Power of a song
Outside the Emerald Hall at Sedibeng on the opening of the National 8th Numsa Congress there is singing, toyi-toying, joyous clapping of hands and dancing. Delegates from all corners of South Africka, carrying with them mandates from their regions show commitment.
The hall dressed in Numsa struggle colours – gold, red, and black – sets the mood for dialogue. Numsa marshals co-ordinate the commotion outside and inside the hall with the presence of the police. Women are dressed in their traditional garments isi-Xhosa isi-Ndebele isi-Venda and others.
The procession of songs into the hall is beyond words.Workers want change, not just a change but a positive change that will have a positive impact in their lives.
They want to build a Numsa that will entrench workersâ€™ rights, to put into practice resolutions that are taken at the congress.
The MC at the podium calls for a moment of silence in respect of all those who have died for us especially the comrades who sacrificed everything for the working class.
The delegates stand up and sing the National Anthem, â€œNkosi Sikelela i-Afrikaâ€. Msholoziâ€™s name was encoring all corners of the hall. A song carries a spirit that can heal a wounded soul but it can also put salt in a wound.
A delegate from Tembisa local Phillipine Segata says, â€œAll we want are leaders that will be there for workers at all times even if it means you leave your personal life behind. If you are a leader you should know our problem will be yours.â€
New Numsa leaders
Ayanda Billie, Rolly Xipu and Jenny Grice
Bontle Mpakanyane from the Elexions Agency stood on the podium with a smile on her face while the delegates waited anxiously, their hearts pounding.She asked the hall to stay put, and thanked the delegates for their cooperation during the process of voting.
"You have shown maturity," she said.When results were about to be announced, Mpakanyane asked the delegates to let her finish the announcement before celebrating.
They were announced in alphabetical order, starting from the president to the treasurer.When Cedric Gina's name was announced as president, KZN delegates screamed, some ran to him and carried him high to the stage.
Hlanganani region sprang from their seats when Phil Bokaba won the position of first vice president. Christine Olivier was unopposed as the second vice president.
Irvin Jim from the Eastern Cape was elected to the position of general secretary and Karl Cloete deputy general secretary. There was no need to wait for Bontle to announce the results of the national treasurer's position – incumbent Philemon Shiburi was re-elected unopposed.
"Siyabonga, siyabonga" (we thank you), the crowds sang to the outgoing national office bearers.A representative from each region then stood up to give their support to the new team. "You owe us nothing, we request you to put us right when we do wrong," was Hlanganani's message.KZN told them that "We put you there to serve the workers.
"Sedibeng followed with "We elect you to take these metal workers forward."Western Cape warned, "There is a long way to go to socialism."Mpumalanga reminded the NOBs that "No man is an island by himself."Eastern Cape echoed by Wits Central West stated that "There are no winners, only the workers have won!".
Thanking delegates for the confidence shown in them, newly elected president Gina told the crowd that if his mother was still alive she would be very proud of him.
She had passed on in 1998 and had been a domestic worker all her life.He told delegates that congress was emerging as one united trade union, "there are no winners, no losers here. The new NOBs donâ€™t belong to any region.
We will serve and work for all metalworkers. That is our collective pledge to you!"The NOBs acknowledged the confidence shown in them by the delegates and committed themselves to use Numsa's constitution and policies when dealing with regions and members at large.
Results of elections
878 eligible voters; 864 votes cast
President: Cedric Gina 510 Ben Khoza 348 4 spoilt votes, 2 abstentionsGina is the new president
First Vice President: Phil Bokaba 537Stanford Ndobo 3213 spoilt votes, 3 abstentionsBokaba is the new first vice president
Second Vice President:Christine Olivier (unopposed)
National Treasurer:Philemon Shiburi (unopposed)
General Secretary: Irvin Jim 487 Silumko Nondwangu 3711 spoilt paper, 5 abstentionsJim is the new general secretary
Deputy General Secretary:Karl Cloete 487 Bheki Msibi 126 votesGeorge Choshane 2443 spoiltCloete is the new deputy general secretary
Fight those labour brokers!
The international campaign for decent work got a big boost when Minister of Labour, Membathisi Mdladlana, urged delegates at the Numsa 8th National Congress to fight labour brokers and casualisation in our sectors because they exploit workers and create a huge gap between the poor and the rich while enriching capitalists.
â€œInformalisation has become the name of the game of labour brokers and yet people want us to believe that our labour market is rigid,â€ he said. â€œHow can it be right that subcontracting is so common? If it was rigid, it would be difficult for chief executives of companies to retrench workers with such ease,â€ he said.
Employment in the informal sector had increased by 20 000 between March and July this year, and this was thanks to a sharp decline in formal employment, he said.
He said that it was time for the â€œcreation of a decent work agenda to protect the rights of workers.â€ Unions like Numsa must help this campaign by organizing the huge numbers of unorganized workers.
Numsa must vigorously discuss an alternative to the current policy which â€œhas not assisted the economic status of our people,â€ he said.
Moving on to the sectoral training authorities, the Minister said he was worried about the ineffectiveness of some of the Setas.
He promised that government would put more effort in developing skills which were sorely needed by our developing country.
He assured delegates that he would not resign his position like other ministers. He said the ANC was committed to the upliftment of the lives of the South African people, especially the poor.
Goodbye Basebenzi – President Tom
Before he went to the podium to give his last speech to the Numsa delegates, a song rose from the Eastern Cape corner; the hall followed.
All people were standing in unison and they went onto the stage to carry their President Tom high on their shoulders. â€œWhile Iâ€™m standing here I think of my daily experiences that I used to have at the workplace, and my honest contribution to the workers and Numsa.
We are here to remember those workers who are going to be retrenched at General Motors and those who are exploited, pushed into a tight corner by employers. We must guard against being irrelevant to the issues of workers or we will lose membershipâ€.â€œLet us appreciate each others ability and not hate each other. What will we do if the ANC is divided,
what will be the life of workers if we let them breakaway? Let us not fail ourselves, because the next generation will point fingers at us. I donâ€™t want to be blamed for not doing anything."In his speech he emphasized unity, â€œNumsa should remain the stronghold of workersâ€™ aspirationsâ€.
He told the delegates that he will be taking a rest, he is not standing for President again. He said he has made his contribution to the struggle of workers of Africa and abroad. He thanked his wife for taking Numsa into their house and lives. All the pain she endured was for the working class and the nation.
Some thoughts on Numsa's 8th National CongressThe Congress has come and gone. Now is the time to patch the cracks that were created during the build up to this congress. We all participated in these campaigns.
Whether it was to build or to destroy this organization, that is left to be seen. But all of us must continue to work for the betterment of the metalworkers.As the 8th National Congress failed to do what it was mandated by members and structures, we need to use the same power that we used to lobby in order to give direction on policies to this organization during the policy conference.
Iâ€™m tempted to propose that we follow the same approach of the ANC where before the Congress we will have a policy conference and the congress then adopts the resolutions from that sitting and the same to happen at the federation level.
Strong leadership needs the best policies to lead the organization especially in this epoch where there are political and economical challenges. METALWORKERS RISE!City Bokaba, Wits Central West.
Numsa financially sound but continued vigilance essential
National Treasurer, Philemon Shiburi, gave his report to the congress on the second day. Paulina Mohale reports.
â€œNumsaâ€™s membership has increased by 17% since the last congress and so too has its income,â€ the treasurer told congress delegates.
He told of how the Union has used its surplus to buy property. â€œNumsaâ€™s head office in Newtown has been improved,â€ he said and as a result â€œother businesses are coming back to the area, because Numsa is very neat and secure.
Numsa is a centre of attraction in that area,â€ he said.He reported that Numsa has also bought a conference centre and managed to buy space next to that area where the IMF office is now renting and has also extended other offices to be more spacious and to provide a healthy environment to its workers so that union work should be done speedily and properly. â€œNumsa is looking forward to providing accommodation for the 2010 World Cup visitors,â€ he said. â€œ
This proves that big achievements have been done up to this timeâ€.His report urges the Union to continue to keep strictly to the budget that is agreed every year and not to spend more than our income.
He also stressed the importance of increasing our reserves and investing them so that we can use these to provide new programmes that will benefit our members. He cautioned the Union that now and in the future subscription income â€œcannot match the total expenditure of the union which is ever increasing.â€
He said that the Union will have to manage its investments carefully so that it can cover the shortfall in income that is likely to increase in the future.
Veteran trade unionist remembersA number of Numsa veterans attended the Numsa congress. David Madupela, Numsa's first elected first vice president in 1987, was there. Ayanda Billie spoke to him.
David Madupela still has strong views about the rights of workers. Now retired, Madupela started his involvement in trade unions in the early '70s when he became a member of the Metal and Allied Workers Union (Mawu) one of the forerunners of Numsa.
"Things were not like these days," he says. "Workers used to go on strike without asking permission from the government.
The police came with dogs, beating the people and unfair dismissals occurred. There were no boardrooms, we used to hold meetings under the trees."At the age of 65, Madupela remembers vividly how hard it was to make employers recognise the union.
"Most companies listened to white trade unions only. Whether we agreed or not, our voice was meaningless. Jobs were reserved for whites, now at least there is affirmative action.
But all these things are in place because we paved the way for this generation of yours!"Born in Payneville where he still lives on the East Rand, he went around South Africa in 1987 organising for the formation of Numsa.
Looking at Numsa today he says "to be part of the tripartite alliance with the ruling party that is in government, is not making things easy for workers. It is not easy to fight everything our government brings on the table even if it's going to be negative for workers. At some point, the union must compromise.
The union should live independently!" "Unions have a lot that is still not done. As long as we have workers out there who are unfairly dismissed, retrenched, work in a bad environment and are underpaid, Numsa has a bigger role to play in industrial politics.
There is a shortage of skills; Numsa should concentrate on the skills and development programmes because this shortage is within their members – black people."Madupela believes that Numsa has not won the race problem. "How many white workers do you see around the congress – just one.
The task should be to recruit more workers from other races. Remember this is a new society!"Madupela is grateful that the new generation of unionists still remembers them. "We sacrificed our time and our lives," he says.
What worker leaders say!Doris Nqetho got some insights from first time congress delegates.
Rokaya Ali, Hesto Harnesses, KZNThe standard that is maintained is of a high content. The delegates have shown that they come from an organization that has leadership. As new leaders of the organization the speeches that were delivered made us broaden our knowledge as shop stewards.
Thuli Mchunu, Mbuyiseni Mkhize, Slindokuhle Kubheka, KZNWe have learnt a lot though there seems to be misunderstanding in singing revolutionary songs but we appreciate tolerance among the comrades.
Pathias Nale, HlangananiIt was a bit confusing in the beginning but the speeches and songs clarified most of the things so I can see myself growing politically.
ANC is not an organization for rebels
There was not an empty seat when ANC president, Jacob Zuma addressed congress delegates on Tuesday morning. He told metalworkers that the ANC is a disciplined organization which was formed in 1912 with the objective of fighting for the liberation of the people of South Africa irrespective of their skin colour.
He further said that amongst the resolutions taken at Polokwane Conference were decisions to speed up the land issue, to focus more on health and education and to reduce the levels of poverty in our society.
He said that we must do everything possible to fight against tribalism, it should not be given a space.
JZ said that the actions of Terror Lekota and Mluleki George are an indication that there are those ANC members still aggrieved about the leadership results of the Polokwane Conference.
The ANC last week decided to engage them but such opportunity was limited because they cannot allow these comrades to use their ANC structures to mislead the public and ANC members.
He said the ANC NWC had decided to suspend their membership and to that effect, the ANC NEC would meet on Wednesday October 15. JZ also said that nobody is bigger than the ANC. Nobody will be allowed to derail the image of the ANC.
Nobody can produce better policies than the ANC. Any member with a grievance must address it through the ANC structures.
The ANC president reminded delegates that the ANC has stood the test of time. He reassured delegates that the ANC was not in crisis.
JZ said that Judge Nicholson had proved that the long-held sentiment by the alliance components (Cosatu, SACP and the ANC) that the charges were politically engineered was true. A political solution was therefore needed he told the delegates.
Outgoing president calls for union independence
â€œWe must not be a conveyor belt,â€ outgoing Numsa president, Mtutuzeli Tom, cautioned the more than 870 delegates at Numsaâ€™s 8th National Congress at Emerald Casino in Vanderbijlpark. Warning of the dangers of letting the Polokwane outcomes affect Numsa, he condemned the way in which these outcomes were influencing the â€œdetermination of leadership in this Congress.â€
Taking a swipe at outside organizations, he said that people from these organizations were telling Numsa what to do. â€œWho are they to undermine the capacity of metalworkers to think independently? Where were they when we formed the Union in 1987?
We must defend the basic traditions of this organization â€“ independence, workersâ€™ control and worker democracy!… It is these delegates, and not factions or groups of any political formation, that should call the shots here.
We will fight to the end for the independence of metalworkers!â€Moving on to the â€œlooming splitâ€ in the ANC he asked how the lives of the South African working class would benefit if it were to split.
He said that in any organization it is not possible to agree on everything. â€œBut itâ€™s not correct that when there is a dissenting voice, that you go out and build another organization!… Letâ€™s not chase people out, rather bring them in.â€
He urged Numsa to go all out to ensure that the ANC wins in 2009. If it didnâ€™t win, our children would point fingers at us and say that they are weak because of us.
Looking inwardly at Numsa he challenged delegates to look honestly at the organization in their own factory. â€œIn almost all our regions,â€ he said â€œthe organization has lost touch with its members in terms of holding factory and local general meetings.â€