Last Sunday, March 19, 2017, comrades in the National Union of Mineworkers SA (Numsa) from across the country gathered at a memorial lecture in Port Elizabeth, to honour the memory of one of our fallen heroes, Mbuyiselo Ngwenda.
Comrade Mbuyi, as he was affectionately known, entered politics as the media and publicity officer for the Port Elizabeth Youth Congress in the 1970s. Through this position he came into contact with its affiliated United Democratic Front. His life in the struggle was not an easy one and like most people faced detention, intimidation and violence. After his release from prison after two years in 1986, and through his job at Volkswagen, he became a Numsa shop steward. He rose rapidly in this political career, first becoming the Regional education officer of Numsa and later, in 1990, was an executive member of the regional executives of both the ANC and SACP. However, his tireless pursuit for justice for our people was cut short when he passed away on the March 10, 1999.
Comrade Mbuyi led by example, he was an excellent leader, and an educator with an amazing mind and appetite for knowledge. He was a model not only for metalworkers but also for generations of people who understand the sacrifices the struggle demanded of us. He was a selfless fighter for justice and a noble leader of the working classes.
That is why when we honoured him this past weekend we reminded ourselves that Comrade Mbuyi died making a clarion call to Numsa members, to working class formations in the labour movement and to the working class in general saying:
“There is just no better cause like the cause of building organisations of the working class, and mobilising the working class as a class for itself. ”
Mbuyi understood very early on, that the liberation alliance, led by the ANC, had been won over to the project of globalisation and that globalisation was just a continuation of imperialism in a new guise. He further warned that the dominant neoliberal agenda was going to gradually make it impossible to address the historical mission of the revolution.
But the ANC leadership had already done a deal with capital through the negotiated settlement. Through this capital and the white population secured for themselves ownership and accumulation of wealth, whilst Africans were to be kept at the bottom of the food chain. The status quo was maintained. This “settlement deal” is directly responsible for the current national crisis, which constitutes the stagnation in the present as a result of the revolution that has been sold out.
If we are to honour the fallen heroes of our struggle we must not be content with giving lectures and laying wreaths at the graves. We must organise, we must remove the rotten system that has taken hold of our society and radically transform the economy. Otherwise we are not honouring those that fought tirelessly for our freedom: we are denigrating their memory.
This is why now more than ever Numsa must be resolute and succeed in providing working class alternatives of the United Front, Workers Party and the New Federation. Numsa should and must succeed. Numsa should organise all critical, fundamental centers of the economy – mining, manufacturing, transport, airports, telecommunications, manufacturing and their entire value chains. We must organise canteens, security, components, material handling and logistics associated with the companies we are organising in.
Numsa is not the only union that is building a revolutionary movement. It is not doing this alone. It is with FAWU and many other unions.
The ANC leadership under Mandela and Thabo Mbeki destroyed millions of jobs. Now under Zuma, and Gwede Mantashe it has more than doubled the mess. We are now facing both, the worst forms of corruption and dictatorship because their generation has failed to address the property question. Through this the ANC itself has become part of the axis of power that exploits the working class. We say that the ANC and the DA are the same because they have no interest in this nation, its people, and workers of South Africa. They allow capital at the point of production to restructure the workplace. They themselves privatise, outsource, casualise jobs, and overload workers through the so called multi-skilling. When they are multitasking they do so with absolutely no care for workers’ life span.
Every day we experience open scandals. The failure by any liberation movement including the ANC to take a revolutionary path has led to corruption, and if we continue on this path we are on our way to a dictatorship. This has been our experience from Nkandla, corruption in SOEs, Sassa, to the introduction of slave wages in the form of the national minimum wage of R3,500, to retrenchments and plant closures in the last two decades.
We are now faced with the poultry industry shrinkage which is about to loose half of the 35,000 jobs it now provides. Last year the steel industry lost more than 10,000 jobs as a result of the closure of High Veld Steel and the value chain that was negatively affected. If we don’t get anti – dumping measures to protect the steel industry we stand to loose approximately 50,000 jobs in the steel industry.
The decision to close five power stations will in the immediate future destroy 60,000 jobs.
We in Numsa have resolved that this leadership of president Jacob Zuma and his cabinet has completely failed us. They should leave their positions because they have failed the country and they are failing everyone. Enough is enough! They must vamoose and relinquish political power. In their place, however, the working class must fight for a socialist replacement: in Numsa we have characterised all capitalists as corrupt. We know that capitalism is corruption.
That is why workers and the poor should build Numsa’s new workers’ party. We must make sure that it is formed by men and women who are completely incorruptible. It is time for all South Africans to say:
Zuma and his cronies should and must Go!
This is the best way of emulating the life of Mbuyiselo Ngwenda.
To remember and honour him we must begin by building a working class organisation whose mission and task should and must be to build socialism.
We must be clear that capitalism has no solutions for the problems that confront humanity.DM