Learning from 1976

June 16 1976 was a historic day for South Africa. I join many South Africans who salute young people such as Tsietsi Mashinini and many others who planned and led the student protests.

I give credit to the City of Johannesburg mayor Amos Masondo for unveiling a statue of Mashinini in Soweto on June 16 this year.

South Africa will forever be indebted to the youth of 1976. Our country has been trying for the last 16 years to better the lives of people, with limited success in many areas.

Focus on youth unemployment and the unintended consequences.

Recent reports confirm that a there are lot of young people that drop out of formal schooling in South Africa.

Too many matriculants are not absorbed into decent jobs and a lot of graduates are not absorbed into formal employment.

These failures have caused is a plethora of problems as a result of these failures. Our country is having also has a problem of low skill levels, even for among the older generation.

How can we use the resolve of 1976 to confront the current challenges?

I want metalworkers to think with me in their local shopstewards’ councils, community forums and branches of our revolutionary movement.

I think the message we sent to the apartheid regime can be sent to people who are stumbling blocks for the government’s efforts to achieve the five priorities of President Jacob Zuma’s administration, irrespective of who they are.

Young people must demand, at a local, community and factory level, that they must be involved in everything that concerns them.

I believe that given the resources that the country has used country since 1994, and if some people had not forgotten why they fought for freedom in the first place, much could have been achieved.

This is a disease that we must cure; it permeates all our structures, including shopstewards’ committees.

It is always easy to look at councillors in our communities and say that they have forgotten what they were elected to do and even lead service delivery protests.

But shopstewards can be guilty of the same faults in regard to Numsa’s constituencies.

This disease comes in many guises: careerism, crass materialism, jealousy and corruption.

We must cure it with the same vigour that we have adopted in tackling HIV/Aids. Young people must lead these campaigns, particularly against the one called corruption.

Corruption destroys everything: political organisations, companies, boards, stokvels and families.

It is corruption that has caused many divisions in political parties, trade unions, municipalities, stokvels and co-operatives.

It is corruption that has caused divisions in churches, football associations, school governing bodies, school management teams and students representative councils.

I list all these institutions to illustrate the point that corruption permeates the whole of society. This is why when a leader who stands up and speaks out against corruption in a principled manner, young people must be that person’s shield when he or she is attacked.

Young people, in particular young metalworkers, must pledge that they will be the last generation in the lowest grades of the metal and other sectors of our economy.

They can achieve this by ensuring that all the money that is allocated to education by our government is used to improve the capacity of young students.

They can ensure that the millions of rands that are meant for school feeding schemes are used to feed schoolchildren.

They can ensure that the money given to Setas and grants given to companies are used to render meaningful skills training.

They can adopt a school or a child in a poor school.

No young person, in particular no young metalworker, must accept that because his or her father or mother was a gardener or domestic worker, he or she must do the same work.

For this to be achieved, diseases like corruption must be destroyed. Leaders who fight corruption must be supported and defended.

Comrade Zwelinzima Vavi is one of many leaders who has championed the decisions of our federation, Cosatu, without fear or favour.

He is currently under extreme pressure from people who think that the fight against unexplained wealth is counter-revolutionary.

I submit that all metalworkers, in particular, young metalworkers, must defend Vavi because to defend him is to defend the national democratic revolution.

The defence of Vavi will ensure that corruption is nipped in the bud before our country develops people who openly say, like the Kenyan writer has said: “In Kenya, people openly say that now is our turn to eat …”

The bona fides of our leaders cannot be questioned. Comrade Vavi is a member of our democratic movement. Irvin Jim is a member of our democratic movement.

They will continue to communicate the decisions of their structures without fear or favour.

The fight against corruption can never be a fight against prosperity. A corruption- free South Africa will open up many opportunities for people to prosper in an equitable manner.

A corruption- free South Africa will drastically reduce crime. A corruption- free South Africa will improve service delivery.

As we approach Mandela Day on July 18, we call on young people to lead the campaign against corruption, for you understand and cherish the benefits of a corruption-free South Africa.
Thank you.


Numsa News No 2 2010