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|Minister of Economic Development|
11 May 2009
|Born||1962 (age 53–54)
District Six, Cape Town
|Political party||African National Congress|
- 1 Background
- 2 Education
- 3 Early political and labour activism
- 4 Involvement with South African clothing and textile unions
- 5 Labour activism from the 1990s onwards
- 6 Other relevant positions
- 7 Involvement at the ILO
- 8 Other international labour advocacy activities
- 9 Books
- 10 Awards
- 11 Minister of Economic Development
- 12 References
- 13 External links
He comes from a working-class family, with his mother, a garment worker, being the sole bread winner.
He grew up in Lansdowne and Grassy Park.
He has three children, Amilcar, Iqraa and Zamir
He completed high school in 1979 and was one of the top 10 matriculants nationally, which afforded him bursaries and scholarships that led him to complete a university degree.
He started his tertiary education at the University of the Western Cape in 1980, but due to delays from being politically active, he ended up completing his degree through the University of Cape Town a few years later.
Early political and labour activism
Patel became involved in worker and student struggles while at high school and led the student boycott of Fatti’s and Monis products during a worker strike at the pasta factory in March 1979
During his first year at the University of the Western Cape in 1980, he was a leader in a nationwide student uprising that started in Cape Town. He was detained under Section 10 of the Internal Security Act and was kept for a number of months at Victor Verster prison in Paarl. He was released without being charged.
During this period, he was actively involved in anti-apartheid activities, from campaigns against the celebration of the old republic, to campaigns against the Coloured Representative Council and the tricameral parliament. He became involved in struggles over access to housing and electricity. He established community organisations in the Lotus River-Grassy Park-Parkwood area. He worked closely with activists from different areas including Trevor Manuel, who represented communities in Kensington-Factreton area, in the Cape Areas Housing Action Committee (CAHAC).
A year later, he was detained under Section 6 of the Terrorism Act and kept in detention initially at Caledon Square police station in Cape Town. After a number of months in detention, he was again released without being charged.
He was involved in building support for workers on strike at Leyland Motors, as well as at Wilson-Rowntree, an Eastern Cape confectionery factory.
In 1982 he was detained on a third occasion and taken to Protea Police Station in Soweto.
He left university to work full-time at SALDRU, the research division of the School of Economics at the University of Cape Town in the first half of 1982 and completed his degree part-time at UCT shortly thereafter.
He was part of the inaugural meetings of the Cape Democratic Front and later the United Democratic Front, where he served on the resolutions committee and represented the Lotus River/Grassy Park area.
While working at the University of Cape Town, he unionised fellow workers from 1983 and was elected a shop steward at the university and led the negotiations on wages and working conditions. Later he was elected General Secretary of the union and became involved with the union movement in Cape Town and took part in the debates and meetings that led to the formation of Cosatu in December 1985.
He also helped organise the nationwide anti-apartheid general strikes/stayaways that rocked the country during the 1980s and 1990s.
Involvement with South African clothing and textile unions
Patel joined the textile union, the National Union of Textile Workers (NUTW) as a full-time organiser in 1986, having worked on a voluntary basis with the auto, food and textile unions during his period at the School of Economics.
He was part of the amalgamation of the NUTW with other unions to eventually become the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union, formed in 1989 in Cape Town. He served in a number of positions in the union, and was elected deputy general secretary in the early 1990s, and became General Secretary in 1999 - a position which he held until 2009.
He has concluded hundreds of recognition, wage and other collective agreements over the period of more than two decades. His work in the clothing, textile and footwear industry resulted in the formation of a national bargaining council in the clothing sector and later in the textile sector. He worked to improve productivity and competitiveness at a number of enterprises while retaining and expanding the rights of workers. These included work with Levi’s Strauss and the largest clothing company, the Seardel Group which employs 14 000 workers. He has served on the Board of Zenzeleni Clothing, a clothing company set up by the trade union in 1988 to help employ retrenched workers and which is still in operation, employing about 120 workers. He played a key role in 2008 in saving the Seardel Group from bankruptcy through raising a R250 million capital-injection and a change in the ownership and control of the company.
He worked with his predecessor, Johnny Copelyn, in setting up a union-investment company that has grown to be the largest union-controlled one in South Africa. It is now a multi-billion[clarification needed] company whose proceeds help to fund bursaries for children of union members and a range of social programmes. The union now issues bursaries to more than 700 students (the children of members of the union) a year and spends more than R3m in grants to students at tertiary institutions. During his period as head of the union, the organisation also set up the largest union-controlled HIV programme in the world, which provides education to members, training to workplace representatives, voluntary counselling and testing to about 10 000 workers a year and support for home-based carers.
Labour activism from the 1990s onwards
Patel was a member of the first trade union delegation that met Nelson Mandela at his home in Soweto after his release from prison in 1990.
During his period in the labour movement, he led organised labour in key policy and legislative negotiations. He also led negotiations on matters like access for low-income citizens to banking, supply of water to rural areas, HIV codes at the workplace and national positions on trade policy.
He was the lead negotiator in 1993 in the National Economic Forum that put together an interim plan on jobs and combating customs fraud as well as promoting a new framework for small enterprise development.
He was appointed to lead the three labour federations (Cosatu, Nactu and Fedusa) as Overall Labour Convenor in Nedlac at its formation. In this position, he worked closely with Kgalema Motlanthe, then General Secretary of the NUM as well as Mbhazima Shilowa, then General Secretary of Cosatu, as part of the labour team at Nedlac.
He led the negotiations for organised labour that resulted in the Labour Relations Act and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.
He was also the lead negotiator for organised labour at the 1998 Presidential Jobs Summit convened by President Mandela and at the Growth and Development Summit convened by President Mbeki in 2004, both of which resulted in key policy documents being agreed.
He has served on the central executive committee of Cosatu for almost two decades and has represented Cosatu widely in negotiations and policy discussions.
During the late 1980s, he led the Cosatu campaign on a Workers' Charter that laid the basis for the workers' rights clauses in the South African Bill of Rights in our constitution. He was also part of the Cosatu team that negotiated the language of the labour rights clauses in the constitution with the ANC during the Constitutional Assembly discussions that led to the adoption of the country’s new constitution.
He was part of the drafting team in 1993 that put together the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) that was the ANC’s election manifesto during the historic 1994 elections that led to the establishment of democracy. In 2009 he was again part of the team that finalised the 2009 ANC Manifesto and contributed with his colleagues in the formulation (among others) of the decent work conception of the Manifesto.
His most recent tripartite negotiations were the conclusion of the Framework for South Africa’s Response to the International Economic Crisis, adopted by Nedlac in February 2009.
He has travelled extensively to promote decent work across the world and has spoken at several major business and union conferences.
Other relevant positions
He was nominated by President Mandela to serve on the Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC) during its first term. He has served on a number of other public bodies, including the Council for Higher Education (CHE), the Council of the University of Cape Town (UCT), the governing Board of the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and the board of Proudly SA. He was a labour representative on the Presidential Working Group and on the business-labour Millennium Labour Council (MLC). He has been an executive council member of Nedlac since its formation in 1995. He also served on a joint committee of the Judicial Services Commission and Nedlac to interview applicants for posts to the Labour Court and Labour Appeal Court.
Involvement at the ILO
He has served on the Governing Body of the UN tripartite body, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), most recently as the vice-chairperson of the Workers Group. He was global spokesperson for organised labour on employment and social policy and used to be spokesperson on multinational enterprises.
He led the negotiations at the ILO on a number of key policy and legal instruments. For example, he led negotiations for - and co-drafted - the ILO’s Global Employment Agenda, which contributed to international efforts to promote decent work, to tackle unemployment and the employment growth challenge.
He also co-drafted the groundbreaking Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalisation, a key ILO document adopted unanimously by 180 governments and the global representatives of employers and workers. The document sets out the mandate of the ILO in the context of globalisation and identifies the components of decent work, a concept that now has universal resonance. It sets out a vision for a modern effective ILO and lists the key steps governments can take to promote decent work.
Furthermore, he made the proposal that led eventually to the Global Wage Report, a flagship publication of the ILO. He also led the labour team in the negotiation and drafting of two key ILO international labour standards: the Recommendation on the Employment Relationship and the Recommendation on Co-operatives. He was the chief spokesperson for labour in the ILO in the discussion that led to the Conclusions on the Scope of the Employment Relationship and the Conclusions on Human Resource Development.
Other international labour advocacy activities
He was part of the South African delegation at several ministerial meetings of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), including at Singapore, Seattle – which he attended together with Zwelinzima Vavi, head of Cosatu – and Geneva.
In 2009, he led the labour engagement with government leaders as part of the preparations for the G20 Summit, when a small global labour team met with Presidents Motlanthe (South Africa) and Lula (Brazil), Prime Ministers Gordon Brown (UK) and Kevin Rudd (Australia) and the heads of the International Monetary Fund (Dominique Strauss Kahn) and WTO (Pascal Lamy). Following its deliberations, the summit agreed to a combination of economic stimuli measures and greater regulation of financial markets.
He has edited two books: one on the National Economic Forum and the other on workers' rights in the new South Africa.
He was awarded a special medal by UCT in 2008 at the June graduation ceremony, in recognition of his public service.
He received the Global Leaders of Tomorrow award from the Davos-based Global Economic Forum in 1994. 
He was named as one of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world today in a major public report compiled by Georgetown University and the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre, Jordan.
Minister of Economic Development
Patel was appointed as minister of economic development in the cabinet of Jacob Zuma in May 2009.
- Minister of Economic Development
- Southern African Clothing & Textile Workers' Union (16 May 2009). "Ebrahim Patel: The SACTWU biography". as hosted on politicsweb.co.za. Retrieved 18 January 2011. External link in
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