Mbabane: Veteran Financial Services Trade Unionist, Vincent Ncongwane has passed on. Word of his demise was announced by the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland’s (TUCOSWA) Acting Secretary General Mduduzi Gina.
The words of tribute were passed by TUCOSWA Acting Secretary-General Mduduzi Gina.
According to Gina, Ncongwane passed on in South Africa where he was receiving treatment for an undisclosed illness. Ncongwane is the former Secretary-General of the Swaziland United Democratic Front and the acting Secretary-General of the Swaziland Federation of Labour (SFL) and the Swaziland Union of Financial Institutions and Allied Workers (SUFIAW).
In a statement, Gina says “we have learned with shock and disbelief the reports of the passing of Ncongwane who was a symbol of unity of workers in the country. He was passionate about the welfare of all people and workers in particular.”
He played a major role in the formation of the Labour Coordinating Council and was also its Secretary. Ncongwane has been described as an immovable pillar of the trade union movement in the country. He contributed to the trade unions with his vast experience, participating at individual and also at federation level. Ncongwane was known as an outstanding leader who was respected not only by the leaders but the entire trade union movement.
The Secretary-General of the Swaziland National Association of Trade Unions (SNAT), Sikelela Dlamini lamented Ncongwane’s death and said “this has come at a time when he was needed most. Vincent was active as a Trade Unionist long before we were even part of the movement and we had heard of his exploits as college students. Right now as a young leader tasked with national responsibilities I leaned on people such as Vincent Ncongwane. As a member of TUCOSWA, his passing is a deep cut because he was a reservoir of knowledge. With Eswatini heading towards democracy we definitely require people like him. The best honour for him and others like him who have since departed, from those of us who are left, is to attain democracy. That will be the best gift to them.”
“Vincent Ncongwane assisted the Swaziland Union of Financial Institutions and Allied Workers (SUFIAW) establish sustainable businesses with which to support the movement. There is a lot that can be leaned from SUFIAW that can be used by other unions. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the Ncongwane family at this time.”
Pro-Democracy activist, Sibongile Mazibuko said “we are deeply saddened by Ncongwane’s passing. We were banking on him and looking forward to celebrating the imminent birth of democracy in Eswatini with him. Unfortunately, the Lord had other plans. We come a long way with Ncongwane and our condolences to his wife are in order.”
The Peoples United Democratic Movements (PUDEMO), through their spokesperson Phesheya Siyaya, expressed how they are reeling with shock and disbelief at the news of Ncongwane’s demise. He described Ncongwane as “the last cadre of the self-less servant leadership type. His astute skills of negotiating and humility made him serve the working class with dignity for more than three decades. We have suffered a colossal loss of the most senior leader and cadre we were left within the trenches. Go well and rest in perfect peace.”
A man who knew Ncongwane well is former Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) and Mangololo member, Jabulani Nxumalo. According to him, Ncongwane was born in 1962 at the KwaThema location in Springs, South Africa. He is the former Secretary-General of the Swaziland United Democratic Front and the Secretary-General of the Swaziland Union of Financial Institutions AND Allied Workers (SUFIAW).
Nxumalo first came across Ncongwane in the mid-1970s as a school-going neighbor. They lived in Msunduza location in Mbabane where Ncongwane’s family occupied a flat in Mobeni. The two of them played soccer along with the other young boys in the area and also participated in karate classes at the Church Youth Centre under the tutelage of Thabo Thwala the Sensei. They also used to watch movies at the now-defunct cinemas, Cinelux and Dreamland. Some of the notable youngsters who they grew up with at the time include the television actor Themba Ndaba and Maswazi Thwala son of the late soccer administrator Ali Thwala.
Ncongwane’s father worked for Swaziland Railway and his mother worked at Jean Machine store at the Swazi Plaza where exclusive brands of denim wear were sold. He attended Mbabane Central Primary and High School. They lived at the old Mobeni block E2 OR F2. “There were seven children in their family and Vincent was the second born. The eldest was Thami, Joshua “Mlaba” Ncongwane who played soccer for Mbabane Dribbling Wizards. The third in line was Lindi who was followed by a set of twins called Mandla and Bongani. Next in line was Thuli and the last born was Gcinile” recalls Nxumalo.
When Nxumalo started working for the Swaziland Royal Insurance Corporation in 1984, Ncongwane was already working at the Swaziland Development and Savings Bank, popularly known as Swazi Bank. He remembers being elected to the executive committee of the Swaziland Union of Financial Institutions (SUFIAW) in 1986. The executive comprised of the late Minister of Labour Winnie Magagula who was Secretary-General at the time and Ncongwane was the Deputy Secretary-General.
“The incident which really cemented Ncongwane’s lifelong involvement in the unions and his stance towards the calls for democratic reform in Eswatini occurred in the mid-1980s when he was fired from work after the bank stopped renewing his work permit. The SUFIAW executive interpreted this to mean that Ncongwane was being victimized for being active in the unions. This initiated a strike on his behalf by SUFIAW which started at the Swazi Bank. Soon all the banks were involved until the cabinet took a decision that he should be re-instated. This didn’t sit well with Sam Kuhlase the Managing Director of the bank at the time who then viewed Ncongwane as a cabinet deployment. The Minister of Finance at the time Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini informed Kuhlase that the cabinet had taken a political decision.”
According to Nxumalo, “Ncongwane was pivotal in recognitions, negotiations and writing letters of release for the executive members to attend meetings and union activities. He would write The Trade Union newsletter which would inform all union members on the activities of the union. He would negotiate for the proper adjudication of grievances experienced by the union members. Vincent formed part of the team that would engage with the labor officials during the conciliation of disputes that had arisen between the employees and the employers. These would often happen at the labor offices under the auspices of Commissioner Ralph Bhembe. He had the opportunity to deal with most of the Labour Commissioners such as Joshua Mndzebele, Jinnoh Nkambule, and the present Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Public Service, Sipho Tsabedze.”
“We formed Temnotfo Savings and Credit Cooperative with Jimson Gwebu, the late former Ngwempisi Member of Parliament, Vulindlela Msibi and Ntsika Mlambo from the Building Society. Ncongwane also lobbied for Josias Maseko to be a member of the Trustees within the executive of SUFIAW for his work ethic. When SUFIAW broke away from SFTU to form the Swaziland Federation of Labour (SFL) in 1992, he became that federation’s pillar of strength.”
Ncongwane was married with children to Eva Ncongwane nee Malinga who was also from Msunduza (extension 3).