By Luphert Chilwane
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM)’ 30th anniversary should be used as a platform by union branches to strengthen their existence and unify workers organized in the mining, construction and energy sectors, says NUM President Senzeni Zokwana.
Addressing about 500 workers from Highveld region who gathered at Anglo Coal’s sports and recreation centre at eMalahleni in Mpumalanga, Zokwana urged workers to fight workplace injustices and to defend their jobs.
“We should fight labour brokers at all times. I want to urge all the regional representatives to go back and rebuild their branches … the stronger the branches, the stronger the NUM”.
He said the regions must learn to take charge of their organizational responsibility and must provide leadership and lead campaigns for members.
If regions fail in this responsibility the rival tendencies will use every space and opportunity to destroy NUM and recruit its members.
“Today we must celebrate the fact that most of our regions have kept NUM intact in the face of adversity .We call on them to intensify NUM protection, growth particularly in regions like Rustenburg.
We must ensure that our leaders in the regions are properly politically trained including those who lead the branches .This responsibility must be discharged by the regions as part of our celebration in 2012, he said.
He said no one was born to be a leader of the NUM and the union was never build on tribalism or factionalism.
“The union was built on mutual respect and I urge people to respect its constitution”.
He said people like Cyril Ramaphosa and James Motlatsi played their role in making sure the union was known internationally.
“Some leaders lost their lives when it was formed 30 years ago,” said Zokwana.
He said there were some who seek to revive the ghost of tribalism and promote ethnic enterprises thereby reversing the existing unity .
“We must never allow these elements to prevail .Ethnic and tribal entrepreneurs are a demonstration of desperation and true and committed NUM members have no reason to be desperate .Neither are its leaders because we are not under a dictatorship .There are elections in our structures and forums of engagements,” said Zokwana.
We must also reject the promotion of old apartheid philosophy of ethnic regionalism.
Today we see a tendency that says you cannot work in North West or Limpopo mines because in these mines only the people who are direct inhabitants of these regions or geographic spaces must be employed.
Narrating on the history of the NUM, particularly in the Highveld region, the union’s former deputy president and current Member of Parliament Crosby Moni said mineworkers were never recognized as workers.
“Workers never use to have things such as provident funds but through NUM, they have achieved tremendously so far,” he said.
The union also received messages of support from alliance partners – Sanco, SACP, ANC and Cosatu in the region.
“We appreciate the role NUM played in championing the rights of workers in the country,” said Cosatu’s provincial secretary Fidel Mlombo.
eMalahleni municipal mayor Salome Sithole appealed to NUM to assist in addressing some of the challenges faced by the region.
“We are in a region that mines coal everyday but still most of our people are experiencing poverty. These big mining houses – Anglo Coal, BHP Billiton, Xstrata and others are not doing enough so we want the NUM to help us,” she said.
Zokwana said the NUM grew from 6 000 membership in the 1980s at its foundation phase to 300 000 membership base by 1992. Today it stands as a towering giant of the workers and the working class with membership close to 360 000.
The Highveld region’s celebration was one of the build-up to the December ‘s main event when the union will be celebrating its 30 years of unbroken revolutionary trade unionism struggle, to take place in Matlosana.