The late South African Communist Party general secretary, Chris Hani, said: “The perks of a new government are not really appealing to me.
Everybody, of course, would like to have a good job, a good salary and that sort of thing. But for me that is not the be-all of the struggle. What is important is the continuation of the struggle – and we must accept that the struggle is always continuing.
Whether in Parliament or outside of Parliament we shall begin to tackle the real problems of this country. The real problems of this country are not whether one is in cabinet or a key minister, but what we do for the social upliftment of the working class masses.”
I write this article at a time when the political climate is extremely volatile. I felt that we should draw inspiration from the late Hani, a disciplined, selfless cadre of our vanguard party, the SACP, and liberation movement, the ANC.
The general secretary of our beloved Cosatu, Zwelinzima Vavi, has been the target of a continuous smear campaign. The purpose is simple, to smear Vavi’s name so that workers ultimately lose trust in him and will not be able to carry out the radical, pro-working class declaration adopted by the Cosatu national congress in Gallagher Estate last year.
Numsa has also received much criticism for its unapologetic stance in fighting for the working class, often being labeled “populist” and “workerist”, among other things.
I write this article on June 16, a historic and significant day for young people of South Africa. In June 1976 young people took to the streets in protest against the Afrikaans language being forced on them in schools. Due to the brutality of the regime, lives were tragically lost. We owe it to those brave young people to build a better South Africa that will belong to all who live in it.
As young metalworkers we have many organisational challenges – the working class youth are desperate for a better life, while unemployment is increasing, leaving many young people destitute. Since 1994 our economy has increasingly been owned by global imperialist capital.
Capital is not interested in the well-being of South Africans, but in maximising profit by any means possible. To them we are merely a node of production in a global system.
The triple crisis of unemployment, poverty and inequality cannot be solved by reforms such as the National Development Plan; it can only be solved by restructuring the economy.
As a trade union that represents the oppressed working class and poor, we have no choice but to lead this fight. On April 16-19, Numsa held a very successful national bargaining conference at St George’s Hotel, in Irene, Pretoria. The theme of our conference was “Redistribution of wealth as demanded by the Freedom Charter!”
We emerged from the conference with radical collective bargaining demands which will be tabled to employers in the auto, tyre and motor sectors.
We also recently held an extended Numsa youth forum national executive committee meeting where we took stock of where we are and what needs to be done to ensure that the forum serves the purpose for which it was formed at the 2008 national congress of Numsa.
It was intended to be a militant, campaigning, vibrant second layer of leadership that would conscientise young people about the importance of our trade union. I would like all metalworkers to remember the words of Amilcar Cabral, who in 1955 said:
“Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward and to guarantee the future of their children.” Long live the revolutionary spirit of Chris Hani, long live!
Elton Gordon is the national deputy secretary of Numsa youth forum