The birth of Cosatu

 In 1985 NO 6, Labour

Thousands of people came from all over South Africa. They came on bicycles. Others came in cars and taxis. Many came by bus and a few came by aeroplane. Ten even came by horse and cart. And many came with their “old faith­fuls” – on their own two legs.

They all met at the King George Stadium in Durban on the 1 st December 1985. They were there to make a bit of history. They were there to celebrate the birthday of Cosatu, the new big trade union federation.

The rally started at 11 o’clock. The Durban sun was hot and sticky but the spirit was high. There were many speeches and there was much singing.

There were many messages for Cosatu. People from countries such as England, France, Zambia Zimbabwe and the Phillipines sent messages wishing Cosatu a long and healthy life. Many organisa­tions that are fighting apartheid also sent messages. The UDF, the Cape Action League, the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU), the New Unity Move­ment and many more sent their blessings.

Then the crowd heard the names of the new leaders of Cosatu . Let us tell who they are:

Mr Elijah Barayi is the President. He is the vice president of the NUM. He has worked on the mines for 25 years. He worked with SACTU in the 1950’s.

Mr Chris Dlamini is the First vice president. He is also the president of the Sweet Food and Allied Workers Union and he was the president of Fosatu.

Mr Makhulu Ledwaba is the Second vice president. He is the president of the Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union.

Mr Jay Naidoo is the general secretary. He is also the general secretary of the Sweet, Food and Allied Workers Union.

Mr Sydney Mafumadi is the assistant general secretary. He will help Jay Naidoo. He is the general secretary of the General and Allied Workers Union.

Mr Maxwell Xulu is the treasurer. He will be in charge of the money in Cosatu. He is the vice president of the Metal and Allied Workers Union.

Then the leaders spoke. They spoke of freedom for the workers and they spoke about unity. But every­body was waiting to hear President Barayi. He is a big man who likes a good joke. He made the people cry and he made them laugh. He said this country has always been ruled by crooks and criminals.

“Take J.B Vorster,” said Barayi. “He worked with Hitler’s people in the Nazi Party. He landed in jail. But they still made him Prime Minister and State President. Then there is this P.W. Botha. He also worked with the Ossewabrandwag. Now he is locking up our leaders. I tell him to release them all.”

Barayi then told Botha that he must resign – and that Nelson Mandela must take his place. He also said that “homeland” leaders must “change their minds because time is running out for them.”

The people were going wild. They were laughing, screaming and singing. Then Barayi started with the police who were standing out­side the stadium. They were making a film of the meeting.

“I have a message for you P.W. Botha,” he said. “We give you six months to get rid of passes ­ otherwise the workers will get very angry and may start burning them again. And if the police outside stop you and say “pass”, first think what “pass” means in English. It means “to go by”. So next time the police say “pass”, just walk past them. They cannot do anything to you.”

Again the crowd laughed, shouted and sang. The workers were excited. They loved his tough talk. But it is not just tough talk. Cosatu has half a million members already – and it’s just been born. The baby isn’t even crawling yet.

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