Sam was for real

2012-11-19 12:38

Last week Sam Mtetwa died. Sam was 60 years old.

He was the chair of chairs in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature. Sam was the cat who ran the portfolio committees.

That’s what he did during the day. Sam was way way more than that. Sam was for real.

Sam Mtetwa was an old-school trade unionist. He was elected chairperson of Cosatu in KwaZulu-Natal in 1989.

He was at the launch of Cosatu in 1985. Sam was at the launch of the Metal and Allied Workers Union. Today Mawu is Numsa.

During the 1990s Sam was one of the key ANC/Cosatu negotiators in peace talks with the IFP. He understood the warlords.

Sam spoke their language. This didn’t stop them from burning down his home. That didn’t stop Sam from playing his role in the unions and the peace process. Sam was that kinda man.

In 1994 Sam went to the Legislature as an ANC MPL. This was a completely new world for him. Sam took to it like a fish to water.

He would turn up for meetings in this old battered black leather biker jacket with white paint stains that was his trademark in the union days.

In his early days as an MPL he’d still arrive on his motorbike. Sam looked like he’d got dressed in the dark.

At his rural home in deep Zululand, Sam was a preacher. Sam saw no contradiction between his religion and trade unionism. He took them both very seriously. Sam didn’t talk about his politics. He lived them.

Sam loved singing. He had this really hoarse, gruff voice. In the union days his comrades would insist that he lead the singing.

Sam would torture us with his voice. He’d claw his way through a song, line by line. His voice was awful. That didn’t stop Sam from singing his heart out.

Sam was a cat with no ego. He was beyond being seduced by the bling.

There are people to be grateful for having known. Sam was one of those. Solid.

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