Mac Chavalala – 1st Deputy President

Biography Q & A

1. Why did you join NUMSA?

First of all,  I strongly believe in having both a personal and a political identity. Personal in a sense that if you want to achieve anything in life, you must know who you are and what you want to achieve. By knowing who you are, you get to know what are the things that makes you happy, and what are those things that makes you unhappy.

When I joined Eskom, the first question that came into mind was how do I become part of the Eskom family of more than 50 000 employees at that time, with no relevant skills that speaks to the core business of Eskom as an Electricity generating company?

So I spent few years at Eskom, struggling and trying to find a way of becoming a skilled employee because it was not easy to get apprenticeships during those years, as a black young person even if you had minimum qualifications. At that time there was no NUMSA at Eskom. There was only one Union of which I did not have the enthusiasm to join, because I felt it belongs to a different sector which was outside the Eskom’s scope. So I wanted a Union that was going to not only reflect the sector that I am part of, but also suit my political identity.

At that time there was something call Electrical Workers Association (EWA) at Eskom, and a number of workers who did not want to join this other Union for the same reasons joined EWA, so I joined EWA and become a member because it was also recognised by the employer at the time. After a year a number of us as members of EWA felt that the leadership of the association was no longer representing the aspirations and mandates of workers, so we resigned and started looking for a Union. To cut the long story short, one of our comrades one day came back with a NUMSA comrade who was in possession of a lot of membership forms and that’s how we joined NUMSA in numbers.

2. How did you begin your journey with NUMSA?

NUMSA was introduced to me and other comrades by a fellow employee who was coming from another Eskom plant in Germiston, and from there we started recruiting more workers into NUMSA. I was happy to just remain an ordinary member of NUMSA, and for some years I avoided being elected as a shop steward but actively participating in General meetings.  I wanted to learn more about NUMSA as an Organization and what it represent, `not only at work places but also within the broader working class movement. I was elected for the first time as a shop steward in the early 90s, and around 2001 my employer transferred me to Limpopo.

After being elected in my plant again in Limpopo as a shop steward, I started participating in Local shop stewards Councils in the Great North Local, where I was elected as Local Secretary, later a Local Deputy Chair and a Local Chairperson. When Hlanganani Region decided to deploy the late Regional Chairperson comrades Phil Bokaba to be the 1st  Deputy President of the National Union, the current president of NUMSA comrade Andrew Chirwa became the Regional Chairperson and I was elected the Deputy Regional Chairperson.

When Comrade Chirwa was elected the 1st  Deputy President of NUMSA, I was then elected as the Regional Chairperson of Hlanganani until I was deployed by NUMSA to go and Lead the Federation SAFTU as the President.

3. Do you have political experiences outside NUMSA?

I am a political activist, therefore I don’t regard the life of an activist as an experiment but a daily struggle and the way of life. I’m a community member before I become a member of NUMSA and a leader who is privileged to be one of the leaders in the National Union of Metal workers of South Africa. When there are Block meetings or Ward meetings where I’m staying and I’m available, I attend as part of my community. You can’t separate community struggles from worker’s struggle as an activist.

When workers decides to elect a shop steward, they don’t ask for a CV first, they want to know as a worker, whether you are available to serve them or not?

When I join NUMSA I discovered that it was affiliated to COSATU and COSATU was in an alliance with the African National Congress, which I joined as a member after it was unbanned in 1990. I later joined the South African Communist party until we (NUMSA) were dismissed by COSATU in the early hours of Saturday morning the 8th of November 2014.

I am happy as a NUMSA member that we managed to implement all our “Ground Breaking” resolutions taken in our 2013 Special National Congress, so we are not just an organization which just takes resolutions, we implement our resolutions.

4. Can you elaborate on your work history?

The first time I went to Eskom offices in Rosherville next to Germiston I was not going there to look for a job. As a soccer player I went there with a friend who was recruited by the Assistant Coach of the then Eskom soccer team called Western Tigers to try my luck.

I ended up spending time in Eskom until I got injured and then started looking for a job. I got a job as an assistant clerk and I quickly got bored of doing paper work and started applying for apprenticeship which was not easy for young black employees at the time.

After a number of attempts I received a call from HR that my application was approved. I started my training as an Electrician, and after passing my Trade Test I became an accredited (I.E) and later (M.I.E). I’m currently employed as a Snr. Work planner in Eskom.

5. What do you want to see done at NUMSA?

NUMSA is not only the biggest metal workers Union in South Africa and in Africa, but we are a militant and revolutionary Trade Union, we are a Marxist and Leninist inspired Trade Union.  As a result, we have attracted the attention of right-wing employers and their organizations, including Government in the SOEs where we are organizing. We are a worker control Trade Union, we are controlled by internal mandating processes of our members and that’s how we manage to win so many victories for our members, and that’s why workers continue to join NUMSA in numbers every day.

I know that our enemies are working very hard to divide our organization, including attempts to use some individuals in some of our Regions to form a splinter Union. My message for them is simple, “You have tried before and failed, and you are going to fail again”. What the enemy is not aware of is that, metal workers always close ranks when they smell an attack.

We want to see all metal workers united more than ever before, and our focus must be on building and growing this giant metal workers Union.

We are from our 11th National Congress in July 2022 in Cape Town, the majority of NUMSA Regions have discharged their mandates, and all of us as disciplined members of this giant Union are expected to adhere and respect the outcomes of our Congress and to unite metal workers in line with the preamble of our constitution.

6. What is your union philosophy that you want to be known for?

Firstly, I must say that I hate self-aggrandizement. Having said that, I’m a person who strongly believe in ethical leadership, the leadership that is motivated by the dignity and rights of others. Every time when I represent a member or NUMSA as an organization, I put myself in the shoes of that individual or my organization. I do so, so that my personal feelings and interests are subjected to that of my organization.

We have adopted a service charter, which all NUMSA members and officials are expected to comply with and that’s the line of march the organization is expecting from all of us, Service to our members and nothing else.

I’m also inspired by Amilcar Cabral’s Quote;

“Always remember that the people are not fighting for ideas, nor for what is in men’s minds. The people fight and accept the sacrifices demanded by the struggle in order to gain material advantages, to leave better and in peace, to benefit from progress, and for the better future of their children.

National liberation, the struggle against colonialism, the construction of peace, progress and independence are hollow words devoid of any significance unless they can be translated into a real improvement of living conditions”.

 Long live NUMSA long live!!