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Title: Vavi: Release of the Solidarity Forever album
Speech by Zwelinzima Vavi, General Secretary of the Congress of
South African Trade Unions, on the release of the Solidarity
1 December 2003, Braamfontein
The first ever music album entirely dedicated to the workers is
being launched tonight. It is a fitting tribute to the working
people of our country. Workers - the leading detachment of the
working class ˆ are once more taking the lead in celebrating
and preserving the best of our culture and music.
We led all in the struggle against apartheid and for the return of
our dignity as human beings. Once more we are taking the lead to
defeat the imperialist culture that is so rooted in our society and
to impose the workers‚ and people‚s culture that so
many of our cultural activists sacrificed to much to
This is a fitting salute to the memory of countless heroines and
heroes of the working class. Last month in Durban, for example, we
celebrated the 30th anniversary of the historic 1973 Durban
Ten weeks ago we held our historic 8th National Congress, where
thousands of enthusiastic delegates attended the live recording of
the music you are about to hear tonight. This unprecedented
innovation makes all of us very proud of the different roles we
have played in moulding and building this giant federation.
Tonight, we know that Elijah Barayi is smiling where he is lying in
his grave. We know that JB Marks, Harry Gwala, Jabulile Ndlovu,
Simon Ngubane, Neil Aggett and thousands and thousands of
workers‚ martyrs are extremely proud that they created and
left South African workers this phenomenal movement of unparalleled
In celebrations we sing. In sorrow we burst into song. In fights
and intense confrontations we ululate and dance.
When death stares us in the eye, we toyi toyi and chant slogans.
This is a deep culture that must be preserved. This is not only the
culture of workers ˆ it is a culture of the African people. It
is a culture of fighters with unbelievable levels of resilience and
The majority of our people are poor. They are the people who built
this economy. They are the people who dig gold and other precious
stones yet die poor and sick. They build cars yet they die in their
thousands in unsafe taxis and other forms of public transport. They
build houses yet are too poor to afford them and reside in informal
For years I have wished that one day we would pay a proper tribute
to these people, without whose contribution there would be no
economy or a better life to talk about.
Early this year I approached a few artists who have, on many
occasions, expressed a desire to form a partnership with COSATU to
promote our cultural heritage and celebrate our diversity. Suddenly
through these discussions the idea of merely cutting and pasting
old songs grew into a full scale live recording at our 8th National
In that process we found ourselves working with this true son of
soil, who symbolises resistance against apartheid and whose music
is the perfect example of what ideally all music of the former
oppressed should do - relate to our living experiences - Hugh
The six original artists we spoke to grew into the current 12 who
contributed to the Solidarity Forever music album we are launching
The principal artists in the album are Hugh Masekela, Sbongile
Khumalo, Chicco Twala and Nokwazi Dlamini, Busi Mhlongo,
Phuzekhemisi, Bambatha, Jonas Gwangwa, Kutu Lebogo ˆ the
general secretary of the newest COSATU affiliate ˆ MUSA, Letta
Mbulu, Vusi Mahlasela and Jabu Khanyile.
These true sons and daughters of the working people were joined by
the best backing band you can assemble - including Fana Zulu, Khaya
Mahlangu, Themba Mokoena, Arthur Tshabalala, Ezbie Moilwa, Isaac
Mtshali and Basi Mahlasela, Moses Khumalo. The choirs from POPCRU
and SADTU joined these glittering stars in this historic
production, to make simply the best album compilation ever produced
in our country.
Music, and art in general, works like medicine, which in Nguni
languages in called uzifozonke. It heals all ills. It unites. It
mobilises. It agitates. It heals broken hearts in times of death.
It is a clarion call to battle.
The South African public broadcaster is, like all institutions,
transforming. The apartheid regime used to brainwash our minds and
make us believe that our culture and traditions are a shame. They
made many believe that only American and European culture is good
for our eyes and ears. Today many of our people know exactly what
the American and British flags look like yet they don‚t know
any of their neighbouring countries‚ flags. Today our youth
can sing word-for-word any of the songs of R Kelly and others from
America and elsewhere, yet some of them can‚t even pronounce
properly the name of Phuzekhemisi or, worst of all, Salif
The SABC of the future must help us change this. That is why when
sending out our invitations for tonight, we had so much bias
towards the management of SABC.
It took a systematic campaign to brainwash our people into
believing that their culture and languages were inferior to those
of the people who had colonised them. So it will require a
systematic campaign to teach and educate all our people that their
culture, traditions and music are as important, if not even more
important, than all others.
The partnership we have created through this project should be a
lifetime commitment. We certainly want to do another workers‚
album when we celebrate our 20th anniversary in Durban in
We first want to thank the 12 artists, the 13-piece band and the
choirs from POPCRU and SADTU for agreeing to participate in this
great project. We thank our strategic partners in Chissa
entertainment and in particular Hugh Masekela and Irfan Gilan, as
well as Gallo Record Company, without whose assistance this project
would have not taken off the ground. In particular I want to thank
Sipho Sithole and many others at Gallo who worked such long hours
to ensure that we have the product today.
Our special thanks to Johnnic Communication, in particular its CEO
Connie Malusi and directors Cyril Ramaphosa and Irene Charnley. We
further thank the CEO of Alexander Forbes, Mr Mike Ilsley, and
Nomkhitha Nqweni of the Investment Solutions. All these individuals
and institutions played key roles into ensuring that we linked up
with what we consider to be strategic partners in Gallo Recording
Company and Chissa Entertainment.
Lastly thanks to Mncedisi Nontsele, the COSATU Organising
Secretary, who led our negotiations team in our dealings with the
Gallo Recording Company and Chissa Entertainment. Thanks to the CEC
of COSATU for allowing us to be Œadventurist‚ and
explore. We can assure them that they will not regret it. Thanks
our alliance partners and all friends in the mass democratic
movement who provided us the critical muscle and support.
Now, as part of our ŒBuy local - Buy Proudly South
African‚ campaign - which we will be driving during this
festive season to encourage our members to buy locally produced
goods - we want to smash all existing records for the sale of music
albums. Every working family home should buy the CD, cassette,
videos or DVD or all of them. Every proudly South African must
support proudly South African culture and music.
This project is dead in the water without the most active support
of our shop stewards, officials, and leaders, as well as the
support of our alliance partners and friends. We call on them to
kick-start the campaign through purchasing this product in
Congress of South African Trade Unions
December 1, 2003