ANC 2017 Elective Conference

Former NUM President shares experiences of Cyril as an activist for mine workers

As we reflect on Cyril Ramaphosa’s campaign, former NUM President James Motlatsi shares his reasons on his support for the newly elected ANC President, and the history behind the conceptualisation of NUM.

Motlatsi says that he first met Cyril in September 1982 as a young man from Soweto interested in forming the National Union of Mineworkers, he adds that Cyril cared about the problems of mineworkers coming from the rural areas in South Africa.

I was very skeptical as I asked myself what makes him so interested about an industry that hardly recruited young people from the township says Motlatsi.

He explained to me why it is so important for the mine workers to be organised.

James Motlatsi, former NUM President

Motlatsi says that he wanted to make that what Cyril Ramaphosa was bringing would be beneficial for mineworkers. He adds that Ramaphosa wanted to make sure that he arranged meetings with individuals from the mines so he could meet with them personally.

The easiest way was for Cyril to meet the different leaders of the mines and that’s how our venture in creating NUM began, says Motlatsi. Motlatsi says that black mineworkers weren’t just discriminated due to the colour of their skin but also discriminated against by fellow black people in the township.

We were regarded as inferior; in fact we were classified as sub-humans. That was one of the issues Cyril identified.

James Motlatsi, former NUM President

Motlatsi says that one day Cyril said to him: Mineworkers are dying like flies and being buried like dogs. We need to eradicate that; the mine workers need to walk tall. Whatever we must do, we need to adopt a principal of mine workers first and their leaders after.

What comes first for Cyril is the country, the second is the people and his family is his third priority says Motlatsi.

He’s not an individual who will put his interests, or his family or friends interests above the interests of the people.

James Motlatsi, former NUM President

He is like that. It’s people first and Cyril after says Motlastsi.

Listen to Motlatsi’s response to Cyril being implicated in the Marikana Massacre


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