President of NUMSA, Comrade Cedric Gina,
General Secretary, Comrade Irvin Jim,
NUMSA National and Regional Office bearers,
Comrades and friends,
I bring revolutionary and fraternal greetings from the National Executive Committee of the ANC to this important congress of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa.
We meet as the ANC marks 100 years of existence, while NUMSA celebrates 25 years of organizing metalworkers in our country. We extend our heartiest congratulations to NUMSA on this critical milestone.
It has been a long road since NUMSA was formed in May 1987.
Since then, NUMSA has grown into one of the largest and most influential trade unions in our country, working tirelessly to improve the status and working conditions of metalworkers.
This congress, which coincides with the 25th anniversary, enables us to pay tribute to those comrades who built this trade union to be what it is today.
In particular we remember those who lost their lives in combat, fighting for freedom and a better life for the workers of our country.
In this context, we pay homage to an outstanding leader of NUMSA, Comrade Jabulile Ndlovu who was tragically killed in Pietermaritzburg on her way back from the founding congress of the organization on the 17th of May 1987.
Her memory lives on in the minds and hearts of many in Pietermaritzburg and beyond, for her bravery, clarity and outstanding leadership qualities and the dedication to improving the lives of workers and all the people of our country.
The centenary of the ANC and the marking of the 25th anniversary of NUMSA, enable us to remember scores of other workers who were brutally murdered, injured or displaced during the state-sponsored violence that engulfed KwaZulu-Natal in particular, and later the PWV region.
It was a painful and traumatic period for scores of our people.
You will recall as well that NUMSA was formed during the state of the emergency, a period of immense and brutal repression.
COSATU was under siege and its headquarters had been bombed earlier that year. Leaders were being targeted for arrest or for assassinations. Indeed, we have come a long way since then.
Sometimes, it is just unbelievable that we once lived through such horror and survived to usher in a free and stable democratic state, which enshrines the rights of all including the rights of workers which are enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic.
More importantly, the struggle for worker rights has never been divorced from the struggle for freedom, human rights and justice.
Therefore, we are celebrating the contribution of workers to the achievement of freedom from colonial oppression and apartheid.
Leaders and members of NUMSA and COSATU were in the trenches as part of the mass democratic movement, vowing never to rest until this country and its people were free from bondage.
As the stalwart of our movement and our leader Comrade Govan Mbeki pointed out, no oppressor can willfully hand over power.
He said; “It is doubtful whether history can provide a comparable example of a tyrant loosening his grip on power and allowing it to be negotiated in the hands of the enemy.
“But it is important to acknowledge that the apartheid regime was forced into handing over power by the sheer weight of millions of people who had been mobilized into an irresistible force."
COSATU was a powerful component of that irresistible force referred to by Oom Gov.
It is not surprising that NUMSA took a significant decision to appoint one of the greatest teachers and political theorists of our time, Harry Themba Gwala, the Lion of the Midlands, as Honorary President, given the period in which this trade union was formed.
Comrade Gwala was known for his forthrightness, militancy and most importantly, hard work.
He was also one of the finest Marxists and political educators you can think of. He was himself an outstanding trade unionist. He produced many cadres and leaders of both the ANC and SACP as well as the labour movement from the 1940s onwards.
He continued this tradition when he was on Robben Island, dedicating his time to teaching others politics in general and political Marxist scientific theory in particular, as well as labour theory.
I am proud to say that I learned some of my political and labour theory from Mtomdala.
His protégés also include Comrade Moses Mabhida, the former vice president of SACTU and former general secretary of the South Africa Communist Party and a senior leader of the ANC. Comrade Mabhida was also once a national commissar of uMkhonto weSizwe (MK).
Comrade Gwala would use any material to teach Marxist theory, even the Bible, which he knew from Genesis to the Revelations even though he was not a Christian believer but a Marxist.
His belief was that any document can be used to learn and teach or develop theory.
Therefore the lack of material on Robben Island did not stop him at all from continuing his work of producing leaders for the movement who had political clarity.
We also honour Comrade Gwala for his vociferous efforts of defending the people of the Midlands from violence sponsored by the apartheid state during the 1980s in Pietermaritzburg and surroundings.
Mtomdala never compromised on the defense of the people, in particular the defense of the working class. That is how dedicated he was to achieving the freedom he had dedicated his life to.
We draw inspiration from Mntomdala as we recommit ourselves to building and uniting the ANC-led Alliance to confront the challenges we face at this point in our national democratic revolution.
The democratic state has done well since 1994 in creating peace and stability and forming democratic institutions. We have done well in transforming the state from an apartheid instrument designed to oppress the majority and create a better life for a few, to a state that must serve all the people of our country especially the poor and the working class.
We have done well in extending basic services. However, despite the progress made, we continue to face the persistent triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality.
While more people have access to water, electricity or housing, many more are still waiting for these services, indicating that the backlogs we are facing are huge.
In other areas, in addition to the backlogs, it is clear that the capacity of the state to deliver the services must still be improved.
In addition to basic services, scores of people, especially the youth, remain jobless or have no decent jobs. The ANC has identified the triple challenges as the primary focus area at this point in our history.
We have identified Africans, women and the youth as carrying a disproportionate burden of these challenges.
We have made a commitment that over the next decade, both the ANC and all organs of state, shall pay a single-minded and undivided attention to the three challenges.
We had declared in the 2011 January 8 statement that while we had achieved political emancipation, on its own, without economic emancipation, was meaningless and incomplete.
As we prepare for the policy conference later this month in which we will review performance and plan ahead, we need to reflect on these critical questions.
Our Strategy and Tactics Discussion Document for the policy conference proposes that we advance to a Second Transition, which will help us to deal with the triple challenges.
This is based on the premise that our first transition involved compromises that were necessary at the time for stability and moving forward, but which now render us unable to take our social and economic transformation forward.
We cannot maintain the status quo if we are to eradicate or at least seriously dent poverty, inequality and unemployment.
It means we cannot continue just managing the situation on the day to day basis. We must bring about real change where necessary for the good of the country and to change the lives of the poor and the working class.
For example, to achieve economic transformation, the state cannot be a bystander in the economy.
It must participate and play a central and strategic role in the economy. It must intervene directly by investing in underdeveloped areas and by directing private sector investment. The state is already directing infrastructure development in our country, as one of our primary tools of achieving growth and development.
Our massive infrastructure programme, forming part of the New Growth Path, and costing more than R800 billion, should ensure the expansion of social services such as water, electricity and roads, while building economic infrastructure as well such as ports, railways and upgrading airports.
The state will lead efforts to rebuild and expand the physical platform for jobs and growth. There is a pivotal role for metal workers in this infrastructure plan.
The sectors that NUMSA is involved in are key to infrastructure, for example inputs such as steel, rods and cables.
But our ambition with the Infrastructure Plan is to use it to expand a broader set of local industries to create jobs.
We want South African made earth moving equipment to be used in the infrastructure build phase, and locally made buses, train carriages and locomotives to be used on the newly built or upgraded rail lines.
In the energy sector, we are keen to see locally made turbines and boilers, as well as green energy components.
The infrastructure plan must also help to unchain mining in different parts of the country. But this must not simply be a one-way line from the mine to the ship. We are working on greater beneficiation of South African iron ore, manganese, coal and other minerals.
These jobs, in shelters and downstream manufactured goods, are where NUMSA members work.
For the auto industry, the transition from the Motor Industry Development Programme to the Automotive Production and Development Programme by 2013 has largely been completed.
This programme has helped to build sufficient confidence in South Africa’s capabilities and policies, even in the midst of global stagnation.
As a result, the country has over R15 billion investment commitments from both assemblers and component suppliers.
This has been accompanied by large increases in the number of vehicles assembled locally and by the production of component parts in South Africa which augurs well for the growth of the industry.
Comrades and friends,
For the ANC to effectively lead economic transformation and the second transition successfully, organisational renewal remains paramount.
What type of an organisation do we want to be, what are the responsibilities of ANC members at this point in our history? How do we strengthen the movement, ensuring discipline and undivided focus on the goals of building a prosperous society?
The issue of the renewal of the organisation is likely to generate very fruitful debates at the policy conference.
Comrades and friends,
The policy conference will be taking place in a highly contested and challenging global environment.
It is also a difficult period which has seen a crisis of capitalism that led to the collapse of banks in the United States and Europe.
This crisis, which was not of our own making, cost us one million jobs in South Africa from which we are still trying to recover.
We have also seen ineffective governance on the other hand leading to the collapse of the Eurozone.
Some of the questions we will be asking ourselves at the policy conference is how do we cushion ourselves from such shocks in the capitalist system which affect us whether we like it or not.
We will be meeting as well in a period when the developing economies of the South such as India, China and Brazil are growing faster and providing a viable economic alternative for South Africa as the developed world recovers from various shocks.
In forums such as IBSA and BRICS, we push the agenda of the South economically, socially and politically.
We will also be meeting in an environment where Africa is rising like never before, experiencing growth while other regions are struggling.
Given our decision to prioritise Africa above all other regions, the growth of the continent is positive news for our country in political, social and economic terms.
This rejuvenation is also important for the agenda of achieving the regeneration of the African continent which has pre-occupied our founding father and mothers since the first declaration on the regeneration of Africa by Pixley ka Isaka Seme in April 1906.
Comrades, we will also be meeting against the background of the occurrences in North Africa last year, called the Arab Spring.
There are many lessons to be gleaned from that episode, especially with regards to the relations between Africa and the developed world, the African Union and the United Nations.
We have been contributing to the improvement of relations between the African Union and the United Nations, in order to improve collaboration especially with regards to peacekeeping and peacemaking.
The policy conference will also pronounce on matters such as the Palestine-Israeli question. Our position remains firm that a credible inclusive dialogue between Palestine and Israel must take place on the basis of a two state framework leading to peaceful co-existence between Israel and a free state of Palestine.
Closer to home, the Freedom of the Peoples of Western Sahara with internationally recognized borders is an important principle. The ANC supports a negotiated settlement with the government of the Kingdom of Morocco under the auspices of the UN.
Regarding Cuba, the ANC continues to pledge solidarity with the government and the people of Cuba. We call for an immediate end to the United States embargo on CUBA and support the release of the Cuban five.
The policy conference will also review ANC performance in all priority areas including education, health, the fight against crime, rural development, gender equality, youth development and a host of others.
We must use the policy conference to reaffirm the role of the ANC, as outlined by Comrade Oliver Tambo at the funeral of Comrade Moses Mabhida.
He described the ANC as “the parliament of all the people of our country, the representative of our future, the negation of the divisions and conflicts that racial arrogance and capitalist greed have imposed on our people’’.
We look forward to fruitful debates on these questions and the emergence of a stronger ANC and stronger Alliance, ready to take our country forward to a national democratic society.
I wish you a fruitful and successful congress as you chart the way forward for NUMSA and indeed the country.