The morning of October 6 last year was noisy with the singing of revolutionary songs.
You could see excitement in the participants’ faces. national-office bearers and delegates from all nine regions were present.
The national treasurer Philemon Shiburi said: “While we were preparing for this conference, we were worried as we could see that in some regions the spirit was low.”
Shiburi praised the speed with which conference had started in his introductory words, where he explained the programme.
The conference opened with the singing of Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika. Azwell Banda, who assisted with a paper for the conference, saluted the house and Kukie Ndlhovu was introduced to delegates.
The national office-bearers were announced. Comrades from Cosatu and second deputy president Zingiswa Losi were present. Karl Cloete, the deputy general secretary, given the floor to address the conference and welcome all the delegates, said: “You are all beautiful, and all comrades are equal.”
“The National Gender Conference is the result of a resolution by the gender task team that was designed to help the central committee respond to a long-standing need,” he added.
The deputy secretary listed as topics that would be discussed:
• Issues that oppress woman at work;
• The work of the gender structure;
• The gender structure’s educational role; and
• The weaving of gender struggles into the work of the union.
Cloete asked the delegates to be honest and open. Closing, he said: “This conference must develop a creative programme on:
• What can be done in the workplace to improve conditions for woman workers in the engineering sector; and
• Education as a lifelong process
Azwell Banda thanked Duduzile Ngcobo for her work in the preparation of the conference. He then delivered a paper on capitalism and the exploitation of women and children.
He said that the Communist Manifesto was supposed to be the Bible of the communists.
He also gave as the objectives of the conference:
• Developing a common understanding of gender struggles in Numsa and a programme of action;
• Equipping delegates with Marxist tools of analysis for gender struggles and laying the basis for a position paper on gender struggles;
• Sharing experiences on gender struggles at local, regional, national and international levels.
• Empowering Numsa gender structures with new theories and new ways of waging gender struggles.
• Preparing Numsa for its 2012 national congress on gender struggles.
He also explained the Marxist analysis of class in society and basic key words and terms in the discussion.
The next day the commissions reported back under the following headings:-
• How should Numsa engage the community on gender issues?
• Embarrassment of the past and the present.
• Teaching our children to respect others.
• How Numsa should win the support of women.
• How to ensure the development of women in the workplace.
• How should Numsa enable members to participate in all activities of the union and at all levels of union leadership.
• Things hindering the participation of women shop stewards in union activities.
• How do we ensure that women are developed in the workplace?
• What gender-specific issues and female issues should be raised in the next round of collective bargaining?
• Gender to be represented in collective bargaining.
Former Numsa shop steward and now an ANC councilor Rain Chiya, was given a platform to encourage the delegates to stand strong and fight for their rights.
She said that Numsa had taught her a lot and had sent her to England as a delegate. She spoke about what she had gained through Numsa.
In her long speech she also said Numsa is like a university. She told us that she is a member of Numsa even though she is in Parliament.
The national secretary of Numsa, Irvin Jim, was given the platform to greet the gender delegates and said the conference was very important.
He went on to explain the labour theory of value, which explains how workers are robbed by their employers.
Members from Numsa and the National Union of Mineworkers explained the differences between the gender structure at Numsa and the women’s structure at the NUM.
On the third day, Numsa president Cedric Gina addressed the delegates.
In his speech he encouraged the delegates to support the delegates that would be elected.
The following delegates were elected as acting national gender office bearers:
Chairperson: Ruth Ntlokotse
Deputy chair: Archie Makeleni
Secretary: Shaun Moolman
Vice secretary: Prudence Jama.
Numsa News No 1 April 2012