Cedric Gina: He gave up great union power to stay loyal to the ANC

When he quit Numsa, he lost financial security

03 February 2019 - 00:00 By Chris Barron

Cedric Gina, who has died in Durban at the age of 47, was the president of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), the largest and most powerful union in the country.
He surrendered the power, perks, prestige and financial security that went with the job when he left it in 2013 to start a rival union after it became clear that Numsa would be expelled from the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) for refusing to campaign for the ANC in the 2014 national elections.
When this happened he became the founding general secretary of the Liberated Metalworkers Union of SA (Limusa), which was affiliated to Cosatu in 2015.
It had an inauspicious beginning when, a month later, its leadership was just about wiped out in a car crash that killed its first president, Sifiso Maphumulo, and left Gina and other officials with minor injuries.
Such was the bad blood between Gina and his former Numsa colleagues that before details of the accident were known, thoughts immediately turned to the possibility of foul play.
Gina was committed to the national democratic revolution, which he believed could only be achieved by the congress movement comprising the ANC, SACP and Cosatu.
He regarded Numsa's refusal to support the ANC as a betrayal of the revolution and made the most difficult decision of his life, which was to sever his ties to the only union he'd ever been a member of and stay with Cosatu. He paid a heavy price, not least financially.
The clearest indication of this, say his colleagues, was that when he was dying he was forced to go to Durban's Addington state hospital, not known for its quality care. As president of the well-funded Numsa he would never have been left to the tender mercies of public health care.
By then he was too depressed and ill to appreciate the irony, among several, that it was largely thanks to his hard work that Numsa could afford to pay for private health care for its leaders.
As a Numsa shop steward from 1993, no-one worked harder to build it into the formidable force it became in the automobile sector.
In spite of his efforts and because of a mixture of corruption and maladministration at leadership level, it was pretty much bankrupt in 2006. When he took over as president in 2008 he led a turnaround. By the time he resigned in 2013 it had a membership of 300,000 and a R20m surplus.
He greatly overestimated the number of Numsa members who would give up their benefits and protection to join the upstart Limusa. He reckoned on 50,000 but it was never much more than 10,000.
He also overestimated the amount of support he would get from Cosatu for helping to keep it intact. He got very little and felt betrayed.
By the time he resigned from Limusa in November last year, he was suffering from severe stress and depression. He was admitted to Addington Hospital soon afterwards.
Gina was born on May 6 1971 in Ngwelezane in Zululand. After matriculating at Ziphozonke High School in 1989 he completed his NTC3 in motor body repairs and his NTC5 in mechanical engineering at Durban Technical College.
He worked as an apprentice boilermaker at Genrec Engineering from 1993 to 1996 and a process operator at BHP Billiton from 1997 to 2004. He was a regional finance committee member in Numsa from 2001 to 2004, when he became Numsa deputy president, and, in 2008, president.
Gina, who obtained a BA in human and social studies through Unisa, loved reading and turned his garage in Richards Bay into a library.
He is survived by two sons.

This article is reserved for Sunday Times subscribers.

A subscription gives you full digital access to all Sunday Times content.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Registered on the BusinessLIVE, Business Day, Financial Mail or Rand Daily Mail websites? Sign in with the same details.

Questions or problems? Email or call 0860 52 52 00.