Workers of the world, unite. Sort of

2014-05-02 14:26

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Thursday. We’re at Polokwane’s Peter Mokaba Stadium. It’s May 1. Workers Day. May Day. International Labour Day. Subbotnik.

Whatever you call it, May 1 is the day that working people celebrate the start of the campaign for an eight-hour working day by workers in Chicago in the US in 1886.

It’s a holiday for all the right reasons, the day when wage slaves around the world take the day off to celebrate.

I dig May Day. Even if I end up working most of them. And putting in way more than eight hours with no time-and-a-half in return.

Back to Polokwane. Peter Mokaba’s only half-full. Or half-empty if you’re that kinda cat. This is the country’s biggest federation’s centrepiece May Day rally.

There’s 28 of them around the country but this is the big enchilada, a show of strength in what could still be a marginal province for the ruling party, Cosatu’s big brother.

The rally’s being addressed by Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini and his imaginary friend, Blade Nzimande. Their big lahnee – that’s the Commander-in-Chief (CiC) to you – is also there.

President Zuma speaks at the Peter Mokaba Stadium during Cosatu's May Day rally in Polokwane. Picture: Muntu Vilakazi/City Press

Cosatu’s general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, isn’t around. Vavi got his job back in return for shutting his mouth until after May 7 and campaigning for the ANC, but he’s not doing it here.

Numsa isn’t here either, although those comrades ain’t doing any ANC work these days. Can’t say I really blame them. It’s a weird thing, but this is more like a public sector union caucus than a federation event.

Blade gets up to speak. Blade’s wearing this fedora with a feather. Blade’s lost his Mao cap. It’s before lunch but I still can’t understand Blade.

It’s S’dumo’s turn. S’dumo gets stuck into the other federations and unions for having the temerity to go on strike. Reckons they don’t know how good they have it under the CiC. S’dumo turns to the CiC. Lets his man crush for the lahnee show. Gets really gushy about the CiC. Tells the world how much he loves Zuma. Thankfully, he stops short of putting his tongue in the big man’s ear. This time.

Then the CiC’s up. The CiC sounds like a less gushy version of S’dumo. But with a better singing voice. The CiC stumbles through his speech. Still manages to deliver his Trade Unionism 101 lecture. Kaks all over the independent unions for striking. Exhorts the punters to vote ANC.

The comrades in the stands look a bit baffled. And bored. Some of them seem more interested in Dr Malinga and his flying leg. The CiC wraps up. The CiC gets singing. All of a sudden, the comrades are interested again.

The CiC wraps up his first song. It has nothing to do with the rising of the toiling masses. Not a mention of the wretched of the earth. Or flying red flags.

The comrades aren’t satisfied. Not because he isn’t singing The Internationale. They want Awuleth’ Umshini Wami and start singing it from the stands. The CiC’s not one to leave an audience thirsty, so he obliges. The comrades go crazy.

Workers of the world, unite.

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