and setbacks, we have become wiser and handle our affairs better. It is hard for any political party or person to avoid mistakes, but we should make as few as possible. Once a mistake is made, we should correct it, and the more quickly and thoroughly the better.”

In this Eastern Cape meeting I spoke of the numerous letters that members write to head office complaining about the quality of service rendered by officials and shopstewards. If we fail to instill in our cadres a sense of revolutionary discipline, a selfless commitment to the ideals of a revolutionary trade union and if these cadres are unable to connect regularly with members, sooner or later we will only be able to lament our past, we will have nothing that connects it to the present and the future.

This may sound alarmist, but the concrete reality in factories and workshops is that the only connection that members have with their trade union is their subscriptions.

In some instances members question decisions taken in their organisational structures, in others, the revolt against leadership is a signal that we cannot claim, as we used to in the past, that we have a strong organisation.

It is common now for a general meeting convened in one big factory to have, as an agenda item, the removal of shopstewards or this or that complaint about a union official.

There is no greater a strength in an activist, be it in the trade union or elsewhere, to acknowledge and correct a mistake. While we should pride ourselves on the strides that we have made in increasing membership and becoming the second biggest affiliate of the Federation, this must be complemented by a greater effort to improve our quality of service to members.

We should be worried about the internal battles in factories between shopstewards on matters that have nothing to do with members' interests but more to do with the material benefits to shopstewards.

It cannot be in the interests of members for a group of shopstewards to instigate members to sign a petition for the removal of another shopsteward. It is worrying that some of us do not seem to learn from these mistakes.

On the National FrontIn the Numsa NEC held in March we considered a range of issues related to the local government elections and resolved that members and activists of the organisation must become active participants in shaping the development of the Local State.

We also agreed that it is the interest of the organisation that we occupy strategic positions in ANC structures at all levels so as to influence and shape the development of policies.

This we must do in order to translate the overwhelming victory of the ANC in the election into a decisive mandate to speed up service delivery.

We are proud that some of our activists will now serve in many ANC-led local authorities. This will ensure that the voices of metalworkers resonate in the corridors of power.

But they will only succeed in their work as councillors if we continue to provide them with the space to brief us of their work and their programmes for a better life for all.

The union will also pay special attention to the issue of racism that manifested itself towards and after the elections in the Western Cape. We will work very closely with the regions affected, including KZN to overcome this demon perpetuated by the opposition.

We are encouraged by the steps taken by Numsa's Western Cape leadership to convene a Conference on racism in May. This will go a long way in uniting our people in that province.

In KZN, the Numsa REC resolved that it will have a special organisational project focusing on the recruitment of Indian workers. Our collective action and programmes must ensure that we make a clarion call, “that every metalworker belongs to Numsa”.

We can only succeed in realising this dream if we work very hard together to provide the best service to Metalworkers. This is our calling and anything else becomes secondary to this task.

In 2008, we will be celebrating our 20 years of existence and this celebration can be real if we put more and more effort into improving the quality of service to metalworkers.

We can do it! Aluta Continua!

Silumko Nondwangu, General Secretary