Obituary - David Modimoeng, South African YCW leader and trade union "prophet"

posted 21 Feb 2009, 06:38 by Stefan Gigacz
Former South African YCW national chaplain, Jean-Marie Dumortier, has written a magnificent tribute to the late David Modimoeng, a YCW and trade union leader from Oukasie/Brits, South Africa.

David's funeral was held on 27 September 2008.

"As many of you know it", Jean-Marie writes, "I first met David almost 30 years ago, in the early 80s when he joined the starting Young Christian Workers group, here, in Oukasie.

"In my heart David is associated for ever with this handful of young people who bravely responded to the call of the SAYCW to stand up, unite and fight for their rights and dignity as young workers.

"We all know, here in Oukasie, that this small group of young militants was at the starting point of the Trade Union in this area, and of the organization of the old location’s residents which eventually forced the Apartheid regime to bow down and withdraw its order of forced removal – I suppose I still have somewhere one of these T.shirts claiming proudly “Oukasie – We are here to stay!”. Yes, Oukasie is still here, and it is what it is today because of people like David.

"I do not have to explain to you that it was, as a book put it recently, a different time, and a pretty tough time indeed. I would just like today to recall the memory of Joyce Modimoeng, David’s wife, who was killed by the “system” in the bombing of their bedroom in 1985, while David himself managed to survive with serious injuries. I feel appropriate to remember and associate this young lady to the tribute we pay today to her husband. I still vividly remember us gathered here for Joyce’s funeral, with the police surrounding us all over. We learned, that very same day, that the government had declared a “State of Emergency” which eventually was to be renewed for 5 years. In fact a number of militants who attended Joyce’s funeral that day were arrested on the spot. Some of them are with us today. Yes, it was a different time…

It was a fascinating time, a time when the Trade Union was shaping itself from scratch, from the bottom, I mean from the workplace, workshop by workshop, factory by factory – in fact worker by worker – to finally unite them and force the managements to recognize the organization their workforce had patiently and secretly developed. Brits was part of this worker history, through the likes of David and his fellow YCW leaders: in Alfa, Femco, BNS, Chubb Fire, Firestone… Step by step workers were setting their Union, first MAWU and FOSATU, then, later on, NUMSA and COSATU.

"Yes, I am sad to see people like David, who have taken part in this glorious chapter of the South African workers’ history, leave us too soon.

"I want to believe that what he fought for, with so many other South African workers, will live on and that your heritage will not vanish. Yes, I am sad to let you go today. You fought for Truth, Justice, Freedom and Solidarity. Long ago, in the Bible, people who were fighting for these very things were called “Prophets”," Jean-Marie concluded.

SOURCE AND FULL TEXT: Obituary - David Modimoeng (YCW and the Workers Struggle in South Africa)