Mametlwe Sebei speaks in South Wales
11th November 2013
The meeting room in central Cardiff was packed with trade unionists and young socialists when Mametiwe Sebei, of the DSM in South Africa – a leader of both the South African miners’ strikes and of the new Workers and Socialists Party, WASP, spoke at his only meeting outside London during his visit to Britain.
Trade unionists with leading positions in unions including the NUM, the FBU, Unison and the PCS were there, as well as shop stewards from the RMT, Unite, the NUT, NASUWT, UCU and USDAW. There were also students and young workers.
Sebei set the scene with a brief film composed of news footage from recent events in South Africa. This showed the brutal shooting of striking miners by police; confident, determined miners and their families on the march; and the launch of WASP. He then spoke in an extended leadoff utterly compelling and tailored precisely to the composition of the meeting.
To begin, Sebei spoke about the history of solidarity shown to South African miners over the decades by the mighty South Wales working class and how the newly formed South African NUM had sent financial support to striking miners in Britain during the 1984-85 miners strike in their own first act of solidarity.
He explained how the mighty struggles of the South African miners had built their own union and how in fact it had been the South African NUM who had in effect placed the ANC in power. He then detailed how both the ANC and the South African NUM had degenerated through their accommodation with capitalism after the fall of apartheid and how this had inevitably led to both the ANC and the South African NUM siding with the mining corporations, when disappointed miners – tired of waiting for their lives to improve – had moved into struggle. That struggle, enflamed by the shooting dead of 34 miners at Marikana in August of last year, had given birth to a new union and to a new party.
Sebei described how Alec Thraves, who’d come from South Wales to assist the South African comrades had warned miners not to expect a speedy resolution of a dispute that they themselves had expected to last only a few days. The analysis, perspectives and demands posed by Alec and the DSM comrades had provided a backbone and direction for the dispute that had enabled miners to fight on to victory.
South African miners know that the road ahead will not be easy, but the political and financial support of the CWI makes that prospect far less daunting. Well over £700 was collected in the appeal with pledges of more to come.
“Amandla!” shouted Sebei at the close of the meeting. “Amandla!” the meeting replied.