I arrived in Cape Town, South Africa during the second week of January and began working for FEDUSA (pronounced like Medusa) in the middle of that week. FEDUSA is the largest non-politically aligned union federation of South Africa, a host to more than a half a million members, seeking to protect workers' rights and promote their interests. Along with NACTU, another party-politically independent union federation, the two make up a super federation of union members, called SACOTU, with the same goals, namely to voice the rights and interests of the workers across South Africa and be an intermediary between government and business for its constituents.
As an intern with FEDUSA in the first couple weeks I have been flown by the South African government to the executive capital of the country, Pretoria, for a week long conference hosted by the National Economic Development Labour Council (NEDLAC). Once there, I was able to meet with our other delegates as well as those of NACTU and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the largest union federation politically aligned with the ruling African National Congress, to engage with the President's ministers of education, economic development, labour, trade and industry and others. Their presentations to our union delegates then set the stage for our collective work for the rest of the year for workers empowerment, equality and security.
Some of the issues discussed ranged from establishing a minimum wage, infrastructure development, customs control and duty bills, black economic empowerment and gender equality among many others. The following week I headed across the street from where I live in Cape Town to work at the Parliament complex that is seated in the legislative capital of the country. During my time last week and again this week I will have sat along Members of Parliament (MPs), hosting chairpersons and the ministers of the President's cabinet during different committee hearings where presentations are made on submissions to these committees on specific bills being circulated through Parliament. Our office, including my work itself, focuses on policy and position papers as well as our own submissions to Parliament.
Due to the fact that South Africa has just recently transitioned to a free democracy less that twenty years ago it is a very exciting and important time in their history. The South African Constitution is regarded as one of the most liberal and progressive pieces of legislation throughout the world and so much of their efforts here stand on the implementation and enforcement of it and the laws surrounding it. I have been fortunate to be apart of the FEDUSA organization to contribute to and opinionate on the direction forward for not just the workers of South Africa but all South Africans as a whole.
Through different events and volunteering with another organization that assists impoverished children I have been able to meet a lot of other South Africans from different backgrounds, demographics and associations. In speaking with all of them I have found an overwhelming abundance of thoughts and opinions on where South Africa stands and where they believe it is headed and should be going. One of the standouts was from the President of FEDUSA who I met at the NEDLAC conference in Pretoria last week who told me, "South Africa is a country of dialogue" and over the course of the last three weeks I have discovered just what he meant by that. Collective action is best moved forward together with the input from all affected parties.