Joseph Montisetse, is the National President, National Union of Mine- Workers in South Africa, which is the biggest Union in the Mining Sector in South Africa has called for Unity in the African regions as the only panacea to economic development.
Can you tell us your experience, since you came to Nigeria?
Yes, as President of Union, coming to Nigeria through Abuja to Owerri, my experience is that it’s a very good country, based on the fact that it has massive natural resources, oil and gas, but what I like most is the ﬁlm industry which has developed to become the second after Hollywood but started in 1992 that shows that Nigerians are very industrious. But again, the land scape in term of Agricultural setup. I think it is a land that is blessed with rainfall and so on, it is a good land for Agricultural farming.
In terms of labour Activities, how will you rate Nigerian Trade. Union Movement, as regards ﬁghting for the good of the common people, compare to what you have In South Attica. based on you! relationship with Nigerians so far?
You know as I was coming, there was a threat of a National Strike, which is a weapon that is used by workers to liberate themselves from oppression. I can say that Nigeria is the biggest economy in Africa. I don’t know the salary of the people especially the low paid workers as compared to the low paid workers in South Africa, what is encouraging to me is that i have heard the comrade talk about Minimum wage. we have a minimum wage in the Congress of South Africa Trade Union, which is R 3500 for the lowest paid workers, here we are referring to worker that are working in sectors such as Security, domestic workers etc. I can say that once you hear trade unions speaking about minimum wage, you must know, that Union is a revolutionary force and it stands for the right of workers.
in South Africa, we know especially in all of Africa. when you talk about Trade Unionism in terms-of been very active. of course, you look at South Africa. what Is the force her-behind your articulated and vibrancy with regards to Trade Unionism?
South African origin of Trade Unionism comes from the Communist party of South Africa which was formed in 1921, by the white people that came from Europe to work in mines of South Africa and other industries. in South Africa, Trade Unions were informed by the Marxist-Leninist ideology, which means that they fought. and been powered by the Ideology of Marx, to understand the right of workers thoroughly, especially the leaders of the Trade Union, it is no wonder that you see the unions in their shape today.
What has been your relationship with CCESSA all these past. years as much ls said about you, which means there must be a long-term relationship between you and is organization?
We are all members of BM (Building and Wood-Worker’s International), which is a unique International Trade union on Building and Construction, that is where I met with CCESSA. We served there at the international platform and at the Regional Level and as you know, as Africans being there, we have to lobby each other, that’s how we developed a friendship and also a relationship. Based on that fact, Nigeria and South Africa are contesting for the economic power of the Continent, so it is mostly important for us to relate with each other, but the President of CCESSA is a man of Justice, a man of Peace and he is approachable. hence our relationship.
For the past one or two years, we have been hearing of several killings of Nigerians in South Africa. What has been the reaction of the Trade Unions, considering the relationship of South Africans and Nigerians, especially in Trade Union movement?
Thank you very much, let me say that in my speech here I explained that there is a mentality of xenophobia to the people of the South not only South Africa whereby there is no much cooperation even from South Region of Africa itself. If you are from Botswana, Swaziland, for you to visit across, you need more scrutiny of your traveling documents unlike in the ECOWAS and the Eastern Africa. S0 the killing of Nigerians is a shame to us as a Trade Union Movement, we belong to COSATO – Congress of South African Trade Unions. it is not only Nigerians that had been killed in this xenophobia attacks, the Somalians has also been part of the problems so also the Zimbabweans as well as other Nations, and what is disturbing here more is that there are more white people who are coming from abroad. who don’t have document ‘s but because they are whites. they are unidentiﬁed and the mind-set of the people is that a white man cannot be wrong, we have spoken much about this, and as a Pan-Africanist myself, believing in the Policy of Kwame Nkrumah and Muammar AI Gadhafi of Libya, that Africans should unite, I can only conclude that it is a shame to us as a Trade Union Movement in South Africa. but we are speaking hard about it.
In your own-country, South African, how have you been sensitizing your people to remain united with other African Countries?
In actual fact. everywhere I deliver my speech, whether at the National Executive Committee. or at the rally of workers and so on, because I subscribe to the unity of Africa, i do mass education to our people to understand that, unless African unites. we cannot be liberated economically. Am telling you the West and the East (China) also are taking advantage of our division in the continent. So, when Zimbabwe is imposed some sanctions. people of South Africa and Nigeria will be laughing, and whenever Tanzania is imposed some sanctions, we will laugh again. But if united under one President and Governors of States there is no way any country will be imposing sanctions, because we will be centralized and integrated, so that will close all the loop holes. that is the kind of liberation that we need as Africans.
The Nigeria Mining Sector, despite our abundance resources ls actually crawling In development so to say, what do you think South Africa has gotten right that Nigeria Is not getting right In the Mining Sector?
Well. in the Mining Sector in South Africa, we have multi-national cooperation which came to South Africa because of the resources. Such as Platinum, Gold and other things. Initially, South African economy was based on Mining. the Economy has just been diversiﬁed now, but the issue here is that Multi-National Cooperative Companies are there, and the Production from the mining makes South Africa big in Mining because it translates into export to other Countries. We have argued to the government that we have to start manufacturing, especially that South Africa is part of the BRICS country. What are we beneﬁtting. because the BRICS countries are beneﬁtting from taking our Natural Resources? Our Benefit must include taking our Children to China and India to go and learn Manufacturing of telephones. radios and other technological components so that we can industrialize Africa.
What do you think Nigeria should fix to get its mining Industry up and running, to become a major contributor to the Nation?
Nigeria needs to have the right engineers (Mining Engineers) and the right skills in the mining industry. It needs to start partnering with Governments in Mining, like Botswana. so that the government can take care of the resources that had been abuse by the private Sectors in Mining. Nigeria also must start to make sure that whatever is mined in the country must not all be exported in unﬁnished form, but must start viable manufacturing Company in the Country.
What advice do you have for Construction workers in Nigeria, looking at how you operate in South Africa and things we can learn from your experiences in South Africa?
I can say that my fellow workers in Nigeria must ﬁght for infrastructural development. The ﬁghting spirit of Trade Union is not only centered on worker’s right at their working place, but we have to look abroad. It is right that we have good roads from Abuja to Owerri. If not, we have to take to the Street to say “where are the funds voted to be used in construction of the road”. When I was reading an Oxfam report about Nigeria, they said N21 Trillion has been stolen since 1965 till 2005, which they said is the size of the budget of America in 2016, and these funds where stolen by the officials that were in the Government. China has a law that says if you steal from the poor, you are a traitor and your punishment will be death sentence. I think in Africa we must make it punishable such that anyone that is corrupt, be it a Minister of the Government, he must be sanctioned with a very tough punishment because these people are stealing from the poor and making development very slow.
This article was originally published in the Nigeria Construction Digest Vol 1 No. 6 July 2019.
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