REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OF THE AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS CDE. CYRIL RAMAPHOSA AT THE 17TH NATIONAL CONGRESS OF THE NATIONAL UNION OF MINEWORKERS (NUM)
President of NUM, Cde. Joseph Montisetse
The National office Bearers of the NUM
Members of the NEC and indeed the entire membership of the NUM
I also extend my greetings to Cde. Kgalema Montlanthe, a former General Secretary of this glorious
I also extend my greetings to Cde Bheki Ntshalintshali, Bra Tiger, the General Secretary of COSATU
I also extend my greetings to the leadership of the ANC and the SACP and COSATU who are also
here in this Congress
Allow me Comrades to also extend my greetings to the guests who are here, I see you have a
number of international guests who are here and I extend my greetings to them as well
It is a clarion honour for me to address this 17th National Congress of the National Union of Mineworkers;
but also to extend real appreciation for the fact that this year, the NUM is celebrating 40 years of existence.
The NUM was started in 1982, in Matlosana, in a church building in a very modest way.
In the late afternoon on a Sunday, we gathered to form the National Union of Mineworkers. And I am proud
to see all of you in these wonderful colours, gathered from 11 regions of South Africa. In 1987, when the
NUM was five years old, it embarked on a biggest strike by a single union by this country and indeed this
continent has ever seen.
The bosses then wanted to destroy this union. They failed to destroyed this union. And 40 years latter later,
the union still in existence, lives, still unites the workers in the mining construction and various industries, till
today. Congratulations to all of you.
Your union was formed to advance the right of workers whose labour literally built South Africa, given that
your foundation was mining and mining was the industry on which the fortune of South Africa was built on.
As I look back on the formation of NUM, it comes to me just how many similarities exist between that time
when the NUM was formed and today as well.
The mining industry and later construction industry has been impacted by political currency periods of
decline followed by periods of increased productivity; advances in technology, market forces, as well the
ever-changing landscape of industrial relations.
And yet one thing has not changed, and it is the potential that is unleashed when workers like yourselves
assert themselves, built organisations that are resilient like NUM, when they embrace change and are
active drivers of change, and when they unite in pursuit of common objectives.
The mining industry and the construction industry is the lifeblood of the South African economy, just like the
veins that carry oxygen-rich blood to the various organs of the body and keep us alive.
It is one of our most important sectors and accounts for a substantial share of our export earnings.
This is a good time for the mining industry, on the back of high commodity prices.
Last year corporate income tax receipts from mining increased government revenues by close to R100
And that is because of the activities you are involved in as mining industry.
Because of its centrality to economic growth, government has prioritised structural reforms to improve the
business and operating environment for mining, particularly with regards to electricity generation and water
And similarly we are also focusing on other industry such as construction because it is when construction
grows that our economy also grows.
In late 2020 we announced the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan to grow our economy and
As part of its implementation we have been working hard on trade and investment promotion, including
generating more investment in the mining sector.
The R332 billion in investment pledges raised at last week’s 4th South Africa Investment Conference to
bring us 95 per cent of the way towards achieving the target we set in 2018, of raising R1,2 trillion is a clear
demonstration that this is also a sector because a number of commitment were from the mining industry.
The premier of Northern Cape has called me and said he is proud of the fact that a number of these
commitment have put the Northern Cape on the investment map.
These are investment commitments raised in the middle of a global pandemic, and come from various part
of the world and there were 40 countries that were represented in the investment conference.
These commitments are both expanded and new commitments to implement projects in mining,
automotive, agriculture and agro-processing, manufacturing, renewable energy, construction,
pharmaceuticals, the creative industries, and more.
Now with these new mining investments, billions in new and expanded investment will be going into
platinum, steel, vanadium, and aluminium production, plant construction, metal fabrication, manufacturing
and value-add or beneficiation.
We have prioritised beneficiation comrade as a catalyst for economic growth and job creation, with a
particular focus on platinum and its importance to the green economy.
We have always seen mining and infrastructure build two sunrise industries, and it is through this that we
are going to see greater good result for our economy. We reaffirm that these are sunrise industries in our
economy and not sunset industries.
The focus on beneficiation doesn’t just present immense potential for the creation of new industries. It
advances the empowerment of communities, supports small businesses and suppliers in the mining value
chain, and opens up new job for all workers particularly in mining, construction for mineworkers.
These investments do not include the R131 billion in financing we hope to mobilise for the Just Transition
partnership that we concluded with the number of partners at the last COP26 conference.
This will support our just transition to a low-carbon, climate change resilient economy and society.
Now I must say I’m very impressed by the position the NUM has taken together with COSATU on the issue
of Just Transition, it is a progressive position, you are able to come up with clever ideas.
Now it started by the way when you started as a union to negotiate with the bosses. When we would go to
negotiate with the bosses and the Chamber of Mines, we knew that the NUM’s position would always be
better than the bosses’ position. And that is what has made you who you are and that is what has made you
strong as a union, keep it up.
I applaud you for that. As the negotiations continue, I would wish that your position should be well
articulated. Do not mince your words because you are taking into account the position of communities that
are in the mining towns. Thank you very much, as I find it educating.
Like any other sectors of our economy, mining has been impacted negatively by slow economic growth and
rising unemployment, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic has made it worse.
Living with the COVID-19 pandemic is the global reality.
After a period of relative slowing down, there have been new outbreaks in countries like China. Extreme
vigilance and caution is the order of the day, even as numbers decline in many parts of the world go down.
Also on the pandemic, inequitable access to lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines has rendered vast numbers of
people and in the developing world vulnerable.
Even in countries like ours that have ample vaccine supplies and stocks, vaccine hesitancy is a growing
problem. We are finding that having reached 43% of vaccinated people, many are now hesitant.
What this means is that millions of unvaccinated people in public spaces, in schools, in places of higher
learning and indeed in mines, are vulnerable to severe illness, hospitalization and death from existing
variants and those that may come in future.
Social movements in support of environmental justice are on the rise. There is renewed pressure on
sectors like mining to employ more sustainable practices and to be more accountable to communities in
which they operate.
There is currently a war in Europe that has polarised countries on a scale last witnessed at the height of the
Cold War and even the second world war.
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has exposed the fragilities of the current international order.
It’s economic implications are being felt via shocks to global oil prices, disruptions to global value chains,
and the rising prices of key commodities such as wheat, edible oils and such.
It cannot be discounted that as this conflict continues, the pace of the global economic recovery that was
already uneven at best, could be set back further.
For struggling economies such as ours, the green shoots of recovery we have experienced over the past
year have to be safeguarded against these and other external shocks.
From a social and economic perspective, we as South Africa enter this year in a position that is slightly
different from the past.
Thanks to our management of the pandemic over the past two years, we are now in a position to end the
National State of Disaster soon, and put regulations in place to prevent the possibility of another deadly
Many of our people are tired of these lockdown.
Many of our people want to have their freedom back that existed pre COVID-19. This is what our
government is working on. I can say with certainty that the National State of Disaster is going to end.
The extensive social relief programme government implemented has had a tangible impact on livelihood
and income protection for workers, businesses and the unemployed.
The Presidential Employment Stimulus that we put in place to support small businesses and various
employer incentives have helped retain existing jobs and create new work opportunities.
As the old saying goes, all good and well, but what does this all mean for workers?
What does the lifting of the National State of Disaster mean for the hours, workplace conditions and health
and safety of mine-workers?
What will the just energy transition mean for the Eskom worker whose plant has reached end of life and will
be repurposed using cleaner technologies? Or for the coal miner or mine owner whose livelihoods depend
on extracting coal from the ground?
Will the commodities boom translate into greater opportunity and the improvement of workers’ conditions of
These are just some of the issues this congress will need to grapple with.
And already as I look at the Secretariat report, I see you are already grappling with weighty matters that
impact at the lives of our people.
As much as the fortunes of mining continue to ebb and flow, so too has been worker conditions of service.
Following a long-term trend of improvement in mining safety, last year saw the second straight regression
since 2020 which is worrying.
Many retired mineworkers still face uphill battles to get what they are owed and what they are supposed to
get. Billions and billions of rands are still in various funds, unclaimed and have not reached workers. This is
The number of unclaimed retirement benefits owed to ex-mineworkers remains high.
One of the reasons is employers continue to fail to contact or inform workers that they are owed these
benefits. I still don’t understand how the mining industry fails to trace those workers to get their benefits.
Though the mining sector has not been spared the effects of the unemployment crisis, there has been
welcome news in the latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey that mining was one of six industries in which
jobs were added in the fourth quarter. Now we want to see more sectors added.
Wages of mineworkers remain an issue of contention, and we have seen recent tensions between unions
and mine-owners, NUM is involved in some of these recently.
At such junctures, at times of both opportunity and crisis, we are called upon to indeed go Back to
And that is why I like your slogan for the conference about going back to basics.
We must reinvigorate and breathe new life into the progressive and revolutionary programmes of action
that the National Union of Mineworkers has driven since it was founded.
This doesn’t only apply to driving safety on our mines, and fighting for better work conditions.
NUM attained it’s stature because of its progressive programme to empower workers.
NUM is held comrades in high regard today because of its commitment to making the voices of workers
heard in policymaking, in relations with business, in society, and in the project of transforming our
Our theme as government for this year is “Leave No-one Behind. “
As we forge ahead implementing the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, I want to call on NUM
to reassert itself in this space.
There was a time when NUM was the country’s fastest growing union. But let me correct myself. The NUM
right from inception was the fastest growing union the world. Mark my words, in the world.
There was no union that was growing as fast as the NUM. And we would like to see the NUM continue to
Many workers in this country still remain unorganised and are still outside unions.
I would like to see the fervour and commitment that your union had right at the beginning coming back. And
that is going back to basics.
Workers need to be organised in unions because it is then that the work world is organised, and I’m proud
to see that you’ve not only continued to unite mineworkers but that you’ve also broadened out to bring in
other workers from other industries.
So once again well done to you NUM you continue to be a great inspiration to us as we see you getting
stronger and stronger.
Now more than ever we need to see the NUM grow and unite workers around our common goal.
I call on you to pick up the spear and reclaim your position as the most active union engaged in mobilising
and organizing workers, but also in driving the leadership of the Alliance.
I have called for a new consensus between government, business, labour and civil society to resolve our
country’s challenges, and that should be done as quickly as possible.
I call on NUM to engage with and be part of this process. It is only through social compacting that we can
achieve our common goals, and the reality is to achieve them and to make sure that compact is durable.
In forging a new consensus to eradicate poverty, inequality and unemployment we want to also develop
mining, construction and infrastructure along a new trajectory.
We are looking at expanding new frontiers for mining in many parts of our country as we pursue a path of
ensuring that we embrace this new transition. Unions such as yours should be at the forefront leading this
Now if we ensure indeed that workers are brought into our unions and I also speak to COSATU itself. Many
workers in various industries remain unorganised and COSATU must also ask itself what is it that makes us
not bring more many workers into the fold of the unions of COSATU.
And this comrades is an important issue that I would like COSATU and yourselves as NUM to talk about
and engage on. Taking forward the workers’ struggle depends on a strong and united Alliance, to ensure
that COSATU remains strong, but also the Alliance that includes your movement, the African National
Congress. Because the ANC itself has to reclaim its stature as the leader of society, and this it can do
through the strength that you give to the ANC. This it can do through the mobilization that you generate as a
union and as COSATU.
Now the NUM played a very important role in the local government elections and we must applaud the
NUM for having been one of those unions that really contributed to the local government elections where
you mobilised in many parts of the country. So we thank you very much for that.
But as you do that, yes we encourage you to get involved as ordinary members of the union, of the ANC
and of the Alliance, so that the ANC can move with greater determination to renew itself.
Now as unions you are always the most organised entities that we have in the Alliance, and we want you to
bring to bear that culture of being organised, the culture of standing against corruption, the culture of
standing against maladministration, the culture of standing against leadership tussles, factionalism,
internal strife, and scandals.
Now we want you to bring that culture to your organisation the ANC which you have always supported, just
as I have heard some comrades say over there.
We rely on the NUM and we rely on COSATU as well to strengthen the ANC, to make the ANC the leader of
society once again. But also not to be shy when you see the ANC is going wrong, not to hold back.
To be upfront, yes, to be critical, and to speak truth to power as well. That is your role as the NUM. And we
want you to take up that role with good effect.
We have work to do and we have to work urgently. For renewal to succeed and for us to regain legitimacy it
is you who must tell the ANC to tell the ANC to go back to basics as you are going back to basics. This
includes rebuilding structures at community level, returning to activism in our communities, and mobilising
people against social ills like crime, gender-based violence and environmental degradation.
For me it is pleasing to see, 40 years later, that the structure of the NUM has changed, you have women in
your midst as members who work underground.
And we want to see more women in your structures as leaders, standing up and speaking. As I was
listening here it was only men speaking, and I asked myself is it the chairperson who is not recognising the
women or is it the women holding back? And if it’s the women holding back I say you must stand up and
claim your space as fully-fledged members of the NUM.
I applaud you for having also set up a youth structure, because in the end the union belongs to the future,
and I’m delighted to see such great participation of young people. Back to Basics should also mean
convening and holding successful, violence and corruption-free conferences.Now you are amongst the few
who are holding your conferences so early. This is a year of conferences. Our movement broadly will be
holding many conferences. Now I am hoping that all these conferences will go on successfully, violence
free, corruption free, so that we elect the type of leaders who are going to take our organizations forward,
that is what we need to do.
It also means we must put our organisations first, and not ourselves first as individuals. We must put our
organizations first, they must be first, and must be our primary preoccupation. What is in the interests of our
organizations, not what is in the interests of a particular individual. We have developed a very progressive
culture that if leaders are found to have been involved in malfeasance and been found guilty, that the step
aside policy must apply.
Whether it’s in the ANC, whether it’s in your unions, in COSATU, wherever it is, we must become a
progressive congress movement that upholds good values, revolutionary values. That is when Comrades
that our National Democratic Revolution will succeed.
For renewal to be achieved we must recommit to ongoing study and learning around the aims, objectives
and principles of our movement. This is what going back to basics is all about.
I am delighted with the opportunity to address you, Comrades. When I leave here I am going to see
Comrade James Motlatsi who has not been well. Your very first President. And after that I have other
matters that I have to attend to. Would I have loved to be here with you all day, yes, This is my union and
this is where I feel at home.
I congratulate you for holding this 17th National Congress and more importantly I congratulate you for
having kept this union alive for 40 years. I wish you another 40 years. I may not be around for those 40
years but I certainly will come every year to celebrate the continued success of the National Union of
Forward NUM Forward! Amandla!