Opening Speech by 1st Deputy President, Andrew Chirwa

NUMSA SPECIAL NATIONAL CONGRESS

BIRCHWOOD HOTEL

JOHANNESBURG

17 – 20 December 2013 

Opening Speech by 1st Deputy President, Andrew Chirwa 

HISTORY teaches us clearly that the battle against colonialism does not run straight away along the lines of nationalism. For a very long time the native devotes his energies to ending certain definite abuses: forced labour, corporal punishment, inequality of salaries, limitation of political rights, etc. This fight for democracy against the oppression of mankind will slowly leave the confusion of neo-liberal universalism to emerge, sometimes laboriously, as a claim to nationhood. It so happens that the unpreparedness of the educated classes, the lack of practical links between them and the mass of the people, their laziness, and, let it be said, their cowardice at the decisive moment of the struggle will give rise to tragic mishaps.”

(Frantz Fanon, 1961, The Wretched of the Earth, Chapter 3: “The Pitfalls of National Consciousness.”)

The Numsa National Office bearers

Members of the Numsa Central Committee

Delegates of the Numsa Special Congress from all our 9 Regions

All our International and Local Guests without exception

The officials of Numsa

The esteemed friends of Numsa

Members of the Local and International media

On behalf of the Numsa National Central Committee, I greet and welcome you all to this Numsa Special National Congress representing more than 338 000 members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa.

Please allow me to welcome all our guests, and of course a special welcome to our fellow comrades from the African continent.

I know that by convening this Numsa Special National Congress this is not exactly what we should be doing now, this late in December, and so close to Christmas, especially for members of the Christian faith! 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. Your families deserve a word of appreciation for allowing you time-off to attend to your organisational commitments at a very crucial time of our revolution.

As you are aware, we have very important and urgent matters to attend to in this Numsa Special National Congress.  Workers in South Africa need us to work very hard and in a very disciplined manner throughout this Congress in order to produce suitable outcomes that must assist in shaping the future direction of the working class.

A Special Numsa Congress Tribute to Comrade Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela

Metalworkers across the length and breadth of our country continue to mourn the sad passing of one of the greatest world inspirational leaders of the 20th Century.

In his honour, the Numsa National Office Bearers felt it necessary to postpone our scheduled Special National Congress initially scheduled for 13 to the 16th of December, to the 17th to the 20th of December, 2013.

We know that although the official mourning period is over in South Africa and all over the world, here in South Africa, justice, peace and democracy loving people will forever mourn Comrade Madiba and cherish the ideals he fought for.

As Numsa, we are dipping our red banners as a tribute to President Mandela who was a symbol of our people’s resilience and struggle for a free, democratic and prosperous South Africa.

We remain confident that his exemplary revolutionary political life will be celebrated by different generations to come.

Allow me, then, to invite Congress to stand, and observe a moment of silence in honour of the memory of Comrade Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, who shall, forever live in our memories. 

The Revolutionary Character of Numsa

Although this is not a political school but a very important decision making and constitutional Congress of Numsa, I feel I have a revolutionary duty to remind us, in this Congress, who we are. Who and what exactly is Numsa?

The Preamble of the Numsa Constitution confidently and proudly announces to the world, that:

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:

(a)           fight and oppose discrimination in all its forms within the Union, the factories and in society;

 (b)           strive for maximum unity amongst organised metalworkers and organise every unorganised metalworker into our national industrial Union;

 (c)            ensure that all levels of our Union are democratically structured and controlled by the worker members themselves through elected worker committees;

 (d)           encourage democratic worker leadership and organisation in our factories and in all spheres of society;

 (e)           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.

We call on all metalworkers to set aside any prejudices they may have and strive for unity under the guiding slogan of the international working class:

“From each according to their ability; to each according to their needs”

We make no secret of the fact that as metalworkers we want a South Africa free of oppression and economic exploitation. We know that such a South Africa can only be achieved under the leadership of an organised and united working class. Logically, such a South Africa must be a Socialist South Africa!

In all our trade union work, social, economic and political policy positions, Numsa consistently strives to live by its Constitution.

The values that have guided us and united us made us grow the Union over the past 26 hard years to the point where today Numsa is the largest metal workers union in Africa with more than 338 000 members. Amongst others, these values are located in the following:

  1. We oppose discrimination in all its forms, everywhere!
  2. We aim and work for maximum unity of the working class.
  3. Our Union is democratically structured and controlled by worker members themselves through their elected leaders.
  4. Encouraging democratic worker leadership in the workplace and in society.
  5. Promoting internationalism through worker to worker contact among other means.

It is important for all our Numsa Shopstewards to know these values. All National Office Bearers of Numsa must understand and have a duty to advance these values without fear or favour.

Going forward, it is important for all our members at the point of recruitment to be introduced to these values. In this Congress, we shall deal with the Numsa Service Charter and we must decide how every member, shopsteward, office bearer and official must live by these values.

I have defined who we are, because today others who do not know us want to confuse our members by falsely claiming that Numsa is led by a “clique”.

I want to proudly and loudly state here that we in Numsa we are very proud of who we are, of our members, our shopstewards, our NOBs, our officials and all the Marxist-Leninist intellectuals and friends of Numsa!

I want to publicly warn all those who are hell bent on sowing confusion and divisions in Numsa that they shall fail. Both in this input and in the Secretariat Report we shall endeavour to unmask the political and ideological bankruptcy to found in the SACP’s Open Letter to the delegates of this Numsa Special National Congress.

As a worker-controlled and democratic, Marxist-Leninist inspired Union, the National Office Bearers and all elected leaders and officials of the Union have a democratic responsibility to uphold, defend and advance the constitutional decisions of the Union.

Comrades

When you hear any of our Numsa leaders publicly pronounce on any matter, please always remember that he or she is simply advancing what is contained in our Constitution and representing the positions of constitutional structures of Numsa, and not their personal views.

The suggestion therefore that Cde Irvin Jim projects his own views and that of “a clique” in Numsa is both dishonest, misleading and factionalist.

No one must be allowed to isolate any leader or shopsteward of Numsa!

More than at any time in our history, with our increase in numbers, we must defend our unity, continuously strengthen ourselves ideologically, improve our style of work, ensure that every Numsa member is a revolutionary class-conscious activist and protect our leaders.

We will guard our unity very jealously, if need be, with our very lives.

The Numsa August 2013 Central Committee Decision for this Congress

We must commend the bold decision of the Numsa Central Committee held on 11th August 2013 for convening this special parliament of metalworkers after very thorough, Marxist-Leninist analysis of the recent and ongoing developments in our movement, our country and the whole capitalist world, since our Numsa 9th National Congress held in Durban in June 2012.

A careful Numsa Marxist-Leninist class analysis of the post 1994 South African socio-economic formation and all the 2012 congresses and conferences of the ANC-led Alliance formations revealed the uncomfortable fact that, 19 years into our democracy:

  1. The basic racist and colonial economic foundation of South Africa continues, after 1994, to be reproduced, complete with its social bases of mass poverty, widespread unemployment and extreme inequalities, largely affecting the majority “natives” of South Africans who are Black and African.

2. The neoliberal social and economic trajectory inherited from the departing Apartheid government and which formed the basis for the post-1994 democratic dispensation, continues unabated. It first was codified as GEAR in 1996, and in 2012, it simply mutated into the National Development Plan (NDP).

The neoliberal social and economic policies pursued by the ANC government since 1994 have led to further worsening of the inherited chronic national crisis of employment, the destruction of manufacturing, massive capital flight both legally and illegally, concentration of poverty among the majority of the Black and African people of South Africa and, on the other hand, the massive concentration of wealth among a tiny white population of South Africa, with its even smaller Black and African comprador capitalist class.

1. We see that by 2008, 25 million South Africans were classified as extremely poor. This is half our population. Of these, 24 million are Africans.

1. Nothing better confirms the underlying and continuing colonial character of our economy and society, post 1994, than this fact: extreme poverty is Black and largely African, while extreme wealth is white, in the main.

  1. Almost two decades after our democratic breakthrough in 1994, extreme poverty is Black and African, and extreme wealth is white – this sharply informs us that there has been no real transfer of the basic wealth of the country to the people of South Africa as a whole. We see that this means that the Freedom Charter was dumped a long time ago, but remains an electioneering platform!
  2. As the Secretariat Report to this Special Congress will confirm, the ongoing crisis of the global capitalist system simply worsens in South Africa the pre existing colonial conditions of mass poverty, widespread unemployment and extreme inequalities which are the daily experiences of the majority of the people of South Africa who are Black and African, and by and large, constitute the overwhelming majority of the South African working class.
  3. South Africa has today become the world capital of community protests for improvements in the lives of the people.

The government has responded by militarising the police. Inevitably, from the death of Andries Tatane to Marikana in August 16, last year, the effects of militarisation are being felt.

  1. Colonialism is an inherently and extremely violent system.  State violence and the high levels of violent crimes are the direct outcomes of the continuing violent, extremely unequal, poverty ridden and mass unemployment driven colonial-capitalist system in which we live in South Africa today.
  2. Colonialism of a Special Type, which is a system based on violent subjugation, dispossession and extreme exploitation of Black and African workers by a tiny white capitalist minority is inherently a system of generalised violence!
  3. No amount of daily, weekly, or monthly liberal social and political campaigns against this or that form of violence will end unless we simultaneously destroy the violent colonial basis of our economy and society, which is the fertile soil in which all sorts of violent pathologies breed.
  4. Revolutionary unity within the ANC-led Alliance is based on the minimum revolutionary-democratic programme – the Freedom Charter.
  5. Without the Freedom Charter as our common political platform, nothing binds us into the Alliance.
  6. As Numsa, we have noted the evaporation of the Alliance which only condenses and appears during election times.
  7. The key socio-economic and political demands of the Freedom Charter, a Charter that should provide a yardstick of how “Free” we are, remain unfulfilled.
  8. The swallowing of the SACP into the capitalist government and the subsequent mutation of GEAR into the NDP, have emboldened the colonial and comprador bourgeoisie to push the working class deeper into the crisis.

 

  1. Inevitably, Numsa has become almost a lone voice in the MDM formations in general, and in the Alliance in particular, in demanding the radical implementation of the Freedom Charter, as the basis for a rapid advance to Socialism as the only viable solution to the crisis of our inherited colonial economy and society.

 

  1. Relationships in the Alliance are at their lowest ebb, and Cosatu is fatally paralysed.

Having considered these and many other conditions and challenges the working class in general and Numsa in particular face, the Numsa 2013 August Central Committee decided, wisely, and in keeping with working class democracy and worker control of our Union, to call for a Special National Congress to reflect on these and other matters of an urgent nature.

Brief Reflections on the “Negotiated Settlement” in South Africa

Writing in 1961, that great Martinique-born African psychiatrist, philosopher, Marxist revolutionary, Frantz Fanon, said the following, about the struggle against colonialism:

“HISTORY teaches us clearly that the battle against colonialism does not run straight away along the lines of nationalism. For a very long time the native devotes his energies to ending certain definite abuses: forced labour, corporal punishment, inequality of salaries, limitation of political rights, etc. This fight for democracy against the oppression of mankind will slowly leave the confusion of neo-liberal universalism to emerge, sometimes laboriously, as a claim to nationhood. It so happens that the unpreparedness of the educated classes, the lack of practical links between them and the mass of the people, their laziness, and, let it be said, their cowardice at the decisive moment of the struggle will give rise to tragic mishaps.” 

Note that Fanon warns us, that this fight for democracy against the oppression of mankind will slowly leave the confusion of neo-liberal universalism to emerge, sometimes laboriously, as a claim to nationhood.  

It is almost as if Fanon was writing about us, in South Africa today. Our leaders tell us that the neoliberal NDP is the programme of the national liberation movement in government.  One ANC leader went as far as confidently asserting that the NDP is a programme that has been embraced by the entire nation. We were roundly condemned as spoilers, standing out like sore thumbs, in exactly the same way we were condemned for opposing GEAR in 1996.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

We now know that the Freedom Charter was discarded during the negotiation process.

We now know that the neoliberal trajectory that has been followed in the past 19 years was in fact the basis for securing the “negotiated settlement”.

We now know that the neoliberal macroeconomic policy framework was a precondition for white monopoly capital to hand over government, precisely because this neoliberal macroeconomic policy guaranteed their continued profitability while the bourgeois liberal property clause in the Constitution guaranteed their ownership of wealth, including land, post 1994.  In exchange, the ANC got an empty government.

It has therefore become necessary for metalworkers, to decide how they must confront the continued political and economic dominance of white monopoly capital and imperialism in South Africa post 1994, and its surrogates and backers in the Liberation Movement who, as yet another senior veteran leader of the ANC/SACP admits, have “fortified the inherited class divide” in South Africa.

The Significance of this Special Congress 

When we met in the June 2012 Durban Numsa National Congress we were full of hope and had a strong desire to fight for the future of millions of our people, who are largely the Black and African working class and rural poor.

We were inspired by Cabral when he said:

Always bear in mind that people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head, they are fighting to win material benefit, to live better in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children

We were also inspired by Marx and Engels when they said:

“People cannot be liberated as long as they are unable to obtain food and drink, housing and clothing in adequate quality and quantity”.

In Durban we took very serious resolutions which among other things included building the mass power of the working class from the bottom. We resolved to fight for radical economic transformation which was to include nationalisation of mines and other commanding heights of the economy.

It did not take us long to realise that the enemies of our revolution were also intensifying the battle to weaken and eventually capture Cosatu. The 2012 11th Cosatu National Congress bears testimony to this onslaught.

Those who attended the Cosatu 11th Congress of 2012 will recall that an honest and scientific assessment of the state of the NDR was captured very well in the Cosatu Secretariat Political Report. The obvious conclusion was clearly that the NDR was not on track.

We quickly realised that the SACP and ANC could not stomach the Cosatu Secretariat Political Report endorsed by the Cosatu CEC. In an unprecedented move, almost similar to what they did in the 5th Central Committee of Cosatu in 2011, they actually called on Cosatu Congress delegates in that Congress not to accept the Secretariat Political Report.

Back then, in the 5th Cosatu Central Committee of 2011, we perhaps mistakenly thought that this incident was simply some expression of different political interpretations of the NDR. In fact, that was the beginning of the strategy to weaken and paralyse Cosatu. As we all know now, since the 11th Congress our Cosatu has never been the same.

As Numsa, we have openly stated that we stand for nothing short of a campaigning, militant, revolutionary, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist Cosatu.

In this Special National Congress a decision must be taken about where we go from here, if we do not manage to get the kind of Cosatu we affiliated to.

Together with other affiliates, we have demanded a Special Cosatu National Congress to rescue Cosatu from the paralysis it is in. Thus far, in our opinion, the President of Cosatu has failed to comply with the Constitution of Cosatu by calling for this Congress. This Special Numsa Congress must determine what we must do about this flagrant and unconstitutional behaviour on the part of the Cosatu President and his NOB collective.

In Cosatu Numsa has become the subject of attacks by leaders of affiliates of Cosatu who clearly have no interests in advancing a radical programme for the emancipation of the working class in this country. Today and in the week ahead we must say with fear or favour in this Congress that Numsa will not sit back and fold our arms when there is a clear-cut agenda in our beloved Federation to turn Cosatu into a conveyor belt and rubber stamp for a right-wing/neo-liberal agenda. The Secretariat Report to this Special Congress covers this matter in a fair amount of detail.

Numsa and the SACP

Our relationship with the South African Communist Party is at its lowest point in history – in fact it has reached ground zero.

The current leadership of the SACP, led by Comrade Blade Nzimande, is not happy about Numsa’s militant and revolutionary stance on a number of burning issues affecting the South African working class.

Today, the SACP leadership has degenerated to naked lies about our leadership.

More specifically, our Numsa General Secretary, Comrade Irvin Jim, has become so hated by Comrade Blade Nzimande to the extent that when at the Durban SACP Congress armed men followed our General Secretary’s car, Comrade Blade made light of it.

The SACP leadership has singled out Numsa as a lingering irritation that must be defeated. Evidence of this can be found in the report delivered to the SACP 13th National Congress by Blade Nzimande.

The SACP has now gone so berserk that they are alleging that Numsa’s General Secretary, Deputy General Secretary and National Treasurer are driven by personal ambition for power and desire to accumulate personal wealth and using Numsa members to advance their business interests. At the same time the SACP is calling on metalworkers to rise in defence of their union thereby removing the so-called leadership “clique” from office. The SACP Central Committee Statement of 1st December 2013 and the BUA KOMANISI of 16th December 2013 bears testimony to this vulgar attack on the democratically elected Numsa National Office Bearers.

As the Numsa Central Committee we can bear testimony to the fact that the neither Comrade Irvin Jim nor Comrade Karl Cloete are involved in any business dealings. This can be easily verified with company registers. The SACP should have had the decency to do this before making their wild allegations.

The NIC is a publicly registered company, with a functioning board, it makes and submits regular annual reports to the relevant government structures and regularly reports to Numsa constitutional structures. It is criminal to query wrongdoing on the NIC, without facts.

On behalf of the Numsa National Office Bearers I must report to this Numsa Special National Congress that we have instructed our Attorneys who have issued a letter of demand to the SACP General Secretary and the SACP Central Committee to withdraw their defamation of the Numsa GS, DGS and NT failing which we shall sue them in a Court of Law. Our Attorneys have given them until end of business on 17th December 2013 to retract their defamatory statements and to offer a public apology to Numsa for the false accusations levelled against the Numsa GS, DGS and NT.

As Numsa we shall do everything necessary to defend our leadership in who has become a targeted of pseudo communists.

Recently, in an effort to drive a wedge inside Numsa in the same way as they did to Cosatu, the SACP has now written an open letter directly to the Numsa rank and file but delegates to this SNC in particular.  This is a desperate attempt to isolate and defeat us, to sow divisions among us, and to separate the Numsa leadership from the membership.

We are confident in the strength of our genuine working class democracy, and we confidently say that this effort by the wedge-drivers will come to nothing.

The SACP claims the Numsa leadership is a clique and that we manipulate our members from the top.  As delegates from your respective Locals and Regions, you would know that all the decisions and pronouncements we have made as the national leadership comes directly from locals.  Not even REC’s adopt positions that are not endorsed by locals in Numsa. We can proudly proclaim today that we are a vibrant, democratic, accountable and worker-controlled union.

The SACP complains about our perspective that the SACP has dissolved into a capitalist government and evaporated into the ANC.  They say we are hypocrites for saying this.  As Numsa we are not opposed to communists participating in bourgeois governments.  What we oppose is communists giving a left cover to a rightwing agenda of neoliberalism.  Cde Blade Nzimande openly denies that the Zuma administration pursues neoliberalism (He has done so publicly on SABC TV).  In our view, the role of communists in bourgeois governments is to show that such governments are incapable of fulfilling the aspirations of workers, by putting ever more radical demands, first of which is nationalisation without compensation under worker control, as Marx and Engels taught us.

Instead of engaging the capitalist class, and providing a class analysis of the situation, the SACP is now obsessed with an individual such as Irvin Jim. In the past weeks Sunday newspapers published a list of the super-rich, before then we learnt that Mondi has now listed in London, there is Nkandla scandal, not a week passes without a community protest, etc. and yet the SACP is only concerned with Irvin Jim and Numsa.

They have become Indunas against people who booed President Zuma. In terms of the SACP’s call, state resources must now be spent on investigating people who expressed themselves in a democratic dispensation.

It is my conviction at this point that the SACP has abandoned the struggle for socialism, has shifted away from its historic perspectives as captured in the 1962 programme and has ceased to be Marxist-Leninist. This Congress must pronounce on the SACP.

Brief reflections on organisational matters:

Before concluding this input, allow me to place before this SNC a few organisational matters that has shaped our activities in 2013;

  • The Numsa 2013 living wage campaign, the auto and motor strike
  • Improving our living wage struggle in Eskom come 2014
  • Preparing for the 2014 Engineering Sector wage negotiations
  • Building class consciousness through ideological training via the Mbuyiselo Ngwenda Brigades
  • Taking gender struggles to a higher level to confront the gender contradictions in our workplaces, in communities and in our society

Without being exhaustive, we wish delegates to this SNC to know that we have honoured our mandate as a Union who cares for the well-being of our members at the factory floor.

  1. 1.     The Numsa 2013 living wage campaign, the auto and motor strike: 

Comrades

You must give yourself and the National Union of Metalworkers Union of South Africa a round of applause for fighting a brave and successful battle against the profiteers in the Auto and Motor industry. As Numsa we have scored a fairly significant percentage wage increase and other improvements in conditions of employment. The Numsa NOB would be the first to agree that we can do much better in ensuring that we increase the benefits of our members but it would be a serious mistake to think that we are not making any advances.

In the motor sector we have agreed that we can do nothing to tilt the balance of power unless we increase our representivity in the industry. Recruit and recruit is the answer.

  1. 2.     Improving our living wage struggle in Eskom come 2014 

Comrades

Against a falls believe that we have not done enough to deliver better benefits for our members in Eskom to enjoy their striking rights in the LRA, we must say that this is far removed from the truth. The current laws governing the Eskom collective bargaining regime, is not ideal for the kind of strike action we can take in any sector of the South African economy. With Numsa becoming the the Union of choice in Eskom (by a huge majority to which the national must play a part in) Numsa can turn things around. We must thus prepare Numsa for the 2014 Eskom negotiations so that we may make a solid impact in the lives of Numsa members employed in Eskom.

  1. 3.     Preparing for the 2014 Engineering Sector wage negotiations:

Comrades

Our membership figures now shows that Numsa is plus/minus 200 000 strong in the Metal and Engineering sector. This power cannot go to waste in the 2014 negotiations with metal and engineering employers. As always we shall collect demands from our workplaces to ensure that Numsa members are at the centre of the proposals that we submit to employers. Already employers want to talk to Numsa before the end of 2013 but we shall unfold all process in 2014 including a mini National Bargaining Conference in 2014 thereby ensuring that we have a bottom up process.

  1. 4.     Building class consciousness through ideological training via the Mbuyiselo Ngwenda Brigades

We must report to this SNC that we have executed the Numsa 9th National Congress decision to implement and execute our ideological work with respect to raising the levels of class consciousness and sharpening our cadres in the art of theoretical and practical ideological work within and amongst the Numsa members and the broader working class. To this end we have established and launched in September 2013 the Numsa Marxist Leninist Political School and Mbuyiselo Brigades in all nine (9) Numsa Regions. We are ready to embark on the roll out of ideological training in all Numsa regions and locals to ensure that we think and act as the working class in a class divide society.

  1. 5.     Taking gender struggles to a higher level to confront the gender contradictions in our workplaces, in communities and in our society:

As the Numsa NOB we have taken a conscious decision to work hand in gloves with the Numsa gender structures at all levels in our organisation to overcome gender disparities, gender discrimination, gender inequalities and all ills in our male dominated society. We want to encourage all cadres in this important Congress to work with us to roll out a conscious and dedicated program for the emancipation of both men and women.

Conclusion

The state of the working class is in shambles, the working class is leaderless, and as we meet here today we are in the second week of the implementation of e-tolls imported from Austria which effectively is about privatising our public roads.

We must take note of the fact that thirty four workers have been brutally massacred by state police in broad day light for demanding a minimum living wage of R12 500.00.

The youth wage subsidy coated in a different name called the Employment Incentive Tax Bill has been passed by parliament.

The neoliberal and capitalist NDP is the programme of the ANC in government. The SACP, for its part, denies that neo-liberalism remains the ideology of the Zuma administration.  It’s only concern with the NDP is the Chapter on the Economy. Even this came after our Numsa critique of the NDP. Otherwise, the SACP also embraces the rest of the National Development Plan.

More than R200 million has been spent on President Zuma’s private home in Nkandla, and both the ANC and the SACP are more worried about the leaked Public Protector’s Report on Nkandla than the gross abuse and theft of such a massive amount of public money.  Numsa has without fear or favour condemned this wanton misuse and theft of public funds, by all those involved. I suggest that we ask the question in this all important question – Should we not ask that JZ resign in the interest of the poorest of the poor? It is just a question that you as delegates are at liberty to discuss and debate in the Numsa Special National Congress.

The Freedom Charter is gathering political dust. Engels says “Democracy would be wholly valueless to the proletariat if it were not immediately used as a means for putting through measures directed against private property and ensuring the livelihood of the proletariat”.

Therefore we demand the Freedom Charter’s full implementation as the basis for a socialist transition. In this regard we must demand, amongst other things:

  1. Re-nationalisation of Telkom and cell phone networks,
  2. Nationalisation of the financial system, which includes the Reserve Bank, commercial banks and insurance companies,
  3. Nationalisation of land without compensation,
  4. Nationalisation of Cement Industry and Quarries
  5. Nationalising the Forestry Sector,
  6. Have a state construction company (for houses, schools, hospitals, colleges, universities, clinics, roads, dams, bridges etc.),
  7. Have a state pharmaceutical company (to support NHI), and
  8. Strengthen the state-owned transport system, among others.

As Numsa our view is that without these measures it will be impossible to build a vibrant manufacturing base, which requires strong linkages within and between sectors.

That is why we call for:

  1. Nationalisation of Arcelor-Mittal, the mines and other monopoly industries, since metal production is impossible without minerals
  2. Nationalisation of SASOL, because without liquid fuels and other petrochemicals, manufacturing, food-processing and agriculture is impossible.
  3. Nationalisation of heavy machine-building and earth-moving equipment sector, in this regard we call for the nationalization of Barloworld which is a monopoly distributor of capital goods equipment.
  4. Over and above a state-owned and state-directed beneficiation, we need to raise the local procurement of both public and private sectors, especially wholesale and retail trade sectors.

As metalworkers, we need to demand that South Africa manufactures its own vehicles. The military technology that exists in Denel must be converted to commercial use. This is one of the issues that are contained in the RDP.

The state must take a lead and own an automotive company and there must be regulation of the automotive sector to ensure that it contributes to industrial development.

Of course we need to:

a)    Overhaul macroeconomic, trade and industrial policy.

b)    Close the apartheid wage gap NOW and elaborate a radical, pro-working class labour market policy, which should include a ban on labour brokers!

c)     Aggressive employment equity targets and employment and management must reflect the country’s demographics (training of Africans, career-paths, etc).

d)   Strategic use of the public sector and regulation of the private sector so that production, education and training are linked.

e)    Develop a comprehensive social policy as an integral part of transformation and redistribution of resources.

There are many socio-economic demands that we must vigorously put forward, in our efforts to elaborate the Freedom Charter, clause by clause.

We must vow to serve our people with dignity, honesty and the integrity they deserve.

In this congress we must be brutal, frank and honest about the reality of the state of the working class and choices we have.

No one must be intimidated from expressing their thoughts in this Congress.

We must uphold the highest working class standards of discipline to allow maximum democratic participation of all delegates.

We must discuss freely, without fear, any subject before Congress.

Our unity and worker-control will protect our right against SACP Indunas of white monopoly capital.

That is what Comrade Mandela fought for – our freedom to express ourselves!

In this Congress, above all, we must not be afraid to take the decisions which will advance the cause of the working class. History will judge us very harshly if we betray the working class today.

I wish this Numsa National Special and Historic Congress all the success it deserves and I declare it open!

On behalf of the Numsa National Office Bearers, I declare this Numsa Special National Congress officially opened.

Long Live Metalworkers Long Live

Forward to a Socialist Republic of South Africa!

Andrew Chirwa

Numsa 1st Deputy President

Birchwood Hotel

Johannesburg

17th December 2013.