South Africa

Women & the Covid-19 Crisis in South Africa

Abahlali baseMjondolo General Assembly, undated

These two statements from the women's organisation in Abahlali baseMjondolo, the largest popular movement to have emerged in post-apartheid South Africa, give a searing account of the experience of impoverished black women during the Covid-19 crisis in South Africa.

Escalating State Xenophobia in South Africa

Abahlali baseMjondolo occupy central Durban, early 2020

Since its formation in 2005 Abahlali baseMjondolo, which now has more than 70 000 members in good standing in Durban, has opposed xenophobia and sought to build a politics rooted in democratically run land occupations open to all. During period waves of xenophobic violence, always incited and sanctioned to some degree by the state, the movement has taken direct action to 'shelter and defend' people under attack.

Democracy as a Community of Life

Achille Mbembe

Achille Mbembe investigates the possibility of reimagining democracy not only as a form of human mutuality and freedom, but also as a community of life.

The Apartheid Wars: Non-Accountability and Freedom for Perpetrators

Kenneth Good looks at the failure of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission in South Africa.

Coronavirus: A Call for Solidarity in a Time of Crisis

Abahlali baseMjondol meeting, Durban, February 2020

Statement on the coronavirus crisis from Abahlali baseMjondolo.

Revolutionary Ubuntu: The Shackdwellers' Movement of South Africa

Abahlali baseMjondol meeting, Durban, February 2020

A collection of statements and other materials from and relating to Abahlali baseMjondolo, edited by Abdul Alkalimat.

March for 'the total decommodification of land' in Durban, South Africa

Abahlali baseMjondolo outside the Durban City Hall - 24 February 2019

Today, Abahlali baseMjondolo, from a base on more than seventy ongoing land occupations, and with a membership in good standing approaching 80 000, organised a major march in Durban against control over the allocation and management of land by the state and capital. The march follows promises of a new top down land reform programme by the ruling African National Congress, which is split between neoliberal and kleptocratic factions.

A Brief History of South Africa’s Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union (1919-1931)

ICU membership card

The Industrial & Commercial Workers’ Union (ICU) – a trade union, rural peasant movement, and urban squatters’ movement – formed on the docks in Cape Town in 1919. Within a decade, the ICU had expanded across Southern Africa without regard for national borders and counted people from various African countries and the Caribbean in its leadership, as well as people who were Indian and mixed race. The largely forgotten history of the ICU is well worth recovering in a time of escalating chauvinism and xenophobia. Our Dossier #20 offers an introduction to this extraordinary popular movement.

“We feel that our strength is on the factory floor”: Dualism, shop-floor power, and labor law reform in late apartheid South Africa

Jay Naidoo speaking at the launch of Cosatu in Durban in 1985

This article explores the transformation of South African labor relations during the 1980s. An understandable desire to wield influence at the level of the national political economy eroded the tradition of workers’ control, shop floor democracy, and struggle unionism that black unions had forged during the 1970s and 1980s.

Rick Turner, Participatory Democracy and Workers’ Control

This article considers the contribution of radical South African philosopher Rick Turner to theories of ‘workers’ control’. Turner’s philosophical work, especially his book, The Eye of the Needle (1972), posited the workplace as a fundamental site of ‘participatory democracy’ and a space for the potential radical transformation of South African society. The confluence of Turner’s ideas about workers’ control, the students’ activism, and the collective action of the black working class gave South Africa’s labour movement a radically democratic, shop-floor orientation that deserves a revival in the new South Africa.