Letter from Numsa President, Andrew Chirwa

Dear Metalworkers,
I hope that despite all the social and economic hardships, we all had some well-deserved rest and some fun over the long Easter Weekend.
On the behalf of Numsa and all its leaders, I want to express my appreciation to all metal workers who sacrificed their daily wages and their time on the 19th march 2014 to go and march against the modern form of youth slavery called the Employment Tax Incentive Scheme. All our nine regions did wonderful work against the wishes of our detractors who wanted the march to fail.
In the march against the abominable Employment Tax Incentive Scheme, we were joined by many workers belonging to various civil society formations and progressive political parties. I thank all the organisations and the members of these organisations who took part in the march. This was the first test of the United Front in action, and we made it!
Of course all our staff who worked tirelessly to ensure the march was a success must never be unrecognised, from the locals, regions and national offices of Numsa. We thank you, very much.
I also thank all the affiliates of Cosatu and their members who bravely decided to join us in the march. This is as it should be.
Thank you for such a massive action in the history of the metalworkers union. Our stalwarts who came before us should be very happy wherever they are to learn that the organisation they dedicated their time building is still the most trusted gallant fighter of the workers even today, and we continue to refuse to be co-opted to the masters table.
We are proud that Numsa is still the home of the most militant, revolutionary and decisive workers of this country, the workers who are always prepared to fight against anti worker policies and the right wing agenda championed by the South African ruling class of all colours, and imperialism.
Numsa is a critical voice of the progressive working class and the most marginalised and the most vulnerable in our country today. Our responsibility now is to make Numsa even stronger, every day, by building strong shop floor structures.
In this period we are in, 20 years after our first democratic elections on the 27th of April in 1994, we must double our working class struggle to demand economic freedom.
The past twenty years of neoliberal capitalism have fully taught us that political power without economic freedom is empty, hollow. Going forward, we must double our efforts for more massive actions that must bring our economy to a standstill, if need be. We, your leaders, know that metalworkers have the ability and capacity to do that.
All our structures must gear up for the next action in our rolling Section 77 mass campaigns. The enemies of the workers are not happy to see Numsa forging ahead with its program to combine the daily struggle of workers with community struggles through a united front. If there is one thing that scares our enemies to death is the unity in action of both employed and the unemployed workers; their old strategy has always been to divide us and hence to weaken and dominate us.
This divide and rule strategy, developed in the Apartheid days is still used today.
Our task now remains that of organising ourselves into a formidable revolutionary and militant working class force that cannot be ignored anymore, unlike in the past 20 years.
We have witnessed how our past 20 years of neoliberal capitalist democracy has benefited white monopoly capitalists and imperialism. We also have seen how a few among us, in particular, those who are politically connected and the most corrupt amongst us are becoming filthy rich and very bad role models to our youth because the message they are sending is that kleptomania (stealing) and corruption pays.
The elections are now around the corner, all sorts of fake promises are being made. These elections will come and go but the brutal and miserable reality of the lives of the working class will remain the same, if not worse, after the elections!
If we do not educate ourselves, mobilise and organise for a Socialist Republic of South Africa, we must know that we do not have any future and that the future of our children and their children remains bleak!
Our only hope is our revolutionary unity in action for a Socialist South Africa in which the means of production will be under the control and direction of the working class.
Our revolutionary unity must be build at all levels of our organisation from the factory floor, to the local, the region and at national level. We must close shop against the enemies of the working class who want to hijack our genuine grievances for their own selfish ends.
We are fully aware that under capitalism our struggle against exploitation, discrimination, joblosess and unfair labour practices is a day to day struggle that we must fight, and win, and these are the main reasons why we organise ourselves into a trade union to build our fighting power through the revolutionary unity of workers, Without our revolutionary unity we are vulnerable and we will always be defeated by the bosses and those who work for them.
I will, as President of Numsa, not stop reminding all of us what is contained in the preamble of our Numsa Constitution.
The Numsa Constitution confidently and proudly reminds all of us that unity is one of the key principles that must always guide us when it says:
“We, the members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, firmly commit ourselves to a united South Africa, free of oppression and economic exploitation.
We believe that this can only be achieved under the leadership of an organised and united working class.
Our experience has taught us that to achieve this goal we must:
• fight and oppose discrimination in all its forms within the Union, the factories and in society;
• strive for maximum unity amongst organised metalworkers and organise every unorganised metalworker into our national industrial Union;
• ensure that all levels of our Union are democratically structured and controlled by the worker members themselves through elected worker committees;
• encourage democratic worker leadership and organisation in our factories and in all spheres of society;
• Reinforce and encourage progressive international worker-to-worker contact so as to strengthen the worldwide society of metalworkers.
We call on all metalworkers that identify with these principles and aims to join us and the metalworkers we represent, as comrades in the struggle ahead.
These are our foundational principles from the preamble of our constitution that must continue to guide us in these difficult times of our organisation, our forest for survival are the masses of the working class.
About Cosatu
I wish to thank all metal workers for your efforts to continue the fight to defend Cosatu from political opportunists within and outside Cosatu, who want to use Cosatu to achieve their private capitalist ambitions including securing their seats in parliaments and jobs in government.
We have now won the first battle to get Comrade Zwelinzima Vavi back in office; the second battle, the battle of all battles, is to get the Cosatu Special National Congress, only through this Congress can we liberate Cosatu from its current paralysis.
Numsa’s battle to defend the Cosatu General Secretary has always being a principled fight to fight against any form of injustices against any worker, and more importantly, we hold the view that the Cosatu General Secretary has always being a long time victim of several failed political projects to silence him. The south Gauteng high court has just confirmed our view.
More profoundly, Numsa knows full well that the fights and crisis in Cosatu is about the heart and soul of the Federation: should it be reduced to a toothless bull dog and toy telephone of the ANC and the SACP or should it remain what is has always been, a workers and poor people militant, revolutionary and socialist Federation.
Numsa Special National Congress in December 2013 has directed us to fight with all what we have got to stay in Cosatu, in order to defend the revolutionary unity of the 2 million members of affiliates of Cosatu. We can confirm that indeed we have continued to wage this fight to return Cosatu back to its rightful owners, the South African working class as organised in the affiliates of Cosatu. Our head office and Gauteng regions organised pickets outside Cosatu house to deliver the message that we are going nowhere.
However I do think as Numsa we need to ready ourselves for a possible dismissal or suspension from cosatu if what we hear every day is anything to go by. Enemies of the working class are determined to weaken and destroy Numsa and Cosatu.
At that critical moment when either suspension or expulsion is served on us, we should not be found wanting. Our SNC resolutions are very clear: Numsa will continue to champion working class unity and struggles for a socialist South Africa and world, and we are ready for anything!
Let us not forget that our biggest sector, engineering, is in the process of negotiations, together with Eskom and other house agreements. We wish the negotiating teams all the best on the table of negotiations.
However we must always remember that negotiations are won in the theatre of struggle which is the shop floor, therefore mobilisation in support of our demands remains central to our collective bargaining strategy. Our Cosatu slogan ‘an injury to one is an injury to all’ remains relevant if we are to advance a successful struggle, all of us must prepare ourselves for possible solidarity action with the workers in this sector, if a need arises.
We, your national leadership, is fully happy and satisfied that of we can defend our unity and continue on our militant and revolutionary socialist trade union path, nothing can stand in our way.
Prepare yourselves for more battles this year!
Aluta continua!