Tribute: Former Deputy President Mabuyakhulu

Numsa pays tribute to its tower and former deputy president MabuyakhuluMtutuzeli Tom, National President of Numsa

Vincent Mabuyakhulu, the labour union icon who “lived his life for others” has breathed his last. Former first vice-president of Numsa and member of the national parliament died in Durban after a short illness in July. In the minds of most labour and political activists, he lived the life of a brave union cadre.

He was a true reflection of the world renowned and long-time cadres of international communism, including Sam Hunt, “a very intense and a self-taught guy with a penchant for efficiency, the good things in life and a modest lifestyle”. When addressing workers and political rallies in stadiums and on makeshift podiums, he was often noted for his dignified style.

But off-duty and when workers lives were threatened his stylish fashion sense often deserted him. That appeared to be the case most often when the workaholic activist was drawn into scuffles between striking workers and bosses, stepping out of his house wearing an over tight red T-shirt and tattered jeans. Ndiyema [I stand on my own] his clan name as he was affectionately called in the union movement circles, was to torment industry bosses in the car manufacturing, metal and engineering sectors every year, claiming victories for the union members, in achieving wage increases and better employment conditions.

He was a witty political character, maverick negotiator, aggressive but strategic when that was called for. He was instrumental in achieving many union victories and always argued for the collective effort in order to win the challenges in the struggles for workers.

Mabuyakhulu was very assertive, never became angry with anybody, but always clear in articulating the positions of the union movement.

Mawu shop stewardHe first showed abilities as a brave fighter when he was elected as a shop steward of the now defunct Metal and Allied workers Union [Mawu], one of the leading forerunners of Numsa. “It was then a matter of life and death” to be a shop steward in the then Kwazulu self-governing state, in the heart of Kwazulu-Natal province. Blessed with selflessness, vigour and oratory, he showed his mettle in leading many strike actions and defiance campaigns against the old apartheid regime.

He was a hard worker. I would ask him to go to bed and he would say “it is better to sleep on the couch in an uncomfortable position so that I can wake up and complete my work.”

He never slept and he would make you work like him. He was never able to say no until we forced him to learn to decline with tact and firmness. Between 1985 and 1988, Mabuyakhlu took factory shop floor struggles by the horns when he was elected shop steward at Lennings Manganese. He led many struggles for the workers’ rights in Isithebe area, before he became a local secretary. His tireless contribution before long came to the attention of the national union leadership and Cosatu when he was elected chairperson of the then Northern Natal region. Subsequently the central committee elevated him to the position of the second vice- president of Numsa in 1988.

Once elected to the higher union echelons, he participated in the Cosatu central executive until he became a national member of parliament. In the community, he became ANC’s Mandeni branch secretary and acted as district chairperson of the South African Communist Party. He held those positions until he was elected into the national parliament in 2003.

Mabuyakhulu, was born 20 November 1958.Hamba kahle MabuyakhuluHamba kahle Ndiyema

Vincent Mabuyakhulu – his contribution to the trade union movement

Shop floor struggles:1985 Elected as a Metal and Allied Workers Union [Mawu] [Mawu was one of the founder unions of Numsa] shop steward at Lennings Manganese [now called Metso Minerals].

Elected as a full-time shop steward.

His tireless contribution to the organisation

Elected as Numsa’s Isithebe local secretary and held the position until 1988

1988 Elected as a chairperson of Numsa’s Northern Natal region. Relinquished this position in 19931993 Elected by Numsa Central Committee to the position of Second Vice President1996 Elected as Numsa’s First Vice President 2000 Re-elected as First Vice President of Numsa

His participation in the Congress of South African Trade Unions

Once elected as Second Vice President became a participant in Cosatu’s Central Executive Committee and Executive Committee up until he left Numsa

Community activism

Branch secretary of the ANC in Mandeni [KwaZulu Natal], a position which he relinquished after being elected as a Numsa First Vice President.

1999 Elected as a District Chairperson of the SACP Northern KwaZulu Natal, a position he held until he went to national parliament.1999 Narrowly missed being elected to national parliament as an ANC member of parliament. 2003 Took up his position in the National Assembly as an ANC MP in 2003 after the death of an ANC MP2004 Re-elected as an ANC member of parliament in the National Assembly