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Tomorrow It Could Be You

Strikes and Boycotts in South Africa, 1978-1982

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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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3 ‘There’s more to it than slurp and burp’: The Fatti’s & Moni’s strike and boycott -83

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Chapter 3 ‘There’s more to it than slurp and burp’: The Fatti’s & Moni’s strike and boycott Mass resistance in the western Cape Province gained momentum in 1979 after workers at the Fatti’s & Moni’s pasta and bread factory in Cape Town stopped work and organised a boycott of the company’s products. The workers popularised the tactic that had been used just five months earlier by NUMARWOSA against Eveready South Africa. While the Eveready boycott garnered an extensive international following, it failed to force the company to settle the dispute, neither receiving the widespread national publicity nor generating the momentum that followed the Fatti’s & Moni’s campaign. The Fatti’s & Moni’s protest marked a watershed in the history of South African labour protests, highlighted the strategic viability of boy- cotting as a tool to challenge state dominance and created the impetus for anti-apartheid organisational development in South Africa during the early 1980s. At the time, Ian Morgan, an investigative journalist, argued that ‘not since the Potato Boycott of the Fifties had war been waged against a company’s products and its image for so long and so successfully’.1 While Morgan was inaccurate in his analysis of the boycott’s relative length – the Eveready boycott, for example, lasted more than eight months – he was precise in his assessment of the boycott’s achievement. The Fatti’s & Moni’s protest formed part of a larger debate concerning the desirability of trade unions linking shop f loor protests to other community struggles. In the early years of their growth, from around 1972,...

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