20 years: Numsa remembers its heroes!

Numsa remembers its heroes!Woody Aroun

On Saturday May 19 Numsa KZN joined thousands of metalworkers across the country to celebrate 20 years of struggle and achievement. Founded in May 1987, Numsa leaders paid tribute to shopstewards and metalworkers from the Metal and Allied Workers Union (Mawu), as well as unions like the Motor Industries Combined Workers Union (Micwu) and the automobile unions that came together under the auspices of the International Metalworkers Federation (IMF) to form a single, united metalworkers union in the country.

As tributes poured in to honour past heroes of the union, like Jabu Ndlovu, Phineas Sibiya, Simon Ngubane, Baba Zondi and Vincent Mabuyakhulu, scores of heroes from other Numsa regions like stalwarts Mbuyi Ngwenda and Simon Tladi were not forgotten. As shopstewards graced the podium to recall historic moments in the union’s history and the BTR Sarmcol strike of 1985, names of officials like Henry van Wyk, Frank Jele, Max Masango and Jabu Khumalo also came to mind as calls of “Long live the memory of our heroes! Long live!” echoed through the stadium.

Former trade unionists like Magrapes Hlatshwayo, Nizaar Mahommed and Dumi Mbanjwa and former union office bearers Makhosi Zungu and Samuel Mabanga also attended the celebrations. Some like Vusi Shezi and Themba Ngcobo have been marching since 1973, and they are still with the union today!

But the event was not all about speeches and struggle. A variety of red, black and yellow t-shirts and flags bearing the Numsa logo were distributed to one and all that came to celebrate the union’s 20th anniversary. One member even carried his home made “˜umshini wam’ much to the delight of the crowd. But JZ wasn’t there. One member fell off the stadium and was admitted to hospital, but luckily he survived. Others just blew on their vuvuzelas to shouts of Amandla! that echoed every now and then.

And then there was entertainment: Zero Khumalo, Nomathemba Bukhosini, Mkhumbane youth, “˜Jazzy’ group and the King of Maskandi – Phuzekhemisi had the crowds roaring for more. The crowd loved every moment of it! After a grand day of celebrations, union members made their way home – tired, but happy!

ANC escaped Numsa’s 20th AnniversaryMncedisi Phaphu

“We invited comrade Stone, but we do not see him. Boqwana is gonna speak on behalf of the ANC,” said Numsa’s Eastern Cape regional secretary Irvin Jim at Numsa’s 20th anniversary held at Centenary Hall in Port Elizabeth on May 19. But when the time came for the ANC to speak, no-one was to be found but Jim jokingly said “the ANC is here because we are also members of the ANC”.

Jim introduced the guests – Cosatu’s general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, Numsa veterans Andrew Blaauw who served as a shopsteward at Goodyear in Uitenhage, and Les Kettledas a past national Numsa organiser, Azwel Banda and others.

“From a distance” was a beautiful song performed by one of the Port Elizabeth local artist Cairo just after the official opening. Among other performers were music veterans Stompi Mavi and Untando. God was really watching us, especially when I looked around the beautifully decorated and abnormally full hall with Numsa colours in every corner.

Jim urged the crowd to read a very interesting book called “˜Pedagogy of the oppressed’. In this book workers will read about the slave that is more oppressive to other slaves when chosen by the slave master to be a slave leader. Just after Gloria Barry, a past Numsa and Cosatu official had spoken, Jim challenged the crowd: “We as Numsa do not want gender equality that is based on 50/50; we want women that will liberate women from man’s oppression and liberate men from oppressing women”.

“I will speak politics, I will speak politics, I will speak politics and I will speak politics even if those that are in power do not like it,” threatened Vavi when he reached a heated point in his political input at the hall. He further urged workers to remain united and play a leading role in all corners of our society and fight poverty.