South Africa: `COSATU has waged titanic battles' -- COSATU marks its 25th anniversary

Workers celebrate COSATU’s 25th anniversary. Picture: Gallo Images.

The following speeches, by COSATU's president and general secretary, were delivered at a ceremony in Johannesburg on December 3, 2010, to celebrate the Congress of South African Trade Unions' 25th anniversary.

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By Sidumo Dlamini, COSATU president

December 3, 2010 -- Cyril Ramaphosa was prophetic when he declared that “a giant has arisen!” That giant has grown from 130,000 members when it was launched to well over 2 million paid up members today.

While still barely walking, the young giant launched itself into titanic battles against employers and the apartheid regime. In his speech at the launch, founding COSATU president Elijah Barayi gave apartheid ruler P.W. Botha a six-month deadline to do away with passes. Indeed Botha succumbed and the hated pass laws that had humiliated millions for decades were scrapped. Today we carry proper identity documents.

That Barayi speech and resolutions led us into countless other battles. We were in the forefront of the campaign for the release of Nelson Mandela. We battled against the bantustans, the black authority stooges, the tri-cameral parliament, the apartheid laws. Today we are celebrating all these victories in the company of our mayors, premiers and president, all elected by ourselves!

Whilst we were battling against the apartheid state, we were confronting apartheid in our workplaces. Barely six months after we were born, we launched a campaign for the recognition of May Day as a paid public holiday. In just two years we won that demand. Today May Day, with 11 other public holidays including August 9, June 16, March 21 are all paid public holidays.

Today we gather here in Johannesburg to remember all these titanic battles workers have waged for so long. We remember the 1946 mineworkers’ strike led by JB Marks, leader of the African Mineworkers Union that rocked the mine bosses and the apartheid state.

We trace our history to the militant traditions of our predecessors in South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) who, but for the apartheid regime would have been 55 years old this year. We are the children of the Corrobrick workers whose strike spread like wild fire from Durban to every corner of our country in 1973. 

We are here to remember the heroes of the 1986 Kinross Mine disaster and all the other thousands of mineworkers who have perished underground. We remember the militant traditions of the OK Bazaars Strike of 1986 that lasted for over six months. That strike showed that women’s place is in the forefront of our militant unions.

We are here to celebrate the 1986 railway strike led by the South African Railways and Harbour Workers'Union (SARHWU), which is today the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU). We remember how the regime unleashed violence and killed workers. Who could ever forget the 1987 mineworkers’ strike involving over 300,000 workers who for 21 days stood toe-to-toe with the brutal private army of the Chamber of Mines?

We know that we suffered serious losses in that strike in which 50,000 of our members took part, including the COSATU general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, but that that strike laid the foundation for today’s organisation and the many gains and victories we made since 1987.

We remember the sacrifices, resilience and tenacity of our members, who not only sacrificed their wages and jobs but their lives. Today we recall that the very first Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) to be hanged by the regime was leading unionist Vuyisile Mini.

We recall that the first person to die in detention was a leading unionist, Looksmart Ngudle, that the very first cadres to swell the ranks of the glorious MK people’s army, were leading unionists such as Raymond Mhlaba, Wilton Mkwayi and Walter Sisulu.

We are here to celebrate the unbreakable worker/youth alliance seen in the 1976 student uprisings and the body punches that brought the monster of apartheid to its knees throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Today we also celebrate the role of the United Democratic Front and other progressive forces who organised thousands of community organisations into a single powerful movement.

We are here to celebrate our strategic alliance with the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP), which has lasted for many decades, predating even the creation of SACTU and COSATU. Together with the ANC and the SACP, we were part of the final push between 1990 and 1994 that guaranteed April 27, 1994.

As we turn 25 years old this year, we know that the fallen heroes who participated in the 1973 strikes, the fearless students of the 1976 revolt, the thousands of MK soldiers whose bones are still buried in foreign lands, those who dedicated their efforts in building organs of people’s power would thump their chests in pride when they look at the formidable organ that COSATU is today.

Comrades, this year is indeed an important year for the working class movement. We salute one of the founding unions of COSATU and the Food and Allied Workers’ Union, which gave the labour movement astute leaders like Jay Naidoo, COSATU’s founding general secretary, and Chris Dlamini, COSATU’s founding first deputy president.

This year we also celebrate the 20th birthday of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) and remember the contribution of so many teachers in our movement, from Leslie Masina, JB Marks and Mathew Goniwe, to today’s 240,000 members of SADTU.

We salute the tremendous role played by our predecessors in SACTU, including John Nkadimeng, Steven Dlamini, Moses Kotane, JB Marks, Ray Simons, Oscar Mpetha, Rita Ndzanga and Gana Makhabeni.

We must also never forget Yure Mdyogolo, Moses Mabhida, Billy Nair, Liz Abrahams, Curnick Ndlovu, Archie Sibeko, Leslie Massina, Chris Dlamini, John Gomomo, Violet Seboni, and Alina Rantsolase, Mbuyiselo Ngwenda and countless more.

We remember the ordinary members of COSATU, the unsung heroes without whom nothing could have been possible. We remember the shop stewards who, like true commanders have remained the backbone of our movement. We remember Jabulile Ndlovu, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) shop steward who was brutally killed by warlords in KwaZulu Natal.

We remember metalworkers' shop steward Phenenus Sibiya and the other four passengers of the car set alight by the warlords on the way to the COSATU launch from Phophomeni. We remember Selby Mayise of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Sam Ntambane, killed on the day he led a march to a police station on the day Chris Hani was assassinated. Through them we remember the role of all shop stewards of our unions.

We remember Sam Ntuli, the NUMSA organiser killed by a apartheid sniper, and Bheki Mlangeni, the COSATU lawyer killed by a bomb. We remember all workers and our people who were killed by the enemy in particular in KwaZulu Natal throughout the 1980s and here in Gauteng in the 1990s in a war engineered by the third force that killed thousands.

We remember all our members who died at work and or were maimed by asbestos and dangerous chemicals we are exposed to at work. We remember  those killed by the HIV and AIDS and rededicate ourselves into a struggle to defeat this epidemic.

Let us all stand and take a minute of silence in remembering all these heroes and heroines of our struggle.

This history is more than enough proof that ours was never a sectarian struggle only for increasing wages and improving conditions of work for labour but a struggle to advance the interests of the working class as a whole and liberate human beings from all the evils of apartheid and capitalism.

Our struggle for better wages and improved conditions of employment is the same struggle waged by workers and communities for better houses, affordable, accessible and safe transport and better schools and hospitals.

It is because COSATU made this tremendous contribution to our struggle, that today we are crammed into this stadium to celebrate our victories. The police are here not to teargas us but to protect us. They are our members! Today we have ambulances on standby provided by our local government. Today we are addressed by our own president whom we elected. Today we have a new constitution that enshrines our rights as workers, including our right to strike and to bargain with our employers.

Yet we know that for a growing number of workers, whose jobs have been casualised and outsourced or are employed by those human traffickers, the labour brokers, the constitution and all labour laws have no meaning whatsoever. Their reality is that of daily brutalisation and humiliation at the hands of farm bosses and fly-by-night pseudo employers. 

There have been significant improvements in the lives of millions of our people. In 1996, only 3 million people had access to social grants; today it is 15 million. A massive 25% of our population depends on these social grants today. In 1996, 58% of the population had access to electricity, today 80%. In 1996, 62% of the population had access to running water, today 88%. We have built 3.1 million subsidised houses, giving shelter to over 15 million people. The celebration of COSATU’s 25th anniversary is also a celebration of these achievements.

Comrades and friends.

It would be a big mistake for us to praise ourselves triumphantly without taking stock of the challenges we face today.  Despite workers having made significant inroads, the context within which we gained our liberation was informed by a hostile global balance of forces. In 1985 when this giant was born, the Soviet Union, the horizon of hope for the working class across the globe, was still a formidable force standing as the alternative idea of development and civilization.

Capitalism has proven over and over again that it has no answer to humanity. We facing a mounting crises of unemployment, with close to four from every ten people who want to work unable to find jobs. This was worsened by the financial market crisis from 2008. Between 2009 and 2010 alone, more than 1.1 million people have been thrown out of their jobs. Since each worker supports an average of five dependents, this means that 5.7 million were relegated to poverty.

Unemployment affects black people, women and young people most. Today 73% of all unemployed people are below 35. The youth born in the same year as COSATU now bear brunt of neoliberal policies and the capitation to global market forces.

Indeed if we  look today through the eyes of the youth, we see how this generation is continuously brutalised by the despotic capitalist system. This youth has been turned into a sweatshop army in factories, retail giants such as Shoprite and Pick n Pay, in the private security industry, the call centres and the hospitality sector.

In every area of life we see the class, race and gender fault lines we bequeathed from apartheid still in place. The top 20 paid directors in Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed companies earned 1728 times the average income of a South African worker in 2008; even state-owned enterprises paid 194 times an average worker’s income.

Meanwhile 48% of South Africans live on less than R322 a month and 25% now survive on state grants. An average African man earns R2400 per month, whilst an average white man earns R19,000. Most white women earn around R9600 per month, whereas most African women earn R1200 per month.

While we have made major progress in improving access to education, in particular for the girl child, we have not transformed the education system we inherited from the apartheid regime. Children in black township schools are still victims of an unequal education system. They live daily with the fear of failure whilst watching their white counterparts in private schools top the list of achievers year after year.

It is the same story in healthcare. While the mainly white wealthy can buy world-class healthcare in the private sector, 86% of mainly black poor have to struggle to get any service at all in an under-funded, understaffed public sector where patients are told to bring their own bedding and with only panado available as an antidote. Nurses are overworked and underpaid.

The HIV and AIDS epidemic has worsened our situation with life expectancy dropping from 62 years in 1992 50 in 2006. Today people leaving with HIV and AIDS occupy 73% of all hospital beds.

The life expectancy of a white South African now stands at 71 years and that of a black South African at 48.

Faced with these realities, we have adopted the 2015 Plan to build COSATU and its affiliates, strengthen the ANC and SACP on the ground and build the [ANC-COSATU-SACP] Alliance and the developmental state. We have called on our members to swell the ranks of the ANC and the SACP to ensure that these strategic allies of the workers retain their bias towards the workers and the poor.

Organisationally we still face a challenge to strengthen our affiliated unions so that they can be a true spear that Chief Luthuli spoke of when addressing a SACTU congress. We know that some shop stewards are not well trained and do not defend our members from the bosses. We know that some organisers are easily bribed and compromised by the employers. We know too that some of our leaders are useless and do not deserve the confidence members have placed on them.

We know we are far from achieving our historic goal of creating "One Country, One Federation and One Union One Industry". We know we have not achieved the principle of workers' control. Workers' control does not only talk about internal democracy where workers are in charge. It also talks to the political system where workers will be in charge of their destiny.

On this anniversary, let us recommit ourselves to building a conscious cadre of COSATU, that can be an instrument in the fight against social injustice, landlessness and the commodification of basic services. We must invest all efforts in building a cadre that knows that the shop-floor and the community are part of the same theatre of class struggle.

My dear comrades and friends.

The 25th anniversary of COSATU does not take place in a vacuum. The SACP, the party of socialism, celebrated its 89th birthday this year and we are left with two years to the ANC centenary. We want a strong ANC, a strong SACP and a strong South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO). We will continue to play our role into ensuring this goal is realised.

We are encouraged by the recent successful ANC national general council (NGC). The tenderpreneurs’ agenda was isolated and exposed and their program completely disrupted. It will take blunders and a series of own goals by the leadership to allow a return to the pre-NGC political environment of ill discipline, disorder and paralysis.

Delegates to the NGC categorically stated that the NGC must go down in history as “the gathering that marked a decisive turning point in tackling, arresting and reversing the negative tendencies that have eroded and threaten to erode the political integrity and moral standing of the ANC among our people”.

Importantly, the NGC reaffirmed all the economic resolutions of the [ANC national congress held in] Polokwane, summarised in the five ANC manifesto priorities. The framework of a new growth path emerged from NGC, committing the ANC to the principle of creating decent work opportunities.

Further, the NGC declaration “reaffirms the ANC’s approach that the transformation of the South African economy should always be holistic and comprehensive, covering all sectors of the economy. In this regard, the ANC should ensure greater state involvement and control of strategic sectors of the economy, such as mining, energy, the financial sector and others.”

At the time when we were concerned that government was giving in to the agenda of capital and other interest groups mobilising against the introduction of the National Health Insurance, the NGC moved decisively to state that “the implementation of NHI should be fast-tracked”.

The NGC constitutes not only a defence of Polokwane but significant pro-worker and pro-poor advances, although there remain some worrying elements. The overriding lesson we have learnt however, throughout our 25 years of existence is that paper accepts anything written on it. Our challenge is to use a combination of strategies to continue to push for fundamental transformation.

The tensions in the Alliance are often not caused by policy difference but by lack of political will by government to implement ANC and Alliance resolutions and the manifesto.

Overall the framework emerging from the NGC should bring alliance formations closer. It will all depend on consistent and decisive leadership to take forward the clear pro-poor and poor-working class policies from the NGC.

Comrades and friends.

In a few months people will be queuing at the polls to one again choose their representatives in the local government elections. The local government system that we have today in South Africa is a product of a bitter and bloody struggle against the unrepresentative, corrupt and racist apartheid local government system.

Today also serves a launch of our local government elections campaign in support of the ANC. As the COSATU general secretary told the ANC conference yesterday, “This will once and for all remove any lingering doubts as to whether COSATU remains solidly in support of the ANC, with whom we have worked closely together in every one of our first 25 years, since December 1, 1985.”

Yes we sometimes are very disappointed by our ANC councillors’ inaction. Yes, at times we have disagreements with the ANC government and we even march against them when necessary. But no other party could have imagined achieving as much as the ANC government has.

Look at the Western Cape and you will see the disaster we will face if the Democratic Alliance gains any ground next year. The open toilets saga and mass eviction of poor communities are just the two best publicised examples of the DA’s war against the poor. It remains the party of the rich and privileged.

One issue which crops up in virtually every community protest is corruption. There are widespread perceptions – true or false – that local councillors and officials are exploiting their public positions to promote their business interests and to enrich themselves at the expense of the pubic they are supposed to serve.

We warmly welcome recent indications that the government is now taking more decisive action and turning its verbal condemnation of corruption into deeds. The arrest of John Block and others on charges of fraud, corruption, racketeering and money-laundering was encouraging, although we know they are not guilty until proven guilty.

So too was Pravin Gordhan’s commitment that the government “will clamp down on crooks by introducing new public disclosure rules for all prospective government contracts and imposing stiff penalties on companies and individuals involved in tender corruption”. We welcome that the government is investigating up to R25 billion rands that may have awarded fraudulently by the state employees.

We applaud Richard Baloyi’s special anti-corruption unit, which will investigate senior government officials with undeclared business interests in dealings with government, performing remunerative duties outside public service, soliciting bribes and receiving grants or benefits unlawfully.

He was absolutely right when to say that “Corruption is the single most threat to good governance; it has the propensity to collapse an economy”.

But all these promises will turn out to be hollow if those involved in the biggest of all the corruption scandals – the arms deal – are not investigated, and anyone found to be implicated is prosecuted and punished.

COSATU’s two past congresses have said that we will not give the ANC a blank cheque and will refuse to campaign or support candidates known to be corrupt or lazy.

We are calling on the ANC, the Alliance and the people as whole, to ensure that candidates meet strict criteria of integrity. If the ANC implements the processes it has agreed, it will help us achieve this goal. But this process must create space for Alliance structures to ensure that every candidate is indeed honest and conscientious, interested only in serving our people. I urge all local Alliance structures not to let anyone intimidate them into loosening this criteria.

The ANC manifesto must talk to these challenges. Our members must not to be spectators but active participants in the candidate selection processes.

I wish you peaceful and restful festive season. Let us always remember to drive safely and do not fall victim to the road carnage. Let us always practise our ABC which means abstinence, be faithful and condomise. Let us protect women and children and ensure that the 16 days of activism against women and children abuse is run throughout the year.

Let us return next year with more energy to confront all our challenges.

Government must be biased toward the working class and the poor

By Zwelinzima Vavi, COSATU general secretary

December 3, 2010 -- We are workers of South Africa, united under the banner of COSATU. We are creators of the wealth that is enjoyed by a small minority, which has hijacked the wealth we create for their private use.

We have built the cities where they trade and yet squalor and poverty is our daily reality. The glass buildings in Johannesburg, Sandton and elsewhere were built by ourselves over many decades. We use scaffolds and often slip and fall many metres to our death.

We have built the streets of those who hijacked the wealth, and yet where we live there are no proper streets and infrastructure. We build water dams, yet for many years until recently we had to compete with the donkeys and horses for water.

We build their five-star hotels and their private schools and yet our own children have no access to such amenities. We have built the stadiums and other sporting facilities where their children play yet ours are condemned into dusty, stony and dangerous playing fields where their talents are unlikely to develop.

We are construction workers and after many hours at work, taking risks to our lives and health we are paid a minimum wage of R1345 a month. Today we join all other workers from other industries to rededicate ourselves to a struggle to improve our wages and conditions.

Since they discovered diamonds and gold they forced us all from all over Europe and sub-Saharan Africa to go down every day deep in the bowels of the earth and dig out precious stones whose price is determined by them in our absence.  We work in most dangerous conditions in high temperatures, in damp and poorly ventilated areas where rocks fall daily, killing many of us and condemning others to a life in a wheelchair and the loss of limbs.

Some of our families have never had the chance to bury their breadwinners, whose bones remain buried many kilometres deep in the soil. Indeed our bones can measure higher than the highest mines dumps you see in Gauteng and the Free State.

For many years we were condemned to life in single-sex hostels where our employers encouraged us to sleep with other men so that we may not ask for leave to visit our families. We are mineworkers who created the wealth that built Johannesburg and other towns. Today, thanks to our many struggles, the minimum wage in the mines is R3750.

We are now told we will fall into the category of workers who must demand only inflation and a moderate real increase if the government has its way in the New Growth Path proposals. We are here today to say this amount is an insult if you consider how much our bosses are paid for working in air-conditioned offices while we sweat for almost ninear hours every day for peanuts that are not adequate to put food on the table.

We clean the streets day and night, exposing ourselves to the marauding gangs of no particular origin, as our legendary artist Hugh Masekela put it. Without our labour the streets where they trade, their parks and other amenities will be like the streets where we come from. In cold wintry nights, with temperatures at minus zero and in the summer days where in Phalaborwa temperature can rise into the mid40s degrees, we shiver and sweat for only a minimum of R4100 a month. We are municipal workers without whom life will be impossible.

For seven days we prepare, we teach and impart knowledge; we mark exams and sacrifice our weekends and nights. Our training is elaborate. We produce more teachers and every profession comes through our hands. Without us the world will return darkness and backwardness.

We are the teachers who produced best brains. Karl Marx and Adam Smith went through our hands, together with most powerful heads of states. We are creators of the world yet we are remunerated at a mere R9537 a month for spending 12 years at schools and four years at the university.

Daily we face double exposure to HIV and AIDS and other infectious diseases and accidents. Daily we are traumatised by the death of our patients whom we get attached to whilst treating them. We counsel grieving family members when they lose their loved ones. We often put in overtime to cover dwindling numbers as many leave the public service for greener pastures in the private sectors and even overseas. Everyday we touch the blood of the victims of horrible car accidents. We see the broken bones and listen helplessly to their cries of pain. After three years in university a nursing assistant earns a minimum of R5000 per month.

After six years in training plus two more years in internship doctors own a lousy R26,250 and some take home only R16,500. This is how they value those who save our lives.

We move goods from city to city and travel as far as Malawi and Angola. For days and even weeks we spend cold nights travelling all the hours of the night and day. Without this they would not trade and our economy would come to a standstill. Yet for this we are paid R4000 for driving their heavy lorries. This does not allow us to take our children on holiday this coming festive season. We are members of SATAWU, our fighting union that has year-in, year-out led us into a battle to improve our wages and conditions of employment.

We stand in the gates of their factories, offices and homes on guard – in rain, in cold winter and unbearable sun for up to 12 hours exposing ourselves to danger every day of the week. For all our sacrifices we paid an insulting R1200 a month. We are members of the SATAWU who spent six months in 2006 on a strike to try and improve our salaries.

We clean their offices and clean their surroundings, picking up dirt and exposing ourselves to diseases every day for a mere R1100 a month. We are members of SATAWU. Most of us are not in the unions and do not even get these peanuts guaranteed to others.

We make the clothes that cover the bodies of everyone protecting them from both heat and cold. For many hours and often in sweetshop conditions we put in hard work to meet impossible targets our bosses impose on us. Yet the legal minimum rate for qualified clothing machinist is non-metro areas such as Newcastle, Botshabelo and Qwaqwa is R479 per week. In reality many employers in those areas pay between R250 and R280 per week. The employers of small and big companies continue to make mega profits. Their life of opulence explains our life of misery. We are members of Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (SACTWU), our fighting union which year in, year out in difficult conditions leads us into battles to improve our wages.

You find us in the shops as you buy your groceries and other necessities. We are more likely to be casualised, young and women. We work for many hours and many of our bosses don’t even respect the sectoral determinations that give us a minimum wage of R2084.39 per month when we work in big cities and R1819.21 per month if we have the misfortune of being in the rural towns.

We work in hotels where they spend their weekends spoiling their wives and children. We work in the restaurants where enterprises employing less than 10 employees are paid R1981.48.

We are from the farms that produce food that we all need. In many cases we hear from the radio that there is freedom and important dates are being celebrated. The constitution, celebrated as the best in the world, has no meaning to us. No labour law is applied to us. No union organiser reaches us. The few we have seen often get arrested for trespassing before they reach us. We have also seen department of labour inspectors being arrested before they can reach us. Sometimes our hopes are raised when we see police and labour inspectors coming to the farms to investigate our complains of abuse including rape and murder only for us to see them carrying half sheep to the boots of their cars never to be seen again.

We hear that government has introduced sectoral determinations that should provide us R1316 and a R1228 for forest workers, yet in many cases our bosses do not pay us even these peanuts! Some of them make us pay rent for the few goats and horses we own as a way of undercutting the government minimum wages.

Many of us come from Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Our governments have not delivered for the more than two decades they have been in power. Now we are forced to risk crossing the crocodile-infested rivers to South Africa only for the farm bosses and other unscrupulous employers to take advantage of us. They often do not pay us any salary! We receive a bag of mielies after a long day of hard labour when we are not even allowed to speak to one another as the bosses fear that we will discover that we come from everywhere in our continent of Africa.

We hope that the new minister of labour and the minister of agriculture will speed up implementation of the ANC manifesto so that the state helps us organise ourselves and overcome the many obstacles that have been put in place to make it impossible to organise us.

We are the workers who are employed from the car boots of the human traffickers. Our hearts bleed every end of the month when we see the extent of our super-exploitation and discrimination. For example labour brokers pay workers a mere R2700 while permanent workers earn R7200 at the ABI. In Early Bird, a labour broker worker gets R1480 but the permanent worker get R3373 a month. We are members of the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU), we have come here to share our pain with you.

Some of us are forced to sell our bodies in the streets of our cities. We know this amounts to our exploitation by men who sees us as just objects to satisfy their sexual lusts. Some rich ones hire us only to eat sushi from our half naked bodies as they demonstrate their power over us.

Today, together with all other workers whose professions I have not mentioned, we have come here to salute our federation, COSATU, as it celebrates the milestone of reaching 25 years. We know that COSATU has been an important instrument we have used to achieve many gains we are celebrating today.

With unemployment increasing every year, we support more and more of the unemployed family members.

We are the creators of the wealth that has been privatised and is enjoyed by the few. We are workers of South Africa. We hate this barbaric system of capitalism that allows this to happen.

We know that it is better to in the union than outside the union. All studies show that members of the unions have better pay, better conditions of employment and better job security than those outside the unions.

But we know that we must still do much more to strengthen COSATU so that it can continue to improve our wages and conditions of employment.

We cannot afford to have a neutral government under these circumstances. We want a more active government that has a capacity to enforce the laws of the land. We want our ANC black, green and gold flags in all our marches, we want our SACP red flags in every of our marches so that we show that solidarity is critical. We want the support of our communities when we go on strike to improve this situation

Today there are only 2 million of us in COSATU! We know that our challenge is to organise everyone of the 12 million active in the labour market. But today we shall for the hours we shall spend in this stadium, forget all our suffering, our pain and tribulations and enjoy a party with our families. Yet we know that beyond today we must redouble our efforts to build improve our situation.