Sunday, 01 July 2007


On July 2nd of 2007, Vodacom workers have an appointment with history. It will be the first time that workers in a mobile phone company embark on a full-blown strike. Not only that, but they will be helping to write the future of South Africa.

Vodacom is seemingly trying to make itself a prime representative of a brand of capitalism that seeks subvert the principles of the republic for which so many suffered so much for so long. They are have been fighting the right of workers to join unions, to collectively bargain, and to strike. This backward mentality is what we strike against at Vodacom.

When Vodacom offered us negotiations, we participated in good faith. We were shocked when the company asked the union to sign away the right to defend workers as a condition for any agreement. They know full well that we cannot accept to become a passive organisation that looks the other way when its members are suffering. We offered Vodacom our outstretched hand and they chose to spit on it.

We have seen intense and bitter fights. We do not want or like them. But we also know how to fight for what is right. We owe it to those who came before us and sacrificed so much for the rights that Vodacom would deny us.

We will not allow the workplace where we spend so much of our lives to be ruled by a privileged minority. We do not want a system where the only way to advance is to submit unconditionally to the whims of management. We do not want promotions, wage increases, and opportunities to participate in economic empowerment to depend on grovelling at the feet of anyone. We do not want the advancement of those who were historically disadvantaged to be based on who you know and how you behave to your superiors rather than your actual skills and your ability to do your job.

We want our constitutional rights. We want dialogue in the workplace. We want a fair and transparent system for payment and promotions that helps erase racism and rewards merit. We want to truly democratise telecommunications. We want quality customer care instead being used as a wall that customers smash into.

That is why we united as workers under the umbrella of Cwu, to challenge the Vodacom system of oppression. This is why they created a consultative, allegedly democratic body that they themselves keep under check, and that will never discuss issues such as how the profits that we all create should be distributed.

To those who did not settle for consultations but demanded actual dialogue and negotiations, they responded dirty tactics. They have tried to make those that disagreed into outcasts, always being watched for a tiny mistake in order to take away their way to make a living. They have failed spectacularly where our numbers are too big to maintain this regime.

Because we refused to kneel before those in power we have been treated as a banned organisation. Even those who are not working for the company are asked to cover the letters C W U before entering company premises. We know that managers have been offered economic rewards through their KPAs for maintaining our organisation weak and punished if they allow us to grow. They have even hired specialists in destroying unions.

They have misspent hundreds of thousands of Rand that we helped create with our work trying to overcome the union. They have failed time and again. They have dangled promotions in front of our leaders. They have offered us wage increases and maternity benefits (and even BEE, which they later retracted) the way someone offers a morsel to a dog that barks.

They have done the unthinkable to preserve their image, to keep us from striking and exposing their subversive attacks on the rights enshrined in the constitution of the new republic. Now it is time for us to take the streets to show the whole country their shameful behaviour.

It is up to us to tear out the re-sprout of a new system of oppression that is taking root in our workplaces. We can stop those who would undermine the democratic revolution of South Africa. We will stop Vodacom and other companies if they seek to create a new system of minority rule through the workplace.

We will show the world that there is a cure for this plague of ruthless capitalism that is spreading throughout the world. It is called worker-controlled unionism.

Long live the united workers of Vodacom!

Viva CWU, Viva!

Viva COSATU, Viva!


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