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Media Centre  |  COSATU Speeches

Speech Delivered by COSATU President Comrade Sidumo Dlamini at the Re-burial Ceremony of Comrade Moses Kotane, in North West

15 March 2015

The President of the ANC comrade Jacob Zuma
The family of comrade Moses Kotane and the relatives
The entire leadership of the alliance

Comrade and compatriots

Today we have come to re bury the mortal remains of a great revolutionary, a worker, a trade unionist, a community leader, a patriot, father of our revolution, a revolutionary intellectual, a committed and disciplined communist, a committed and hard working ANC leader and a complete human being who valued life and human dignity.
Lying before us today are the mortal remains of an outstanding revolutionary who conceptualized the path of our revolution, a father of the trade union movement in South Africa, a man who cultivated and produced many outstanding leaders of our revolution.

This is a man who completely mortgaged his life to the vision of the Freedom Charter and walked the odious path, leading from the front providing lighting and guidance towards the country of the Freedom Charter. In its opening lines the statement of the SACP in 1978 eloquently described comrade Moses Kotane’s contribution to our struggle when it said that “in the life of every nation, there arise men who leave an indelible and eternal stamp on the history of their peoples; men who are both products and makers of history. And when they pass they leave a vision of a new and better life and the tools with which to win and build it. Moses Kotane was such a man”

Everything we have learnt about him left a picture of a leader who knew how to walk with the masses yet is a step ahead of the rest.
This was a patient leader who understood that he was leading a people’s movement and therefore knew how to keep pace with those who remained at the rear end of our movement. He knew how to keep pace with the masses and yet he also knew how to set pace of our revolution.

It is this clarity in the approach to our struggle by comrade Moses Kotane which must have influenced the ANC’s Morogoro Consultative conference in 1969 to write in its strategy and tactics document that “the art of revolutionary leadership consists in providing leadership to the masses and not just to its most advanced elements; it consists of setting a pace which accords with objective conditions and the real possibilities at hand. The revolutionary-sounding phrase does not always reflect revolutionary policy, and revolutionary-sounding policy is not always the spring-board for revolutionary advance. Indeed what appears to be "militant" and "revolutionary" can often be counter-revolutionary. It is surely a question of whether, in the given concrete situation, the course or policy advocated will aid or impede the prospects of the conquest of power”.

It has become common nowadays to hear fiery statements of demands which is articulated as revolutionary but lacks alignment with the concrete situation obtaining on the ground except to make those who articulate to sound and appear to be revolutionary. It has equally become common to hear some within our ranks opposing progressive policy proposals on the basis that it is not practical to implement them in the current conditions when the reality is that the comrades’ outlook have shifted away from serving the interests of the masses of our people.

It has also become common to hear comrades making statements which underplays the progress and advances secured by our revolution and deliberately amplify areas where there are set backs or lack of progress.

Comrade Moses Kotane taught all of us the importance of knowing how to identify and defend the gains and victories of the revolution and how to use these gains and victories to consolidate, deepen and advance the struggle for liberation.
He always knew and patiently reminded his own comrades, without being arrogant, that the South Africa of the Freedom Charter was not the final destination but a route towards complete Freedom in a Socialist South Africa.

This must force all of us to ask whether these are not the qualities of leadership which are lacking amongst us today. The ability to keep pace with the masses! Can we today say with confidence that as the components of the liberation movement we are with the masses in all respects?
Some among others have moved far ahead of the masses, some are remaining behind, some are with the masses but not listening to what the masses are saying; they pretend to be speaking for the masses when they are in fact speaking for themselves and for their own selfish interests.

Is this not time to put our ears on the ground, be with the masses, listen to them and act more on their demands using the political power we have through the electoral mandate?
It is comrade Moses Kotane who forced our Communist party to be grounded in the material conditions of our country when he wrote in his now famous Cradock Letter that “the CPSA must pay special attention to South Africa, study the conditions in this country and concretize the demands of the toiling masses from first hand information, that we must speak the language of the Native masses and must know their demands. That while it must not lose its international allegiance, the Party must be Bolshevized, become South African not only theoretically, but in reality, it should be a Party working in the interests and for the toiling people in South Africa and not a party of a group of Europeans who are merely interested in European affairs”.

In all the chapters of the history of the progressive labour movement and the workers struggle the name of comrade Moses Kotane looms large. Comrade Moses Kotane valued the unity of workers and understood that organisation and unity for workers was everything.
It was comrade Moses Kotane who presided over the formation of the Council of Non-European Trade Unions in its inaugural conference in 1941 which brought together various trade unions of different backgrounds. This became South Africa’s largest trade union federation at the time. The DNA of our trade union militancy traced back from the 1946 Miners strike, the 1973 Durban Strike up to this day can be traced from the leadership of comrade Moses Kotane.

As COSATU is going through its current challenges of unity, the greatest expression of gratitude we can give to Malume Kotane will be to make a solemn commitment that we will do everything we can to achieve the unity of the federation without compromising the founding principles of COSATU which include One Union, One Industry, One Country One Federation , Paid-Up Membership , Worker Control including Democratic Centralism and International Solidarity

We are calling on the leadership of those unions who have taken a decision to boycott the CEC to come back to COSATU. COSATU is your only home. Come back to the CEC and subject your views to the democratic process of the federation where the views of every union regardless of size are given equal weight.
Your views can only be accorded the respect and value they deserve if they are raised inside the structures of the federation. COSATU is growing stronger every day, but we want to grow stronger with you in our fold.

We thank those unions who have come back to the federation and decided to subject themselves to the discipline of raising their views and concerns inside the federation. They have accepted the democratic scrutiny to which all views are subjected in the federation.

They have first-hand evidence about COSATU’s firmness of listening to all views and on that no union regardless of size and that no leader can stand bigger and above our glorious federation.
We will continue to build the COSATU of Moses Kotane, of Vuyisile Mini, of Elijah Barayi, of John Gomomo, of Violet Seboni, into a formidable force, a fortress, and a bulwark of workers struggles.

We are certain that COSATU and not individuals will win the day!

Comrade Moses Kotane was amongst the eminent group of intellectuals who in 1943 were tasked by the movement to draw up the African’s Claims in South Africa which was to look at the Atlantic Charter from the standpoint of African within the Union of South Africa.

There is no doubt that he was one of those who insisted on a clause focusing on Industry and Labour which on amongst others read that “we demand for the Africans - equal opportunity to engage in any occupation, trade or industry in order that this objective might be realised to the fullest extent, facilities must be provided for technical and university education of Africans so as to enable them to enter skilled, semi-skilled occupations, professions, government serve and other sphere of employment; equal pay for equal work, as well as equal opportunity for all work and for the unskilled workers in both rural and urban areas such minimum wage as shall enable the workers to live in health, happiness, decency and comfort; the removal of the Colour Bar in industry, and other occupations; the statutory recognition of the right of the African worker to collective bargaining under the Industrial Conciliation Act.

That the African worker shall be insured against sickness unemployment, accidents, old age and for all other physical disabilities arising from the nature of their work; the contributions to such insurance should be borne entirely by the government and the employers; The extension of all industrial welfare legislation to Africans engaged in Agriculture, Domestic Service and in Public institution or bodies”.

This was surely a precursor to the Freedom Charter adopted in 1955 which on amongst others had a similar section focusing on the rights of workers stating that “there shall be Work and Security! That all who work shall be free to form trade unions, to elect their officers and to make wage agreements with their employers; The state shall recognise the right and duty of all to work, and to draw full unemployment benefits; Men and women of all races shall receive equal pay for equal work; There shall be a forty-hour working week, a national minimum wage, paid annual leave, and sick leave for all workers, and maternity leave on full pay for all working mothers; Miners, domestic workers, farm workers and civil servants shall have the same rights as all others who work; Child labour, compound labour, the tot system and contract labour shall be abolished”.

This laid the basis to have workers’ rights being protected by the constitution in our country and so that we have the progressive labour legislation we have today.
We can say without fear of any contradiction that it is the ideas of leaders like comrade Moses Kotane which built and instilled the working class biased character of the ANC led liberation movement.

It is for this reason that as workers of this country and as COSATU today we salute Malume Kotane as a true liberator who remained as such till his last days!
The statement issued by the SACP in1978 summarized the basic character of this great revolutionary where it said that “he was incorruptible not only in his politics but also in his personal life. Moses Kotane was a man you knew could never let you down, never do something behind your back, never deceives you. You always knew where you were with Moses Kotane. Sometimes his words were harsh and hurtful, but they were never dishonest.

He was a hard taskmaster, but only because he put the movement above himself and because he never demanded from others more than he was prepared to do himself.
He drove himself to the limit of his endurance, and it is no exaggeration to say that the illness which struck him down was the result of overwork, his refusal to spare himself, his constant and meticulous attention to detail, his willing acceptance of the burden and responsibility of leadership in the great fight for freedom”.

Surely this was not a leader who spoke from both sides of his mouth. Surely this was not a leader who expected high discipline from others and applied the opposite to himself.
We all should work to emulate the glorious example set by this great leader of our revolution. He gave his all to the struggle for our liberation without counting the cost or expecting anything in return.

Moses Kotane was and remains our liberator!

Patrick Craven (National Spokesperson)
Congress of South African Trade Unions
110 Jorissen Cnr Simmonds Streets

P.O.Box 1019
South Africa

Tel: +27 11 339-4911 Direct 010 219-1339
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E-Mail: patrick@cosatu.org.za