Cosatu pays tribute after death of its former president

The Congress of South Africa Trade Unions (Cosatu) has been deeply saddened by the death of its former president, John Gomomo, it said on Wednesday.

”Gomomo died on Tuesday after a long and brave struggle against illness. We send our condolences to his family and share their grief at this sad time of loss,” said spokesperson Patrick Craven.

”We dip our flags in honour of one of the greatest leaders of South African workers, who devoted his entire life to their service and will be forever remembered as a hero of the struggle for freedom, democracy and workers’ rights. The mighty workers’ movement we see today would never have been built without the dedication, commitment and hard work of people like John Gomomo.”

Craven said his life read like a history of the South African trade union movement.

He led the National Automobile and Allied Workers’ Union when he was working at Volkswagen in Uitenhage in the 1970s. This was one of the unions, organising mainly blue-collar black workers, that led the revival of the democratic movement in 1970s and the historic 1972/3 Durban strikes.

Gomomo was elected to Cosatu’s highest office — national president — in 1991 and represented the federation and the workers of South Africa with great distinction, Craven said.

He spearheaded the campaign in 1995 for the Labour Relations Act and the Employment Equity Act in 1997. He graphically summed up the workers’ opposition to the government’s Growth, Employment and Redistribution (Gear) strategy when he described it as ”the reverse gear of our society”.

After leaving Cosatu, he continued to serve the people as an African National Congress MP and chairperson of the portfolio committee on public service and administration.

”John Gomomo was a great leader and servant of the trade-union movement. He worked tirelessly to improve the lives of his fellow workers and all the people of South Africa. He will be very sorely missed,” said Craven

Gomomo was president of Cosatu from 1991 to 1999. — Sapa

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