Mail & Guardian - Who is Connie September?
We chat to newly appointed Human Settlements Minister Connie September about her life in politics and her task ahead - Link to Video
From humble factory worker to cabinet minister - this is the story of a dedicated Capetonian whose sacrifices reflect the Struggle.
When Cornelia Carol September began work in 1980, she was an apolitical woman intent only on earning a humble day’s wage as a textile worker in a Cape Town factory.
On Tuesday, about 33 years later, President Jacob Zuma appointed Connie September his minister of human settlements.
Hishaam Mohamed, speaking in his capacity as chairman of the Southern Suburbs Legal Advice Centre, said: “I met her in August 1985 - I was a student throwing petrol bombs at the time - when the state of emergency was announced relating to the new tricameral parliament.
“Her demeanour has always been that of a leader, but she is also a woman of humbleness and strict discipline. “She has always had a deep-rooted consciousness of justice and is always willing to relate to any issue in which people’s human rights are being violated.”
Articles over the years paint a picture of a woman with a relentless commitment to uplifting the poor.
As a member of the SA Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (Sactwu), September’s baptism of fire as an active unionist came in the late 1980s with the Rex Trueform strike when almost the entire workforce challenged textile factory owners.
In September 1993, September became vice-president of Cosatu.
After a year in the job she told a interviewer: “As a single parent, I find it difficult to give my daughter the attention she needs. Some people have a 24-hour day. Mine is usually a 48-hour day.”
September was sworn in as an MP in 1999, sat on the portfolio committee on trade and industry and chaired the portfolio committee on water affairs, which was then coupled with forestry.
Despite this high office, she still worked at a factory in Salt River, where she served as a shop steward as well as the national treasurer of Sactwu.
She told a journalist at the time: “It’s hard for me to let go of any of the things I’m doing. I believe it is important to work on the ground with the people who elected me to the positions I am in today.”
This was the attitude that Mohamed said summed her up.
“Here we have an activist who is also competent - because of her leadership locally and at Cosatu’s national level. Here’s someone we can believe in.”
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