“We must always pay attention to what our people are saying,” Ramaphosa told delegates at the Num national congress underway in Boksburg, Ekurhuleni.
“Even if you have to go on your knees; go on your knees because people are always right.”
Ramaphosa cited South Sudan as an example of what happens when leaders are not listening to people.
He cautioned against fighting for positions.
“Leadership position should not be a position to put in your pocket,” Ramaphosa said to a thunderous applause from delegates.
SA Communist Party first deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin told delegates that the National Union of Metalworkers of SA and Julius Malema’s “rabble army” continue to flirt with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).
“The SACP has characterised Amcu as essentially vigilante union,” Cronin, who is also the Deputy Minister of Public Works said.
“In the early 2000s there was a very similar offensive launched against Num.
“It had its origins among networks in the informal settlement around mines, taxi bosses and anti-stock theft vigilante groups from rural Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.”
He said Amcu’s base organisation and “demagogic” methods of mobilisation have been very similar.
Num, which lost over 100 000 members over the last few years is facing competition from Amcu.
Despite this, Num remains one of the largest unions in the gold sector.
Cronin lashed out at Numsa leadership, saying: “A leadership clique within Numsa has turned one of the great working class slogans on its head.”
He told delegates that those in government don’t expect Num or trade union federation Cosatu to be “sweethearts” of the executive.
“We don’t want conveyor belts,” Cronin said.
“We don’t want unions that are timid, labour desks of the ANC.”
Num general secretary Frans Baleni pleaded with delegates not to allow themselves to be confused by “instant revolutionaries”.
Meanwhile, speculation is rife that Baleni will face a challenge for his position.
Elections for the top leadership position are expected to take place on Friday.