Monday August 05, 2013
The National Office Bearers (NOBs’) of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) mourn the untimely demise of its former Deputy President comrade Phil Bokaba. He surrendered to death yesterday August 04, 2013, after a short illness.
Comrade Bokaba was employed at ATC in Brits and soon joined the Metal and Allied Workers Union (Mawu) in the 1980s, one of the forerunners of Numsa.
He was one of the longest serving Shopstewards of Numsa, whose whole life was unconditionally and totally dedicated to the struggle of the workers and the poor. He dedicated his whole adult life in serving the workers and the poor of our country without material expectations and gains.
Comrade Bokaba was one of the shop stewards that built Mawu in the area around Pretoria. He was part of a generation that formed Numsa in 1987, after a merger of different unions in the engineering, steel, energy, motor, auto and trye sectors. He has been one of the longest serving Numsa Shopstewards for more than three (3) decades.
While a Shopsteward in Numsa, he acted as vice president of Numsa from 1991-1993 and held the office of first vice president from 2008 to 2012. As vice president of Numsa he was instrumental, together with Numsa’s other national office bearers, in proposing to Cosatu the adoption of a reconstruction accord in the early 1990s. This would tie the incoming government to a programme that would guard and protect workers’ interests.
Bokaba was fond of his nickname Bulldog – a name that he had earned over the years for his ‘no-nonsense’ leadership style. Meetings he chaired always started on time. One time member of the Numsa Central Committee, Elias Kubeka, remembers comrade Bokaba would castigate delegates who would try and use the meeting as a complaints forum. Instead he would demand that delegates come with the problem and a recommended solution.
Comrade Bokaba lived Numsa’s policy that its shop stewards must be active on the shopfloor as well as where they lived. As general secretary of the Garankuwa Civic Association in the early 1990s when there were street battles with Mangope in Bophutatswana, he was forced to flee and live in a hotel for three months because of attacks and intimidation at the hands of Mangope’s security forces. As a result, his company fired him and other activists and there followed a 13-month battle to get him reinstated.
When the apartheid regime tried to liquidate the progressive trade union movement, and targeted political killings of Numsa Shopstewards and organisers, comrade Bokaba’ s courage and loyalty to the cause of building worker’s organisations did not flinch. His leadership qualities and incisive analysis emerged during these difficult periods, and he earned himself admiration amongst ordinary shop-floor members of the union.
The most lasting monument to comrade Bokaba’s role as a worker leader was not only his love of revolutionary songs, but a rich and in-depth history of the trade union movement, its policies and principles and his institutional memory.
We dip our red banners in honour of a life well spent in service of workers struggles. Comrade Bokaba had retired from his duties as a worker’s leader. Those of us who remain on duty gained immeasurably by having worked with comrade Bokaba whose unsurpassed contribution will forever be inscribed on our walls of honour.
Hamba Kahle Qabane!
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