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Tomorrow It Could Be You

Strikes and Boycotts in South Africa, 1978-1982


Tracy Carson

Tomorrow It Could Be You unearths the historical significance of strikes and boycotts between 1978 and 1982 in South Africa’s Cape Province and explores their vital role in strengthening the country’s growing political movement. Drawing on archival research and interviews with union leaders, community activists, employers and workers, the author critically analyses a linchpin period between the early rise of independent unionism, following the Durban strikes of 1973, and the growth of mass political unionism in South Africa in the shape of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (1985). The book traces the evolution of political alliances between labour organisations and community activists through careful examination of four key strikes and boycotts: Eveready Battery (1978), Fatti’s & Moni’s (1979), red meat (1980) and Wilson-Rowntree (1981-1982). The author’s analysis reveals how these initial events changed the nature of South African protest, laying the groundwork for larger, more successful uprisings against the apartheid regime.


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Maps -xv


Maps Cape Provinces, South Africa Map 1: The Cape Province in Relation to South Africa, 1972–1994. xvi Maps Port Elizabeth (Eastern Cape Province) Map 2: Port Elizabeth and Surrounding Areas, 1978–1982. Maps xvii Cape Town (Western Cape Province) Map 3: Cape Town and Surrounding Areas, 1978–1982. xviii Maps East London (Eastern Cape Province) Map 4: East London and Surrounding Areas, 1978–1982. Chapter 1 Introduction Popular protest in South Africa exploded in unprecedented fashion during the 1980s, signalling a decisive turning point in the country’s political tra- jectory and contributing directly to the subsequent fall of the apartheid government. Masses of South Africans employed an array of tactics such as demonstrations, negotiations, petitions and armed resistance to challenge the apartheid state from nearly every angle. In the latter half of the 1980s, boycotts became the most widely used strategy against state repression.1 Workers initiated employment stayaways, students withdrew from classes, local residents refused to pay rent and township youth sought to destabilise local institutions through consumer boycotts. As a result, black disengage- ment from white-owned businesses and government structures became a major feature of mass resistance in South Africa during the 1980s. This book explores political movements in South Africa during a critical period in the development of these mass struggles and focuses on strikes and boycotts in particular. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, recently launched independent trade unions assumed a dominant role in workplace and broader activism. This labour movement came to be referred...

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