Debate from ROAPE Volume 11 Number 30
Changing Perspectives on South African Trade Unions
by 1964 the non-racial trade union movement in South Africa, led by the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU), was effectively crushed. Although never officially banned, its leadership was decimated by arrests, detentions and banning. Five SACTU activists died in detention. Those that survived this brutal repression went underground or into exile. The capacity of the organisation to organise workers in open unions inside South Africa had been destroyed. In the years that followed the leadership in exile, in conjunction with the rest of the Congress movement, used the international arena to expose the suppression of trade union rights in South Africa. Of the organisation's underground role one can of course only speculate, but the years between 1964 and 1973 were ones of industrial quietude.