“Workers must speak against ill treatment in their work places” Vavi

“We are very glad that we are out of those politics that are unprincipled and are not interested in advancing the lives of ordinary workers. The ANC conference was a complete sham! You can’t spend five days discussing whether this is a shovel or a digging spade”

Mdantsane, East London, Eastern Cape, South Africa

The General Secretary of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU), Zwelinzima Vavi said being fired from Cosatu by both Blade Nzimande and the ANC President Jacob Zuma, was the best decision for him and others. Vavi was addressing workers and union members from the SAFTU-affiliated union NUMSA, at the Mdantsane Indoor Sports Centre, in East London on Sunday. Over a hundred people braved chilly weather to hear what the leadership of the recently launched federation had to say. The Deputy President of SAFTU, Nomvume Ralarala, was also present.

Vavi started off by congratulating NUMSA on their recent court victory against labour brokers. “Starting from now it’s deemed illegal for an employee to work for three months in a company without being in a permanent contract. It’s all thanks to NUMSA,” said Vavi.

The secretary also went on to lambast the recent ANC Policy Conference. “They spent five days discussing white monopoly capital and said nothing about real issues like poverty and unemployment. Prior to the conference, Statistics SA released stats that, a record breaking 36.6% people have lost their jobs, whilst a hefty 9.3 million are unemployed,” he said. “The African National Congress we once knew and loved is no more. Instead it has been hijacked by self-centered individuals who want to enrich themselves using it,” said Vavi.

About the union, Vavi outlined their plans to grow SAFTU, and reach a target of a million members by December this year. “We are having reportback rallies across the country; the president is in Limpopo, other members are in North West and Gauteng. I was tasked to invade the Eastern Cape. We want to tell workers why we decided to create an animal like SAFTU. What are the principles we agreed upon and what are the programmes we are embarking upon. We are excited about it as much as workers are,” he said.

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Vavi is planning to go to Cape Town and report to workers there on what SAFTU stands for. He pointed out that their decision to start an independent unions is being vindicated all over. “We are very glad that we are out of those politics that are unprincipled and are not interested in advancing the lives of ordinary workers. The ANC conference was a complete sham! You can’t spend five days discussing whether this is a shovel or a digging spade,” said Vavi.

Some of the union members and workers who attended the report back meeting in Mdantsane. Pic by Chris Gilili

Nkosinathi Mwezo from Mdantsane’s NU 5 also expressed his excitement and hope for trade unions in South Africa with the establishment of SAFTU.

“This is very important, having unions that are affiliated with government as employees is very dangerous, especially to workers’ rights. Having an independent union federation is very important for our country,” said Mwezo.

“Within the union we are all under the chemical company. I am working for CEPPWAWU, [wherein] there have been many indifferences in the past. With SAFTU on the cards a hope for a new dawn is showing.”

Nophindile Vellem, also from Mdantsane said without a doubt she will join SAFTU as she doesn’t belong to any union.

“I work at the Da Gama factory in East London, and we are paid a measly R350 a week, which is barely enough to survive. We need anyone who can rescue us from this. If production doesn’t go well, maybe due to power outages, those costs are recovered from out salaries,” she said.

Vavi appealed for volunteers to join the struggle with SAFTU and fight for people’s rights in the province. A handful of people from the audience signed a petition.

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About Chris Gilili 19 Articles
Chris Gilili, a 23 year old freelance journalist based in East London. Graduated from Walter Sisulu University media studies school in 2015. Had a stint with Independent Media, in sports writing. Passionate about news and the media.