A panel session with: Trevor Ngwane (University of Johannesburg, Sociology), Gay Seidman (University of Wisconsin, Sociology), and Dinga Sikwebu (Coordinator of NUMSA United Front, Johannesburg).
The colloquium will be devoted to the crises and conflicts that have wracked the labor movement in South Africa in recent years and the implications of these struggles for the future of South African politics. In 2012, police from the African National Congress (ANC) government gunned down 44 striking platinum workers in what has come to be known as the Marikana massacre, a watershed moment for South Africa’s politics and its trade unions. The speakers will consider the historic strike by 70,000 Association of Mineworkers and Construction Workers (AMCU) that ensued, the internecine battles that have been taking place among the different sections of COSATU trade union federation, and the intense factional strife between the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and other sections of the trade union movement that has issued in NUMSA’s expulsion from COSATU. NUMSA has now initiated a call for what it terms a united front, not only to build a new workers party to stand in national elections, but also to forge links between productive and reproductive struggles that would better connect organized labor with the “service delivery protests” of poor, heavily immigrant workers. No less than the future of the South African workers movement and the nature the South African state are at stake.
Trevor Ngwane is a founder of the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee and the Anti-privatization movement. He was a long time activist against the Apartheid regime.
Gay Seidman is the author of Manufacturing Militance: Workers’ Movements in Brazil and South Africa, 1970-1985 (1994) and Beyond the Boycott: Labor Rights, Human Rights and Transnational Activism (2007). She has written widely on the critical participation of women in the anti-Apartheid and labor movements in South Africa.
Dinga Sikwebu is the Coordinator of NUMSA’s united front. He has taught in the Sociology Department at the University of Witwatersrand.