NUMSA 10TH NATIONAL CONGRESS
12 to 15 December 2016
NUMSA PRESIDENT ANDREW CHIRWA’s OPENING ADDRESS TO CONGRESS
Members of the Numsa Central Committee,
Delegates to this 10th Numsa National Congress,
Officials of the Union
All invited guests (Local and International),
Friends of Numsa and
The media present here,
Allow me on behalf of the entire union and its membership to welcome you all to the 10th NumsaNational congress. Numsa Congresses are always very serious and disciplined occasions for Numsa members, once every four years, to meet and determine the priorities for the next four years, for the union. Congress also reviews the work done, in the past four years. The NumsaCongress is the supreme decision making body of the union (workers parliament).
I know this is not exactly what we should be doing now, this late in December, and so close to Christmas, especially for Christians! I therefore want, from the beginning, and from the bottom of my heart, to thank each and every one of you for making this personal sacrifice at the end of the year, when we are all very tired and needing to rest, to come and attend this important and urgent Numsa Special Congress.
Numsa Congresses are therefore simultaneously very serious and yet very happy occasions. Here in Cape Town too, all this must happen! As Chairperson of the Congress I will try and make sure that this Congress lives up to the expectations of all of us: as both a serious disciplined important constitutional event, and as a happy occasion.
We are meeting in this 10th Congress of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa at a very important historic moment both in the whole world in general, and in South Africa in particular.
4 years after the killing of the miners in Marikana, murdered by Cyril Ramaphosa and the ANC government (May their souls rest in peace).
We are meeting 3 years after our historic watershed conference of 2013.
We are meeting 2 years after we were dismissed from Cosatu.
This Congress is sitting in the shadow of the passing away of one of the world’s greatest Communists. He governed the Republic of Cuba as Prime Minister from 1959 to 1976 and then as President from 1976 to 2008. Comrade Fidel Castro served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from 1961 until 2011.
Fighting a guerrilla war at the head of his organization, the 26th of July Movement, with his brother Raúl Castro and Che Guevara, Comrade Fidel Castro overthrew the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959.
The United States viciously opposed Castro's government and unsuccessfully attempted to remove him by assassination, economic blockade, and counter-revolution, including the Bay of Pigs Invasion of 1961. Countering these threats, Fidel Castro formed an alliance with the Soviet Union and allowed the Soviets to place nuclear weapons on Cuba, sparking the Cuban Missile Crisis—a defining incident of the Cold War—in 1962.
The world working class has mourned the passing away of a very solid Marxist-Leninist internationalist who did not hesitate to send his soldiers to fight wars of liberation anywhere in the world including against the mighty of the Apartheid regime in Angola, whom they defeated.
Fidel did not hesitate to send much needed doctors to poor African countries, and to receive Third World medical students to study medicine in Cuba.
Long after imperialism had triumphed over Russia, Cuba has remained standing as a socialist country and a beacon of hope to the world working class who are struggling for socialism.
We South Africans owe our freedom to the gallant Cuban fighters who demonstrated in Angola that a determined revolutionary army, even if small and from a very poor country, combined with other revolutionary military forces, could defeat the evil Apartheid military machine.
We owe it to Comrade Fidel Castro to continue the fight for Socialism. May his soul rest in peace.
The world capitalist system is sick, very sick, terminally sick, actually. In order to resolve its problems, all over the world the workers are under attack from employers who, as always, are making us, the working class, pay for their global crisis of the capitalist system. They are busy destroying jobs, cutting wages, attacking trade unions and forcing governments to reduce spending on essential social services for the working class.
Wars have become big global business, for the world capitalist system. Under the pretext of fighting “terrorism” the world leading capitalist nations are manufacturing more “terrorists” by invading violently other people’s lands for natural resources and cheap labour. The world is indeed, headed for a Third World War.
In the absence of revolutionary emancipatory socialist organization and leadership of the working class, we are seeing the resurgence of backward and dangerous religious forms of worship, xenophobia, racism, global drug abuse, violence against women and children, homophobia, accelerated destruction of our Earth and its ecosystems, and the rise of dangerous racist capitalist idiots to power like Donald Trump in the US.
By the time we conclude this Congress, all of us, especially delegates, must be clear about the revolutionary moment the world and South Africa are in today. We must be very clear about the state of world class struggles.
We must, as a matter of course, also fully learn, appreciate and deepen our understanding of our struggles ahead to defend and grow our union, in the face of a coordinated onslaught against the Union.
No Numsa Congress delegate must leave this Congress unaware of the revolutionary character of the union and its members.
The historic significance of the 10th Numsa Congress meeting in the Western Cape, in Cape Town, is that this is where, on 6th April in 1652, Jan Van Reinbeck, sailing on the Dromedariswith two other ships, the Rejiger and De Goede Hoop, accompanied by 82 men and 8 women, landed.
We the black and African working class mark that day, 6th April 1652, when the Dromedaris carrying Van Reinbeck landed at the Cape as the beginning of our colonization, oppression, domination, dispossession and enslavement by the white settler colonial population. From then on started the violent removals from their lands of the African populations of all types.
The day of Jan Van Reinbeck’s arrival became a public holiday for White supremacist South Africa with the 300th anniversary in 1952, and was celebrated as Van Reinbeck’s Day until 1974. In 1980 the Apartheid government changed the public holiday to Founder’s Day. This obnoxious holiday was only abolished in 1994 by the democratically elected ANC government.
To this day the white racist supremacists in South Africa still quietly celebrate 6 April as “Founders Day” of White Racist South Africa!
It was in this City, in 1913, where the Land Act was passed that gave 13% of poor land (reserves, as they called these lands) to “natives” and the rest of 87%, to the white population.
We mark 1913 as the formal year when the indigenous black and African populations were of course legally evicted from their own lands, thereby destroying their independent social and economic means of existence. This singular act cemented the proletarian fate of the majority of the African people in South Africa, which formerly came into existence in 1910.
We in Numsa, are, therefore, not surprised that 22 years after the so-called “miracle” in 1994, 22 years within which the ANC and its formations have confirmed that they are no longer a liberation movement. White supremacists in this Province are now brave enough to call black and African people animals who should be tied to ropes!
We are not surprised that white people turned up in large numbers to vote for the DA in the local government elections, firmly confirming the colonial history and continuing racist character of this Province in general and this town in particular. Of course the ANC and its formations have merely provided the ammunition to white supremacists by their horrible performance in government and by their abandonment of the Freedom Charter.
So, when you, a black and African worker, sing and celebrate Cape Town as “The Mother City” please know that you are celebrating the City that indeed was the founding City of your colonization, oppression, domination, exploitation and enslavement.
Outside Congress hours, those of us from outside this City and Province must take time to see some of the history of black and African enslavement, still present to this day, in this City.
I have taken time to reflect on some of the history of White Supremacist South Africa and of this province and City because in this Congress, we present once more, concrete evidence confirming the correctness of our Marxist-Leninist analysis of post 1994 South Africa.
Our conclusions are simple but very profound: unless the racist colonial capitalist foundations of South Africa are uprooted and destroyed, and replaced by a Socialist South Africa in which economic and social equality and justice shall be the new foundations, the majority of South Africans who are black and African will continue to wallow in poverty in an extremely rich country, will suffer unemployment in a country that can employ everyone, will endure extreme racist inequalities and insults because the racist colonial foundations of White South Africa remain intact, 22 years after the so called “democratic miracle” of 1994.
In our 2013 Special National Congress we said the ANC had been captured by right-wing interests and was, therefore, no longer capable of fulfilling its historic mission: ending race, gender and national oppression, domination and exploitation.
We further said the SACP had lost its socialist revolutionary character. It was time, we said, for the working class to create for themselves a revolutionary socialist organ committed both in theory and practice, to socialism. It was time, we said, for the working class to organize themselves as a class for themselves!
By 2013 we in Numsa were satisfied that Zuma had failed the test; he had betrayed the very same reasons why we supported him in Polokwane, not only did he fail to lead a revolutionary agenda far from the 1996 class project, but his corruption had a smell you could notice a million miles away from South Africa.
In our Special National Congress we not only called for Zuma to resign, we also resolved to move out of the failed ANC-led alliance. For this and other reasons, COSATU expelled us.
Today, all sorts of voices from all sorts of class forces in the ANC led alliance are calling for the very same things they all worked hard to destroy Numsa for demanding in 2013.
There is no difference between Zuma and Ramaphosa; they are one coin with two sides.
There is the emergence of right-wing voices called “Save Our South Africa” which has become a popular phrase and slogan, among the right-wing. Whose South Africa is this they are talking about?
None of these right-wing, and frankly, racist voices want to abolish the South Africa that is based on the colonization, oppression, domination and exploitation of black and African labour in general, and the African woman in particular.
Numsa has only contempt for these reactionary voices who want to mislead the majority of the people of this country who are the black and African working class that “South Africa” has ever been good at any time, for the majority of this country who are the black and African working class.
The 10th Congress Numsa Secretariat Report to be presented by our General Secretary, will demonstrate how cruel, insensitive, savage and racist both the old and the so called “new” South Africa have been and continues to be, to the majority of South Africans – the black and African working class, who are more than 90% of the population of this country.
We can now confidently declare that the so-called 1994 “negotiated settlement” has collapsed! You indeed must be really blind to believe that we live in a “new” South Africa, I must confirm! Today, land remains largely in white settler hands. Banks, mines, manufacturing, construction, agriculture and agro processing and more are all concentrated in white monopolies, 22 years after 1994.
Africans are languishing at the bottom, tortured by poverty, unemployment and inequalities. Small and largely meaningless “social grants”, rather than real and well-paying and satisfying employment, have become some salvation for more than 17 million black and African people!
Precisely because the past 22 years have not uprooted the racist colonial economy, white supremacists are now brave and are openly insulting black and African people and calling them monkeys, animals, retards, inferior creatures, baboons and so on.
Jacob Zuma himself has not been spared; it has become a white and black liberal artistic sport to paint his genitals – a racist and savage throw back to how historically, from the days of slavery to date, white supremacists have always feared the so-called and mythical virility and sexuality of the black and African male.
We the black and African working class will never experience a racism-free world unless and until the world capitalist system is destroyed and replaced by socialism, because racism in the capitalist era is the other side of the capitalist coin.
As we gather in this Congress, we see that capital is consolidating its hold on the super-exploitation of black and African labour in South Africa, and COSATU has become a cheerleader and main campaigner of the leading capitalists for the presidency of the ANC and the country!
Black and African working class youths in nurseries, primary and high schools and universities are fast working up to the fact of the authoritarian an anti-emancipation, patriarchal, racist and colonial character and content of the entire education system and the school socialization they are forced to endure.
South Africa's entire school system has become a key site of working class struggles in South Africa today.
Working class students are fighting against financial and other forms of exclusions in the school and university systems of South Africa.
All this proves the correctness of our analysis of post-1994 South Africa as still being colonial, racist and based on the supper exploitation of the black and African working class. Among these, of course, the African woman is the worst affected.
Congress must give clear and practical guidance on how the union must respond to the struggles of black and African working class children and youths in schools and university. Free decolonized and emancipatory education from birth to death must be our motto. What struggles must we wage to win this fight? Congress must pronounce on this all important matter.
In order to continue to police black and African poverty, we expect capital and the state to become more insensitive to the plight of the black and African working class, and to resort increasingly to brutal and savage means of suppressing the working class. Marikana was a warning shot; more is to come.
What then, are our revolutionary tasks of the moment? All of us, members, shop stewards, organizers, officials and ordinary employees of the union must participate in education, mobilization, organization and the struggle for a Socialist South Africa. The alternative to this is the continued super-exploitation of the black and African working class and the inevitable deterioration of their lives.
As a union, we can make this call because of our revolutionary character, which is rooted in Marxism-Leninism and embedded in our union’s constitution.
Numsa is not just any other kind of union. Besides recruitment, servicing and bargaining for our members, we aim to end capitalist oppression and exploitation. Our values include nondiscrimination, democracy, tolerance, militancy, worker control and of course unity of the entire working class in general and Numsa members in particular.
This congress must advance new ideas and improve on our ability to recruit, service, and bargain for our members, while simultaneously growing the power of the working class by moving swiftly to create a new revolutionary, militant, democratic and worker controlled new federation.
We must defend and grow our union. It is a powerful revolutionary shield of the South African working class. Our primary weapons are our numbers, and our unity.
We have defended the unity, revolutionary character and growth of the union even as we are surrounded on all sides by very powerful enemies in the South African capitalist state, by South African vicious and extremely backward racist capitalists, by external ideological and political enemies who hate our guts, our ideology and our consistent defence of workers interests.
We are determined to soldier on, to continue our fight for the full emancipation of the world working class in general, and the African and South African working class in particular, from the ruthless oppression and exploitation of capitalism, and for Socialism.
There is no alternative to organizing the working class for the revolutionary struggle for them to be their own liberators, their own masters. We have no choice but to take on this huge revolutionary task. The alternative is permanent misery, poverty, unemployment and suffering extreme inequalities. All this of course leads to brutal and painful short lives, for the majority of the working class.
We must create the revolutionary mass vanguard political party to lead the struggle for socialism in South Africa.
We must move now, from the “Numsa Moment” to “Revolutionary Organization”. The time has come, to work to build and grow the power of the working class in our communities and workplaces, for the struggle for socialism.
The bosses have failed to destroy this Union.
Imperialists have failed to destroy this Union
The government has failed to destroy this giant Union.
The ANC has failed to destroy this Union
The SACP has failed to destroy this Union
Cosatu has failed to destroy this Union
Nobody will destroy this mighty organization; it can only be destroyed by us.
Please allow me, now, to declare this, the Numsa 10th National Congress Open!
Wish you all a successful conference
I thank you,
12th December 2016.
Issued by NUMSA, 12 December 2016