“No good story to tell”

Numsa President Andrew Chirwa does not mince his words. “Ours is a bad story to tell,” he says.
Speaking at the opening of the union’s Engineering Sector National Bargaining Conference (NBC) in March, Chirwa says: “Metalworkers are facing a class war with the bosses.” He adds: “We need new ways of doing things to tackle the economic crisis.”
The NBC conference takes place against the backdrop of the State of the Nation address, the budget speech, 2014 elections, a Congress of South African Trade Union (Cosatu) lying in intensive care and a working class under siege.
Unlike President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address there is no good story to tell.
“All that is left is to lie to our people that we have a Vision and that South Africa will be a better place. Workers and the poor in this country have a bad experience, and (workers) have a bad story to tell. We have a bad history of shifting goal posts in defence of the right wing agenda that our movement has accepted.
“Today, we want to tell our people that they must forget about the Vision 2014 that we all supported.”
“Old solutions no matter how many times they get recycled are incapable of delivering the required results,” Chirwa says in reference to walking a new (inclusive) economic path.
To underscore this point, Chirwa quotes Karl Marx: ‘The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living. And just when they seem engaged in revolutionising themselves and things, in creating something that has never yet existed, precisely in such periods of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirit of the past to their service and borrow from them names, battle cries and costumes in order to present the new scene of world history in this time-honoured disguise and this borrowed language…”
Same system, black faces
Chirwa says the old order was merely replaced by men of a different colour.
“We only replaced white men with black men. The system is still the same. South African capitalism continues to flourish by co-opting few black capitalists, whilst majority remains excluded from the economy.
“The ANC government manages white monopoly capital, and that’s why they (the ANC) will fail.”
Chirwa says Cosatu has become a ‘circus’ as its Central Executive Committee is ineffective and preoccupied with getting rid of Zwelinzima Vavi and Numsa instead of confronting global capitalism.
“The State of the Nation Address in February provides nothing as part of taking forward the second phase of radical transition and the budget speech was even more decisive in giving the bosses free grants with an illusion that they will create jobs,” he says.
Elijah Chiwota is an editor of The South Africa Labour Bulletin (SALB)
Statistics on poverty, unemployment and inequality are damning:
• Of 26 million South Africans living in abject poverty, 25 million are Africans
• Unemployment grew from 36% in 2007 to 37% in 2012; among Africans it grew from 40% in 2008 to 46% in 2012
• For every one unemployed white worker, there are 80 unemployed African workers.
• Between 2008 and 2012 the number of “discouraged work-seekers.”
• 71% of those employed are not unionised
• 54% of  workers do not receive regular wage increases
• 24% of workers work more than 48hrs a week. The average working time is 44 hours a week
• General Household Surveys: 77% of the unemployed rely on employed workers for survival.