Trade unionist Ebrahim Patel now minister in Zuma cabinet

May 13th, 2009 - 4:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Pretoria, May 13 (IANS) Ebrahim Patel, a South African of Indian origin who was appointed as minister of economic development in the cabinet of President Jacob Zuma, has been active in the country’s trade union movement for more than two decades.
Before his appointment, he served as general secretary of the Southern African Clothing and Textile Worker’s Union (SACTWU), one of the largest unions in the sector internationally, BuaNews reported Wednesday.

SACTWU has welcomed the appointment of Patel. “We know him as a hard worker, dedicated to the struggle of workers and the poor,” said SACTWU Deputy General Secretary Andre Kriel.

Patel started as an organiser in the National Union of Textile Workers (NUTW), one of SACTWU’s founding trade unions, which emerged out of the historic 1973 Durban strikes.

He was also the overall convenor for organised labour in South Africa and led negotiations on social and economic policy matters.

Patel also served as the spokesperson on employment and social policy for the Workers Group on the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) governing body.

At the ILO, he led negotiations which resulted in the adoption of the ILO’s Global Employment Agenda, which contributed to international efforts to promote decent working conditions and tackle unemployment.

After the end of apartheid, Patel was involved in a number of causes including labour laws, access for low-income citizens to banking, supply of water to rural areas, HIV codes at the workplace and national position on trade policy.

Shortly after the formation of South Africa’s first democratic government in 1994, he was nominated by then president Nelson Mandela to serve on the country’s first Financial and Fiscal Commission. He has also served on the boards of public bodies regulating higher education, labour arbitration and economic policy.

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