​Numsa brings in its lethal weapon to fight for a new economic order

Glover addressing striking Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union members in Johannesburg in May 2013. (Daniel Born, Gallo)

Glover addressing striking Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union members in Johannesburg in May 2013. (Daniel Born, Gallo)

The mission is to convince society that capitalism has failed and a new worker-centred economic dispensation is required. Critically, that requires buy-in from one’s supporters. Which brings us to the weapon of choice — curious, unorthodox even. But lethal?

Enter actor Danny Glover of Lethal Weapon fame.

He was enlisted to inspire National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa members attending Numsa’s national congress in Cape Town earlier this month.

With the metalworkers union expelled from labour union federation Cosatu and on the verge of launching its own federation and political party, the American actor considers Numsa one of the foremost organisations fighting for a living wage.

Glover’s involvement in labour disputes stems from his affiliation with the United Automobile Workers (UAW) union in the United States, which in 2013 campaigned for the right to organise workers at the Nissan Motor Company. The social activist got right into the middle of the fight between the automotive workers and their Mississippi bosses.

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim says Glover was extremely supportive of the union after its expulsion from Cosatu in 2015.

“When Numsa went abroad to explain its dismissal from Cosatu, Danny became part of the revolutionary forces who embraced us and agreed to fully support the Numsa moment.

“Our relationship with Danny is one of comrades in struggle. He is an actor, artist, director and producer and has the courage to speak out against any struggle. He has always been with us,” says Jim.

Glover accompanied UAW president Bob King to South Africa for a working visit to Numsa’s offices in 2013, earning applause from Numsa president Andrew Chirwa.

During his trip, Glover became aware of a wage strike by police officers responsible for the 10111 emergency phone line. When union members marched up Bree Street in Newtown, Johannesburg, towards the Parktown police headquarters, there was Glover, marching alongside them, walking stick in hand.

Known as a leftist actor and social rights activist who campaigned against apartheid, these days Glover is more focused on the fight against the exploitation of the working class and vulnerable people, and less so on recalling his on-screen lines.

Glover shot to fame after starring in the 1987 classic action movie Lethal Weapon, in which he played the role of police officer Roger Murtaugh alongside Mel Gibson.

Standing in for former public protector Thuli Madonsela, Glover flew to South Africa with the express purpose of addressing Numsa’s gala dinner to end the national congress, where he issued a grave warning.

“Our task is now more urgent as corporations, banks and elected leaders have escalated the rhetoric to openly pursue extreme policies that will intensify the brutality and inhumanity they impose on marginalised communities,” he said, before telling journalists that a new global system is required.

“If we look at the importance of this conference, it re-establishes the message of democracy and the work we must do … to build a system of governance and economic relationships that function with the rest of our world.”

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