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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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About  |  Biographies

Treasurer: Freda Oosthuysen

Freda Oosthuysen`s entered trade unionism through church

There were times when churches played a central role in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and many activists who could not join political organisations for fear of victimisation used churches to pursue their political goals.

The newly elected COSATU Treasurer General, Freda Oosthuysen, was among those who joined the underground structures of a church to fight the unjust apartheid system.

She began her political activism in the Justice and Peace Movement, a Catholic Church underground structure in the Western Cape. "My participation in the movement was as a result of my family`s involvement in the church," she said.

In 1976, Oosthuysen got a job at IL Bag in Parrow and given her political awareness at the time, she could not continue to work as a result of the political uprisings that began in Soweto. She decided to join the United Democratic Front (UDF) and dedicated all her time in doing the organisation`s work.

As the conditions compelled her to fend for her family, Oosthuysen once again found a job in one of the garment factories in Cape Town in 1980.

At the factory, she became a shop steward for the Garment Workers Union until 1989 when there was an amalgamation of unions to form SACTWU. After the amalgamation, Oosthuysen became the SACTWU`s branch secretary in Woodstock. She rose through the ranks in the branch until she was elected the branch chairperson for the Salt River branch in Cape Town.

At the SACTWU`s Congress in 2006, Oosthyusen was elected as the National Treasurer. In the same year, she was elected as the National Chairperson for the National Clothing bargaining Council. Other areas where she is also contributing with her skills include the CTFL SETA where she serves as a board member, Chairperson for the Clothing Provident Fund, Chairperson for the Health Care Clothing.

As one of the newly elected leaders of the federation, she sees her contribution as that of making sure that women play a central role in all decision-making structures of COSATU. "I also want to play a pivotal role in the turning around of this titanic called COSATU in a bid to meet new challenges," she said.

Although her election came as a shock as no one ever came to her to discuss the possibility of her being the candidate for the Treasurer General Position, Oosthuysen is equal to the task. "I really did not see myself being in this position, but the grace of God elevated me," she said. She thanked all the comrades who elected her. "Clearly this is a vote of confidence in my skills and abilities and I will not disappoint my comrades," said Oosthuysen.

If she is not dancing during her spare time, Oosthuysen spends most of her time with her two children, a grandson and her wheelchair-bound mother.