Mayekiso Conference Centre – Moses Mayekiso Conference Centre

On Friday December 1, Gerard Sekoto Street between Bree and Pim Streets in Johannesburg was closed. Taxis had to find another route, curious onlookers peered past the congress banner that closed off the access from Bree Street and for once, the street was Numsa’s! The occasion? The opening of Numsa’s new Moses Mayekiso Conference Centre just across the road from Numsa’s head office.Numsa’s car park was transformed with a white marquee decked out in Numsa’s colours. Inside, those present listened to the first leaders elected at Numsa’s inaugural congress – Moses Mayekiso, Daniel Dube and Percy Thomas – congratulate Numsa on the opening and challenge Numsa to make full use of the Centre. Mayekiso, Dube and Thomas are all honoured in the building as are Jabu Ndlovu and Vincent Mabuyakhulu. Unfortunately a representative from Jabu Ndlovu’s family was not there to accept the honour but John, the brother of Vincent, was there to declare his brother’s meeting room open.As Numsa’s President told the eager crowd – “what counts most is what comes out of [this] building… The challenge is in our hands!”

“What counts most is what comes out of that building. We now have to navigate between the lines. We must capacitate them, take them forward, listen to them speak. The challenge is in your hands. The issue of robust and brutal debate still continues. We must pass the baton on. Are we going to be as proud as they (the past leaders) are of having passed on the baton?” Mtutuzeli Tom, Numsa president

Standing tall in JoziMncedisi Phaphu and Ayanda Billie

Moses Mayekiso never knew that his involvement in the struggle of workers would lead to his name being inscribed on a Numsa building. The Moses Mayekiso Conference Centre, with Numsa’s brightly coloured emblem at the top of the newly renovated building, sits on the corner of Gerard Sekoto and Bree Streets.It is just about 150 metres away from the busy and well known Market Theatre and just opposite Numsa’s head office. One can even see the world famous Nelson Mandela bridge just less than 500 metres away. The building was built in the early 1900s and was used by miners: “They used to come on horseback to drink at the bar, book rooms to sleep and stable their horses in the back,” says Numsa building manager, Ziaul Hassan.When Numsa’s investment company bought it and restored it last year, the Diggers Inn Hotel, as it was known then, had become a place of ill-repute.The building is a heritage site and all renovations had to respect the original structure including the old door frames and doors that are more than 70 years old. However, Numsa has not erased the historic background of the building. Instead it has added its own history. Hassan explained that the building was named after Numsa’s veteran comrade Moses Mayekiso. Mayekiso was a shop steward, Alexandra community leader and was elected the first Numsa general secretary in 1987. He served Numsa until he became ANC MP in the first national democratic parliament in 1994. “Conference rooms are named after past Numsa leaders,” said Hassan.As you come in, there is a conference room named after the late comrade Jabulani Ndlovu who was a feisty shop steward, gender and community activist in Pietermaritzburg. Ndlovu, her husband and her daughter were killed when Inkatha vigilantes attacked and burnt their home in May 1989.The Jabulani Ndlovu room, with big screen and stage, can accommodate about 55 people.The kitchen is super-hygienic while the dining room has old brown train-style couches that can accommodate about 68 people. The walls are dressed in beautiful crafted art with a big screen TV on one wall. Curled charcoal-coloured stairs with brass stripes at the edges beckoned us up the three-floor building. Silver lights mounted on cream walls led us up the stairs. On the first floor there are two conference rooms: Daniel Dube that can accommodate about 60 people and the Percy Thomas room which is equipped with state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment. There is a small meeting room for the national office bearers which is named after Vincent Mabuyakhulu.The second and third floors house the 21 single bedrooms that welcome you in a language that hides nothing. Some are without toilets inside. This is because the South African Heritage Council could not give Numsa the right to change any structure inside the building. The security staff, the cleaners and waiters are really human beings.We are all witnesses. And we all know that Moses Mayekiso spirit still lives on in this old building.The Moses Mayekiso Conference Centre – a yellow building standing tall in the heart of e-Jozi!

“The centre across the road – it is a challenge. It must provide leaders to take the workers of South Africa to wherever they want to go. You may have to work out your own syllabi that will go out in completely different fashion. You should be striving because we want to see the results.” Daniel Dube, first president of Numsa

“Remember Cyril (Ramaphosa) and Alec (Erwin) have been trained in these trade union organisations. This is where you can build future leaders.” Daniel Dube, first president of Numsa