Home > Summer School > Summer School 2015 Courses > HISTORY, PHILOSOPHY & CONTEMPORARY STUDIES > Labour Relations in Post-Apartheid South Africa


Professor Sakhela Buhlungu, Dean, Faculty of Humanities, University of Cape Town

In early June 2014 the platinum mining sector was in the throes of a debilitating strike that was nearly five months long. Virtually all attempts to resolve the strike, including CCMA arbitration and intervention by a Labour Court judge and the newly appointed Minister of Mineral Resources, failed to get the parties to reach a settlement. The strike had erupted merely a year after turbulent labour relations on Western Cape wine farms resulted in strike action and some eighteen months after the brutal killing of forty-four miners at Lonmin’s Marikana mine in August 2012. These, and many other events, are emblematic of the crisis into which labour relations in post-apartheid South Africa has descended.

These three lectures will be illustrated with examples from different industries, the economy, and organisational traditions and backgrounds. The course will pose three questions which are uppermost in the minds of all South Africans: What are the implications of the labour relations turbulence for the economy? Does labour relations instability pose a threat to the stability of the country’s fledgling democracy? Has the time arrived for the country to rethink, or revamp, the labour relations dispensation put in place by the Mandela government during the first few years of post-apartheid South Africa?



1.  The crisis of collective bargaining and the upsurge of worker militancy

2.  The crisis of labour relations institutions, specifically trade unions and employer organisations

3.  Trade unions and politics


Recommended Reading

Buhlungu, S. and Tshoaedi, M. 2012. (eds.). COSATU’s Contested Legacy: South African Trade Unions in the Second Decade of Democracy. Cape Town: HSRC Press.

Buhlungu, S. 2010. A Paradox of Victory: Unions and the Democratic Transformation of South Africa. Scottsville: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press. (Chapters 1 and 8).


Date: 19 – 21 January
Time: 7:30pm
COURSE FEES Full: R240.00  Staff: R120.00   Reduced: R60.00