Pretoria - The Southern African Clothing and Textile Worker's Union (SACTWU) has welcomed the appointment of its General Secretary, to the country's new Cabinet.
Ebrahim Patel was on Sunday appointed Minister of Economic Development, in the newly created ministry.
The new department has been established to focus on economic policy making. However, the implementation functions will remain with the Department of Trade and Industry.
"We know him as a hard worker, dedicated to the struggle of workers and the poor," said SACTWU Deputy General Secretary Andre Kriel on Monday.
The union wished Mr Patel well in his new appointment, adding that it appreciated the work he had been doing over the past 24 years.
Mr Patel has been active in the trade union movement for more than two decades. He played an active role in the formation of COSATU.
Until his appointment as Minister of Economic Development, he served as the General Secretary of SACTWU, one of the largest unions in the sector internationally.
He started as an organiser in the National Union of Textile Workers (NUTW), one of SACTWU's founding trade unions, which emerged out of the historic 1973 Durban strikes.
Before then, while he was a student, he unionised UCT, UWC and University of Stellenbosch workers who are now part of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (NEHAWU).
Mr Patel was also the overall convenor for organised labour in South Africa, in which capacity he led negotiations on social and economic policy matters at tripartite institutions.
He served too as the global spokesperson on Employment and Social Policy for the Workers Group on the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) Governing Body.
At the ILO, he led negotiations which resulted in the adoption of the ILO's Global Employment Agenda, which contributed to international efforts to promote decent work, to tackle unemployment and the employment growth challenge.
Since the end of apartheid, Mr Patel and his colleagues in South Africa have been involved in negotiating a series of social agreements that cover matters as diverse as labour legislation such as the Labour Relations Act (1995), access for low-income citizens to banking, supply of water to rural areas, HIV codes at the workplace and national positions on trade policy.
Shortly after the formation of South Africa's first democratic government in 1994, he was nominated by President Nelson Mandela to serve on the country's first Financial and Fiscal Commission and has served on the boards of public bodies regulating higher education, labour arbitration and economic and social policy.