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Tuesday, 07 September 2010 00:00

Violet Seboni will be honoured at SACTWU’s 11th National Congress to be held on 23rd-25th September 2010 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre

Violet Seboni passed away on Friday 3 April 2009, in a car accident on her way to Mafikeng, where she was to participate in ANC election campaigning.

Her death was met with shock and sadness, for this Deputy President of SACTWU had so much promise left in her and was destined to play a bigger role in the affairs of the nation.

This Congress pays tribute to her life and work.

Her funeral was held on Easter Monday 13 April 2009.

The leadership of Cosatu, the ANC, SACP, Women’s League and Sactwu as well as the Mayor of Johannesburg and the Premier of Gauteng, paid tribute to her. Her family received messages of condolence from the ANC President as well as from union leaders across the world.  

Violet Jacobeth Seboni was first elected as a SACTWU shop steward in 1989. She was last employed at Supreme Hat 'n Cap, a Johannesburg-based clothing company. Her exceptional talent and dedication as a worker leader resulted in her steadily rising through the ranks in SACTWU and in COSATU.

In 1999 she was elected as the first female chairperson of the SACTWU East Rand Branch. In early 2001, she was elected as the Regional Treasurer in SACTWU's Gauteng Region and, later the same year, she was elected as the SACTWU 2nd Deputy President, at the union's 8th National Congress held in Durban.

She was first elected as COSATU’s Second Deputy President in 2003. At our union’s 2004 National Congress, she was re-elected as SACTWU's 2nd Deputy President. At our 2007 Congress, she was elected as 1st Deputy President of SACTWU. In 2005, she was also elected as a Vice-President for the Africa Region of the International Textile Garment and Leather Workers' Federation (ITGLWF), a global union federation of textile, garment and leather trade unions. She was also a member of the Brussels-based ITGLWF's international Executive Committee, representing her union SACTWU.

During her lifetime, Violet has served in all structures of SACTWU, from factory level (where she started as a shop steward in 1989) right up to the national structures of the union. She has served in the union's East Rand branch structures, on the union's Gauteng Regional Executive Committee, on the union's National Co-ordinating Committee as well as on the SACTWU National Executive Committee. Besides her tireless work in COSATU, she was also an endless campaigner for a better and more sustained future for clothing, textile and leather workers.

She was also a member of the SACTWU clothing industry wage negotiating team for more than a decade. In 2001, she led a two week industry wide protected wage-related strike of thousands of clothing workers in Gauteng. Typically, she was on the picket line almost day and night, led marches and protests in support of the union's demands for decent work and inspired these clothing workers to a historic victory which helped to fundamentally changed industrial relations in the industry for the better.

Violet was also a true internationalist. Besides her role as a Vice-President of the Africa Region of the International Textile, Garment & Leather Worker's Federation, she also played a leading role in the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU). She was involved in numerous important international conferences and in 2004 she courageously led the COSATU fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe where they were arrested, forced onto a bus and deported from that country in the middle of the night.
She has played a broader role to advance the interests of the labour movement in general, in many other areas. At the time of her death the many touching messages of condolences received, locally and globally, from many fraternal organisations and individuals including from her employer, is testimony to this.
Violet was also passionate that the labour movement should play a leading role to combat the scourge of HIV/Aids and constantly reminded us that we have a serious duty in this regard.
Despite her high level role, Violet also made sure that she remained firmly rooted on the ground. She kept regular contact with the members at her factory, with her SACTWU Branch and regularly attended COSATU Shop Stewards' Councils. She skilfully combined a national and global vision with local action.

Over the last year prior to her death, she played an increasingly important leadership role in her church.

Violet was born on 18 September 1965. She was a single mother and left behind two daughters: Lesogo and Lesedi, who respectively were 24 years and 12 years old at the time of their mother’s tragic passing away.

The union movement has lost a great worker leader, a person who was passionate about a better life for clothing, textile and leather workers in particular and all workers nationally and globally in general. In the words of COSATU: "We have lost a revolutionary heroine".
She was an exceptional worker leader who saw the struggle of workers as being broader than just shop floor issues.
She was a member of the African National Congress and of the South African Communist Party. The last SACTWU constitutional structural meeting which she attended was her union's National Co-ordinating Committee held in mid-February last year. At this meeting she spoke passionately about the great importance for a decisive ANC victory in the April 2009 general elections.
Violet passed away during Hero's Month, the month during which so many of our movement's greatest heroes also passed away.

Her tombstone was unveiled in Avalon Cemetry in Soweto on 30 July 2010.
Hamba Kahle, comrade Violet. We will always remember you.