Report of the IG Metall youth-delegation in Port Elizabeth, South-Africa

2004-01-15 until 2004-02-01

Jürgen Wawersig
The delegation to South-Africa in 2004 consisted of four female and eight male colleagues. They were from the local youth committees (OJA) of Amberg, Braunschweig, Landshut, Rosenheim, Wolfsburg and Würzburg and have been to South-Africa between 01-15-2004 and 02-01-2004.
Four main aspects were important for planning the measure:
  • showing the social and political situation of people in South-Africa
  • experiencing each others conditions in life and job or vocational education with the motto “learning together”
  • mutual practical acting by continuing to build up the youth-center in the Walmer Township in Port Elizabeth
  • specifying the contact and the further cooperation as well as specifiying the support for NUMSA and the youth-project Xolelanani
It was our intention to give the participants manifold possibilities to come to know the political and social situation of people and their lifes there, by having conversations, asking questions, observating and collecting own experiences.

Besides it was important to deal with mutual problems and challenges by talking and discussing, and to interchange about the way trade unions act. You can as well see that in the programme of the delegation. The circular tour took place in the region of Port Elizabeth and the Eastern Cape.
We separated the delegation into two groups to guarantee that their would neither be a lack of theory nor of practical acting. They spent one week on the Xolelanani-Project to go on building up the youth-center, and one week on joining the Workers College to go to enterprises, public institutions, political parties, oraganizations and associations.
That´s what happened at the Xolelanani youth-center:
  • uncovering the roof and setting up a new one
  • welding together and setting up iron bars as protection from the weather
  • building up a partition wall in the hall
  • painting and plastering the office
  • painting the computer-room new and installing ventilation
  • barring all windows
The Workers College organized the following meetings:
  • Continental
  • Volkswagen
  • Faurencia Motor
Projects, associations and trade unions:
  • HIV Project
  • Housing Project
  • Art Project
  • Missionvale Care Center
  • Erime Prevention Project
  • New Bringhton Youth Project
By visiting the different enterprises we got insight into structure, organization and acting-capabilities of their trade unions representatives. In South-Africa there does not exist an apprenticeship-system like it does in Germany. The occupants are only instructed and higher levels of qualification can just be reached at universities and colleges. Working conditions are not comparable to ours at all. Working time is much longer, safety is a foreign word but the expoloitation-machinery is the same. The South-Africans are also blackmailed that “when the “wages are not reduced the jobs will be transferred” (e. g. to Germany)
Per joining the different projects we came to know how people there have to live and survive. Furthermore we learned more about the health-system, the Housing-Project and youth work in South-Africa.
Especially wage-scale-systems in South-Africa and Germany were subjects in the discussions with the trade unions. So set-up and organisation of the trade union were presented to us. We had the chance to interchange about different topics in youth-policy. With the colleagues we could discuss about the development of the trade-union-movement and about the role and perspectives of juveniles in that. Besides there were debates about the current spheres of activitiy and about problems of juvenile trade-unionists in South-Africa and Germany.
Time and again we had free time. Many impressions of the African country have been called into question and were then answered by our companions while the evening planning- and final-conversations and the guided tours.

Outstanding items have been used to reflect the course of the delegation (carrying out, appointments, experiences) in detailed talks and a final conversation.
Our stay in South-Africa ended in a very nice and festive South-African meal that we all cooked together.
All in all the course of the delegation has been really satisfying. Especially the open and lively interchange with the South-African colleagues was very pleasant. Initial problems with the language diminished so that personal conversations and contacts were possible.
In the year 2005 there will take place a visit of South-Africans in Germany for about two weeks. The main aspects of the stay and the further building of the youth-centre Xolelanani in Port Elizabeth are going to be coordinated with the South-African partners. With presentation material that still has to be developed, different events in local and central levels of the IGM will take place.
It has to be the aim of the South-African NUMSA and the IGM-Youth to spread the idea of international trade-union-work among workers, local bodies as well as among other levels of the trade unions and especially the juveniles. It is only possible to fight against the growing power of globalization in money markets and the increasing impoverishment and exploitation, by activities and efforts for international solidarity, understanding for the special conditions in life and work and the will to learn from each other.