Out rolls a shiny Madibamobile

What kind of Mercedes Benz rolls off the assembly line wrapped in cellophane paper and plastered with stickers proclaiming the virtues of the South African Communist Party? Answer: a bright red top-of-the­ range Mercedes Benz 500 SE, certified ”made by worker hands only”, and dubbed the Madibamobile. ”Yes! Our gift to Comrade Nelson Mandela was completed on Monday,” proclaimed a shop steward at the Mercedes Benz factory near East London. ”It has just been sent off for a car­ phone to be fitted. When it comes back, we will ask Madiba to come and collect it.” 

The workforce celebrated the completion of the R250 000 super-luxury sedan with an impromptu work stop­page at the plant on Monday. Exuberant members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa sang and toyi-toyied as they pushed the car – clad in a plastic wrapper and covered in photographs of Mandela, African National Congress slogans and South African Communist Party stickers – from the assembly line to the depot where it will wait for its owner. ”Everything is finished. The car passed its road test with flying colours. Now we are discussing if Mandela should collect it from the factory or if we must hold a rally for him to receive it,” the shop steward said. 

The workforce presented management with a lesson in productivity by assembling the super-luxury R250 000 sedan – complete with automatic transmission, air condition-log, soft leather upholstery, power 1teering, central rocking, electric window winders, adjustable steering col-umn, state-of-the art sound system, eight speakers, electrically adjustable seats with computerised memory, outside temperature indicator, electric sunroof and burglar alarm -in the equivalent of just four days of labour time. The average 500 SE takes 28 days to manufacture. 

”Workers made this car with their own hands,” the shop steward said. ‘We did not want junior management to touch the car because they have a bad attitude to our cause. So we said the car would be checked by our own professional inspectors. It is a 100 percent worker car.” 

To press home the point about the sedan’s proletarian purity, shop stewards have put an embargo on union officials talking about the car and gave workers the right only to make statements to the press. Numsa members made the car by each doing an hour of free labour every day since March 26. They will pay the company for parts and components by each working in four-and-a-half hours of overtime for free.

This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.


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Eddie Koch
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