The Durban scenery and the ocean were breathtaking, especially for the visitors from inland. The warm sea breeze made the weather perfect.
KwaZulu-Natal, the host region for the ninth Numsa national Congress, became the centre of attraction as runners and spectators of Comrades Marathon swarmed the streets.
The congress also coincided with the Numsa’s 25th birthday rally at Curries Fountain Stadium in Durban on Sunday June 3.
The International Convention Centre (ICC) is said to be one of the leading convention and events destinations in the world.
The pride of KwaZulu-Natal province has hosted major functions such as the Cop 17, as well as guests such as the late Palestine Organisation Leader, Yasser Arafat; former Cuban President Fidel Castro; former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan; and Prince Charles.
It has also seen great performances by Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
The guest list included the general secretary of the South African Communist Party and the Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande; former Numsa general secretaries Silumko Nondwangu, Enoch Godongwana, Moses Mayekiso and Daniel Dube; former Numsa president Ben Khoza; the ANC NEC representative for Cape Town, NomaIndia Mfeketo; ANC NEC representative Thaba Mufamadi; Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies; Minister of Economic Development Ebrahim Patel; the leaders of almost a dozen Cosatu affiliates, including Sadtu, Saccawu, Fawu, Ceppawu, Denosa, Nehawu, the NUM and Sactwu; former Mawu general secretary June-Rose Nala; Vuyo Bikitsha, representing the World Federation of Trade Unions; a delegation from Merseta; a delegation from the Numsa Investment Company; and international guests from Brazil, Canada, Cuba, Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Palestine, Swaziland, Switzerland, Vietnam, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The retiring first president, Phil Bokaba, who has an admirable sense of humour, conducted the congress maturely and showed himself an expert in the field of chairing meetings. The delegates were cheerful and energetic and sang tirelessly.
In line with Solidarity Forever, sung at the beginning of the congress, the theme of unity was emphasised to the comrades. Even minister Rob Davies stressed the global solidarity of the labour movement.
After all, it was the unification of various unions, such as Gawu, CWIU, Micwu, Naawu and Mawu, that formed what is now known as Numsa. Blade Nzimande said: “We have to fight and defeat foreign tendencies for the unity of the revolutionary forces.”
If only Numsa can achieve the kind of unity that was experienced in South Africa during the 2010 Fifa World Cup!
No speaker ignored the triple crisis of unemployment, poverty and Inequality. Blade Nzimande said “the SACP is very proud of the role Numsa has played in improving the conditions of employment of metalworkers”, while the Mayor of Ethekwini, Charles Nxumalo, who welcomed the congress, showed that he was on the same page by saying: “No (council) worker will be seen working in a temporary job by the end of our term.”
Numsa president Cedric Gina expressed concern that the triple crisis had started to emerge in 2008.
He hoped that there would be an economic transformation to discipline capitalism and to reduce the gap between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, while Blade Nzimande’s mission was “to concentrate on the training of skills of the workers, not on labour brokers”.
He further encouraged enrolment with FET colleges, which now have occupationally related programmes.
However, he said he was aware that some South African tertiary institutions take more than two-thirds of their students from outside the country, while local students with matric exemptions cannot get university places and become unemployed because some local employment agencies are run by foreigners.
In one incident a Muslim school based in South Africa had forced local students to join the religion.
E-tolling amounted to stealing money from the working class and labour broking was modern-day slavery, delegates were told. “There won’t be better life for all if people are paying toll fees,” said Cosatu 1st deputy president Tjotjo James.
The SACP view is that no one must receive a tender from the government if he/she uses it to employ a labour-broker.
Finally, the target of 300 000 Numsa members by June 2012 was exceeded, meaning that there were 959 delegates at the congress.