RIP Vusi Cibane, a dedicated servant of workers’ rights and a man of peace
By Mbuso Ngubane
Just before the crack of dawn, on Thursday 14 January, we received the sad news that comrade Vusi Cibane (53), a long-serving shop steward of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), is no more.
Comrade Cibane died prematurely in the presence of his dearest wife, Dudu Cibane and his adorable offsprings, at his family home in KwaNdengezi, outside Pinetown.
Comrade Cibane was a committed and dedicated servant of workers; personified the progressive values and political outlook of a true trade unionist: humble, honest and incorruptible.
Comrade Cibane was a walking encyclopaedia of the union. He understood its history, constitution and policies like the back of his hand.
Comrade Cibane’s indomitable presence will be dearly missed in the many picket lines; his tongue that was as sharp as his agile mind will be yearned for in boardroom battles with monopoly oligarchy! His absence in leading workers in revolutionary songs will be felt.
Comrade Cibane was full of life and always smiling. His absence from the land of the living can be best explained by borrowing Engels words at Marx’s graveyard: “The gap that has been left by the departure of this mighty spirit will soon make itself felt”.
Born on the 2nd of June 1967, in a former Bantustan area called Nyuswa, outside Mtubatuba, he was the son of Mzwandile and Margaret Cibane.
South Africa’s highly racialised poverty and deep-seated inequalities, mainly engulfing Blacks in general and Africans in particular, instilled some levels of consciousness in young Cibane. As Karl Marx once said “ it is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on contrary, their social being determines their consciousness”. It was not by incident that he joined Numsa immediately after he was employed by Gedore Tools (PTY) LTD, and rose from the ranks of the union to be a Shopsteward and the union became his home.
Comrade Cibane has served our union and broader organised workers with humility, honesty and loyalty until his demise on 14th of January 2021. Within a short period of time in his workplace he was entrusted a noble honour to be shop steward in 1998. In 2002, he was elected to serve as Deputy Chairperson of Pinetown Locals, one of the most militant and fighting membership within our industrial union, with our roots of Metal and Allied Workers Union (MAWU). In 2005, he was assigned the responsibility of being Pinetown Local Chairperson, and under his leadership collective the union’s membership numerically increased and contributed significantly to the 360, 000 strong membership nationally, as we are the biggest trade union in post-Apartheid and semi-colonial South Africa.
From 2006 to date, comrade Cibane served as Chairperson of Metal Industries Benefit Funds Administrators (MIBFA) Board of Trustees. This position earned him respect within the Metal industry and amongst various stakeholders.
Comrade Cibane never wavered from his unbending conviction that the socialist world and recent experiments, and Latin America’s triumphs led by the Party of Hugo Chavez - constituted the impregnable fortress of the world forces of peace, national independence, socialism and social progress.
As a dedicated internationalist he saw anti-Left as a deadly weapon of the most reactionary circles; a weapon which imperialism, and its ally Zionism, use in their frenzied efforts to undermine and disrupt the underlying unity of people’s movements and popular struggles by the wretched of the world.
Comrade Cibane was also a bubbly human being and enjoyed life to the fullest; he was an ardent supporter of South Africa’s most loved team Kaizer Chiefs Football Club.
Wherever he is in the nooks and crannies of the universe, he should be happy that Amakhosi have rediscovered their magic on the field of play and they are now recording successive match victories, amidst Chiefs arch-rivals supporters had prematurely fancied the Glamour Boys playing in GladAfrica Championship next season.
He breathed and walked Chiefs, as a Man of Peace.
On behalf of the Numsa KwaZulu-Natal Regional Committee, we dip our red banner in honour of a life well spent in the service of better conditions for workers and socialism. Comrade Cibane was on duty when he left us. Those of us who remain on duty have gained immeasurably by having worked with a comrade whose contribution to our struggle will forever be inscribed in the history of South Africa’s exploited workers.
Since he is being laid to rest in a class-divided and racialised South African soil, which has been under ANC’s mismanagement and rule for more than 26 years, it is also fitting to record that cde Cibane was a living voice of President Nelson Mandela’s words: “If the ANC does to you what the Apartheid government did to you, then you must do to the ANC what you did to the Apartheid government”.
In the difficult and arduous days which lie ahead, we will find added inspiration, Comrade Mavusana, by your example of total dedication to the cause of workers and freedom of all peoples.
Today, we bid farewell to you, but our bowl filled tears, tell a story of our pain, as you settle permanently in the land of the departed. Do tell Mtutuzeli Tom; John Gomomo; Jabulile Ndlovu that our road to freedom remains unfinished and we shall triumph!
* Mbuso Ngubane is the regional secretary of Numsa in KwaZulu-Natal.