20 Years: Gauteng celebration – going back to Numsa’s roots

Gauteng celebration – going back to Numsa’s rootsJenny Grice

Spirits of past Numsa and Mawu leaders like Sam Ntuli, Mzwempi Mduli, Paul Sehloho, must have been ululating in their graves to see Numsa return to Katlehong to celebrate its 20 year birthday. For in that very stadium, Numsa member, Kortman Vilakazi from Tembisa, was shot dead by police at a Numsa wage negotiations rally in the 1980s.

“The police came and started to provoke members outside the stadium,” remembers ex-Numsa member, Alpheus Makhadi who is now a councillor. “When members ran away, the police shot at them.” Vilakazi was shot dead. And just down the road from the stadium was Joko Tea hall (now a supermarket) where the first union meetings that nurtured worker control, local shop steward councils and strong shopfloor structures that gave rise to Numsa, took place. May 26 2007 was a celebration where past and present Numsa and alliance leaders Daniel Dube, Moses Mayekiso, Silumko Nondwangu, Willie Madisha and Ezrom Mabyana (representing Ekurhuleni mayor, Duma Nkosi) came together to address thousands of workers in the massive Hunterfield Stadium.

While the majority struggled to hear their every word, one distant corner of the stadium was so excited by the occasion that its occupants sang, danced and vuvuzela’d continually.

On the field, workers’ kids lined up to take turns on the jumping castle while the lucky ones jumped and scampered across it. Although Zamajobe, Mgararimbe and other acts whet people’s appetite, it was only when the gates were opened to allow all the red, yellow and black t-shirted comrades to flock in front of the stage, that the real party began.

Ihashe elimhlophe unleashed young and old as his frenzied team leapt across the stage and the music transported people back to their roots. The eager crowd danced, crying for more as Mafikizolo came onto the stage until the close of the party. Fallen heroes can rest assured – Numsa members celebrated their history that day!

What a celebration that was!Mating Mosia

On the morning of May 19 Numsa members from the Free State, Northern Cape region gathered at Loch Logan in Bloemfontein to celebrate Numsa’s 20th anniversary.

It was cold that morning and a bit rainy. From 9am comrades started to trickle in. As the morning progressed the number started to grow with some comrades coming from as far as Upington (about 800 plus kilometres from Bloemfontein) while others had to travel more than 200 kilometers.

Although we were expecting 3000, there were about 2000, maybe less comrades. Perhaps the low attendance can be attributed to the cold conditions and the ever threatening rain that morning or it could have been to do with motivation of members across the region.

As comrades entered the venue, they were issued with t-shirts prepared for the event and small Numsa flags. Most of the comrades appeared to be very happy to be there and they were enjoying themselves. The chairperson of the region started the celebration by calling all that were there to pay attention as he led everybody through the national anthem. Some were not paying attention to the chairperson of the region or the national anthem and then the speeches were delivered from various comrades including the national treasurer Philemon Shiburi.

While the regional chairperson was busy delivering his speech, a few comrades who claimed they were workers from Southern Cross in Bloemfontein appeared from the side of the stage protesting with some placards. They claimed that though “they love Numsa they are not happy about how their grievances are being dealt with by the Union.” They stressed that they saw no reason to be celebrating. After the regional chairperson delivered his speech, he attended to them and they were then cooled-off and the celebration proceeded as planned.

The real celebration then started with singing groups doing their thing and comrades revealed some hidden talent as they did their thing (it is called saka-nyuka)? Wow! You should have been there – you missed out on the real entertainment of the day!

(watch out for story and pics of the Cape Town rally in the next Numsa News)