NUMSA President’s opening address to the Numsa National Executive Committee held at Vincent Mabuyakhulu Conference Centre on 5 – 6 December 2012.

National Office Bearers,

Members of the National Executive Committee,

Invited officials of NUMSA,

Comrades and friends,

Please allow me to greet you this morning in this last constitutional meeting in 2012. This has been a very busy year for the union, COSATU and the broader Alliance formations.

At the onset, I must thank the regions for agreeing with our humble request as the National Office Bearers to convert what was supposed to be a Central Committee into a National Executive Committee to deal with urgent political and administrative matters of our union.

In the recent past we lost two comrades that are close to our hearts, Cde Danny Oliphant and Cde Sam Mthethwa. We salute their contributions to our union. Cde Danny was one of the Presidents of this giant union before 1994 and we laid him to rest in a send off befitting his contribution to our union.

We also know that our comrades attended the funeral of Cde Sam Mthethwa in KwaZulu Natal to pay our last respects to this giant metalworker who left an indelible mark in the history of the trade union movement in South Africa, not just at Dunlop where he was employed before going to KwaZulu Natal legislature in 1994.

Unlike Cde Danny Oliphant, Cde Sam Mthethwa passed on whilst he was still serving the Province of KwaZulu Natal as the Chairperson in the Legislature.

Dear comrades, we will report about the progress that is happening in the interactions between former National Office Bearers and ourselves in the Central Committee.

However I feel it is important to reflect a bit on the death of the two comrades and the distance that we had with them when they were serving in the legislatures, both national and provincial, and pose a question on whether we should not have a discussion on how to relate with former leaders of NUMSA who are serving in key institutions in our country, in the interests of the working class.

When I was in Sweden with Cde Mphumzi and other comrades, we listened to a Member of Parliament of the Social Democratic Party, who came from the metalworkers union, telling us how he meets with his former union research department each and every week to understand the latest positions of the union on a wide range of issues and of course from time to time, he also meets with leadership of his former union.

I think we do need a sober discussion on this matter in the near future.

Our union celebrated 25 years of existence this year. Our union held a very successful 9th national congress. Our union achieved the 300 000 membership target this year for the first time in recorded history.

Our union did not get necessary space to engage in the SACP Congress. Our union was well represented by the General Secretary in the ANC Policy Conference.

Our union was a mostly watched union in the COSATU Congress and it did very well. Our union improved the benefits to organisers and certain officials of our union. Our union defended members from the brutality of employers in different places.

I can say without fear of contradiction that we have done well this year but it will be a folly for me as a President to pretend that we succeeded in all the campaigns and engagements that we participated in this year. I think we will need to use our failures this year to improve our execution of resolutions next year and beyond.

It is a fact that one of our challenges has been the poisoned political relationship with the vanguard of the revolution, the SACP. I think we need to devise a mature plan to mend our relationship with the SACP as the organisation.

These two organisations need each other if we are to proceed to socialism that our constitution calls for in its preamble. I met with the new and second Deputy Secretary General of the SACP in the recent past and we spoke about the urgent need to mend the political relationship. I also talked to the new Chairperson of the SACP, who also supports the view that the political relationship must be mended.

It is my considered view that this NEC must command us to take forward these discussions so that an improved report can be given in the February 2013 Central Committee of our union.

It is also a fact that we did not have as many metalworkers as we would like, who were delegates from branches in the SACP Congress and the ANC Policy Conference.

A similar situation will take place in the coming conference in Mangaung. The failure to implement the 2015 plan cannot be attributed to COSATU leadership alone but all of us, in particular bigger affiliates like NUMSA and others. I will come back to this topic later when I discuss the lessons from the centenary year of the African National Congress.

We have a vision to employ more organisers and more specialists to do important things like Health and Safety in all our regions, but the scarce resources have curtailed the implementation of this good vision but we must assure the union, that we want to implement all the resolutions that we can implement within the available resources that we have at our disposal.

The Department of Labour saga that we denied in the last meeting and in public, after assurances from our senior staff is proving to be one issue we cannot exclude under the failures of our union. This failure predates all of us in the leadership, the failure to separate the audit function of the agency fee and the subscription income.

As the NOBs, we are working very hard to correct this mistake which is not easy because of the number of years that are involved. We are hoping that the Department of Labour will understand that there has never been any malice on our part as a union, when these mistakes were committed. There will be a detailed report that will be given in this meeting.

8 January 2012 rally was a huge historic event in our calendar because our movement celebrated 100 years of existence. In that celebration, the members of the historic revolutionary council, now called the Tripartite Alliance could not deliver an oral message of support in front of those masses that filled the stadium in Mangaung.

It is a fact that messages were supplied in written form in the brochure that was prepared for the event. However the likelihood is that majority of those comrades in the stadium and the people at home and abroad did not read the voices of COSATU and SACP at this important milestone of our movement.

I think this was a terrible mistake on the part of the leadership which ought to be corrected in future so that our people can live and feel the Alliance.

The Tripartite Alliance is very important just like it was important when it was still called the Revolutionary Council.

The NUMSA 2010 Christmas message that spoke about the rare moment in history of the Tripartite Alliance when the key positions of Secretariat are held by communists is still important. It is clear that the three communists we were referring to then are still going to get another few years to do things differently in terms of the functioning of the Alliance.

It should not depend on whether they like each other or not but on the need to implement the National Democratic Revolution and the process to deal with challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality sooner or later.

The revolution must be defended and it can only be defended by the left axis in the Alliance because others in our ANC feel that we have achieved what we wanted and we must now allow the markets to solve our triple crisis of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

Evidence suggests that the markets cannot resolve the crisis of our people; the State has to play an interventionist role in order to make a positive dent on the challenges that are faced by the working class.

After the 2007 Polokwane Conference, we had two Alliance Summits which was a good start for the improved Alliance working relationships but after the 2009 elections, the Alliance Summits did not happen or when they happened they were not as regular as we needed them as the Alliance.

It is true that the spectre of capitalism called the global financial crisis was upon the world since 2008, despite assurances from our own neoliberals that we were cushioned as South Africa from the worst effects of this crisis, the loss of more than 1 million jobs in our economy tell a different story.

The ANC 2012 Policy Conference took place when the agreements that were reached in the Economic Alliance Summit on the economic interventions that needed to be implemented were not implemented and there was not enough space for the Alliance partners that created to understand why our comrades, in particular, in Treasury were not moving on some of the agreements that were reached.

This situation led to a confrontational policy engagement by the left in the Alliance, in particular COSATU. Unfortunately this took place when the ANC Youth League was also calling for nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy, in an even more confrontational approach which was coupled with threats of removing certain leaders which did not help issues either.

The ANC Youth League led by Julius Malema played a role in killing the prospects of an Alliance that operates as a political centre.

Julius Malema, at one point in the NEC, had a core that successfully fought against the Alliance as a Political Centre and unfortunately some of our own comrades who clearly understood the importance of an Alliance as a Political Centre hid their heads in the sand and some even overcompensated the hegemony of Julius by hitting very hard on the left, in particular our federation, COSATU.

The dressing down of COSATU by the National Working Committee after the meeting with civil society by COSATU was the worst since 2007.

It is important to mention this fact that the ANC Youth League, despite calling themselves, the economic freedom fighters did not want the Alliance that was acting as a centre in the implementation of the Freedom Charter.

I think we must engage with the ANC Youth League on how they see the implementation of the Freedom Charter outside a united Tripartite Alliance. For me the attacks on SACP and NUM by the ANC Youth League were counterproductive just like the praises to NUMSA were counterproductive in the context of achieving the bigger picture in the implementation of the Freedom Charter.

I think our recent NEC was correct that the ANC Youth League must be allowed to elect a President and proceed with their program for economic freedom which we fully support except the total disrespect for the mother body and its leadership.

The ANC National Conference will be taking place in 10 days from today. All of us have diverted our attention from the policies that must be adopted into the issue of leadership only.

Leadership that is going to emerge on 20 December 2012 is very important, but equally important are the policies that we must adopt to deal with triple crisis of unemployment, poverty and inequality. In our COSATU Congress, we said there must be a LULA Moment that must inform the second phase of the transition as recommended for adoption by the ANC June Policy Conference.
Can the 25 COSATU delegates in the ANC Conference achieve the Lula Moment?

This question is lingering in my mind and I want to argue that the answer to this question is premised on what Le Duan of the Vietnamese Communist Party said many years ago that the revolution is not a coup de tat.

My argument is that as the left axis of the Alliance, we overestimated our influence in the ANC leadership processes in 2007 just because of that success but we have failed to acknowledge the fact that there was fertile ground to change that leadership from the structures of the ANC themselves.
What is clear for me is that amandla asemasebeni indeed; the power is in the branches in the ANC. For as long as we want to influence branches through our press releases, we will fail again and again.

The 2003 COSATU Congress resolution to adopt the 2015 plan was the best decision. It is a fact that we are all guilty as affiliates of not investing enough organisational resources in the implementation of this the best COSATU resolution post 1994.

We remain with three years to 2015; the recent COSATU Congress affirmed the correctness of the 2015 plan and called for its speedy implementation in the remaining three years.

I want this NEC and the February Central Committee to put resources, both human and financial aside, to ensure that our locals start now to ensure that our local leaders and members go to the branches of the ANC and join in numbers, to ensure that our local leaders and members are elected into Regional Executive Committees, to ensure that our leaders and members are elected into Provincial Executive Committees so that in the ANC Conference in 2017, the working class leadership that we want emerges organically from the branch nomination processes instead of negotiations.

I have left out a discussion on the late attempts by COSATU to enter the nominations process of the ANC branches and instead focused on what I think we must do going forward because the current approach might have worked in 2007 but surely it is not sustainable and guaranteed.

There are COSATU names that have been nominated by branches, but clearly not enough because of the lack of implementation of the 2015 plan and even those can easily be chopped by other comrades.

The current negotiations for working class leaders is not sustainable, in fact it becomes even harder if you need to negotiate with comrades who are ideologically weak and who took personally all the criticism you have ever made against the ANC government or the ANC as an organisation. I think the implementation of the 2015 plan to the fullest will change this landscape altogether in the interests of the working class.

I think we must correct all mistakes we have done as an organisation and continue to grow. As part of our goal of 400 000 members, we must have two months every year dedicated to recruitment and service to members until the next Congress of our union.

We must work on improving relations with the leadership of the SACP and continue to launch the factory structures of the SACP and this we must monitor here at Head Office by demanding monthly reports from all locals.

We must engage the new leadership of the ANC Youth League on the need for unity of the Alliance in the struggle for economic freedom in our lifetime.

Our NUMSA Youth Forum must lead us in this engagement.

We must implement the 2015 plan of our federation because it is through its implementation that our federation will grow, including by participating in the ANC and SACP branches as ANC and SACP members so that we may achieve the working class leadership majority in the ANC NEC in 2017 and strengthen SACP Central Committee presence that is commendable . We do not need to depend on negotiations to achieve working class leadership; there is no class that will just relinquish power to another class.

I wish those who are delegates in Mangaung all the success in giving President Jacob Zuma another mandate to implement the second phase of the transition.

I also want to wish all those who are taking December holidays to enjoy their holidays, not forgetting those who work for companies that will be open throughout to also work safe during this time. No one must go to work after taking drinks with family and friends and last but not least, no metalworker must drink and drive.

I declare this NEC formally opened

I thank you

05 December 2012, Johannesburg.