The first half of this year saw South Africa’s platinum sector grind to a halt as workers,led by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and its head Joseph Mathunjwa, went out on an extended strike. Since the Marikana mine massacre of August 2012, industrial relations in the sector have taken on a huge political and national importance. After months on strike, the workers won an average pay increase of 8% per year for three years. With the rise of the Economic Freedom Fighters and Numsa dropping support for the ANC, Mathunjwa will prove a crucial force in the emerging political and labour opposition to the ANC government.
Jay Naidoo, The union father figure and campaigner – South Africa
A common theme in South African society is former trade unionists with political connections getting rich. Jay Naidoo is an exception. Cosatu’s founding General Secretary and later minister for Reconstruction and Development under Mandela, has not cashed in and left public life. He is a hugely respected international figure, chairing the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, as well as sitting on the boards of a number of international organisations. But events have been dragging his attention back to domestic issues as his beloved Cosatu tears itself apart over political support for the government. He could have a big role to play as a mediator between parties or in what emerges from the fallout.
Irvin Jim, The union radical challenging the ANC – South Africa
South Africa’s largest trade union, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), has dropped the African National Congress (ANC). In turn, the Congress of Trade Unions of South Africa, which is allied to the ANC, has expelled Numsa (see more here). Irvin Jim, the fiery general secretary, is plotting a new political course for Numsa and with it large sections of South Africa’s working class. This course is explicitly socialist, pro-poor and opposed to the ANC government. Jim’s name is likely to be one you will be hearing a lot of in 2015.