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Sakhela Buhlungu and Andries Bezuidenhout’s NUM Research Examined in Light of Marikana

COSATU's Contested LegacyIn light of the tragic events at Marikana, where striking mineworkers were shot dead, Jan de Lange has considered in depth the research of sociologists Andries Bezuidenhout and Sakhela Buhlungu, co-editor of Cosatu’s Contested Legacy.

De Lange explains how a study by Bezuidenhout and Buhlungu found that after 1994 the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) had effectively taken control of the hostel system – something that had been used during apartheid to control mineworkers and ensure cheap labour. “The NUM subverted the hostel hierarchy,” De Lange writes, quoting Bezuidenhout and Buhlungu.

However, more recently, the researchers found that mineworkers have moved out of the hostels into informal settlements springing up around the mines. The representation of mineworkers have also started to be privatised to legal insurance companies. Bezuidenhoud and Buhlungu concluded that NUM was starting to loose power.

“This obviously paved the way for conflicting interests, and is one of the major complaints levelled against the NUM by its former members who went on to join the AMCU,” says De Lange.

THE volatility and violence in labour relations on South Africa’s mines over the past two years, especially the platinum operations, runs a lot deeper than mere competition between two trade unions, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Mineworkers & Construction Union (AMCU).

As in the rest of South African life, fundamental change in mining communities since the beginning of democracy in 1994, has not brought commensurate improvement for the lives of the mineworkers. This truth is best illustrated in remarkable research by two sociologists, Professor Andries Bezuidenhout from the University of the Witwatersrand, and Sakhela Buhlungu from the University of Johannesburg.

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