The KwaZulu-Natal National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) dips its revolutionary red banners in mourning the death of its former leader and Secretary inKwaZulu-Natal comrade Thomas Zephania Hlatshwayo, popularly known in the ranks of the trade union movement and the Alliance as “Magrappes”.
Comrade Hlatshwayo succumbed to in the early hours of Workers’ Day, after being consigned to a hospital bed for a short period. Hlatshwayo, was born in the early 1950’s, in Ladysmith and lived in Umbilo, Durban.
Comrade Hlatshwayo was a man who’s nature had endowed him with considerable talent as an organizer, critical thinker and educator. He used these gifts unselfishly to build working class power in factories, communities, society and internationally. His courage and loyalty to the worker’s cause never flinched.
He served as the KwaZulu-Natal Numsa Regional Secretary from 1991 –until- 1996. He had previously worked as an Organizer of our forerunner Metal and Allied Workers Union (MAWU). He was a living political archivist of our organizational memory and history as Numsa.
He led Numsa during the most critical political period in our country and especially in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. It was during this ugly period of political violence whereby Numsa, including its senior leaders were politically targeted by the apartheid regime and Inkatha warlords.
But he also led during the period of negotiations for a democratic South Africa, which accorded Numsa within the context of the ANC-led Alliance, to deploy some of best minds and committed leaders to participate in their own rights and capacities as leaders of the broader national liberation movement.
“Wherever he is in the nooks and crannies of the universe, he would be proud that his union (Numsa) has not shifted from its historical roots of being a worker-controlled,class oriented, red and militant union. His death is a big blow to Numsa, COSATU and the Alliance as a whole in KwaZulu-Natal. We have been deprived of a special leader of the workers and the poor, who was a great example of selfless service to the workers and the poor.
A leader that did not betray the struggle of the workers or abuse his leadership role in our working class formations for his own upward class mobility in order to land a position in the corridors of power”, said Basil Cele, Numsa Regional Chairperson in KwaZulu-Natal.
At the time of his death, he was busy in the process of voluntarily doing political education for new organizers and Shopstewards of Numsa in KwaZulu-Natal. He was passionate about political education, and he believed that a good organizer or Shopsteward should be armed with the correct theory of revolution – Marxism-Leninism – in order to understand the contradictory relationship between exploiter and a worker, but also the need for the workers to fight for equal redistribution of wealth at the point of production.
As Numsa, we send our deep condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues, the ANC, SACP and COSATU. We find solace in that he joins other great and gallant leaders of the trade union movement in the land of the departed such as Jabulile Ndlovu, Mtutuzeli Tom and others.
The full details of his funeral will be released in due course.
Mbuso Ngubane, Regional Secretary – 079 502 3242