Videos 1: the context for the new movement – early 1990s South Africa

The videos below are extracted from old VHS recordings of SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation)  TV news reports on university student and trade union struggles in 1994-1996.  The aim of posting them is simply to help illustrate the context that shaped the (re-)emergent local anarchist/ syndicalist movement. These massive struggles were a decisive reference point for this current, demonstrating the power of the broad working class, and forcing the new new current to engage seriously with the issue of finding a road to the masses. An, of course, this context helped to radicalise many of those who gravitated to anarchism at this time — and helped to open space for a serious consideration of anarchism.

The political reforms of the early 1990s inspired a massive upsurge in strikes, protests and mobilisation, some high points of which were the massive general strike of 1991, and the 1993 insurrection against the Bophupatswana homeland dictatorship. The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the National Council of Trade Unions (NACTU) would continue with massive strikes into the late 1990s. Meanwhile, the formation of the South African Students Congress (SASCO) in 1991 was part of a huge wave of protests on university campuses  which lasted until around 1998.


Video 1: 1994 – footage on university student protests in South Africa (SABC African language service)


Video 2: 1994 – SASCO national day of action plus for university bursary scheme (SABC, Afrikaans news)


Video 3: 1996 Cosatu general strike on Basic Conditions Bill (SABC)



About Lucien van der Walt

I teach at Rhodes University, the Eastern Cape. I’m South African, born and bred. I have long been involved in union education, and have a background in social movement and left-wing activism, the Workers’ Library and Museum, the Anti-Privatisation Forum, and the National Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU). I’ve presented or published 100s of papers conferences and workshops, published in key journals like 'Capital and Class' and 'Labor History', have co-edited 4 journal specials (these on global labour history, African labour, and unions in the Global South), and produced five books. I was Southern Africa editor for the 2009 'International Encyclopaedia of Revolution and Protest' (Blackwell). My focus has been on South Africa, but I have also done research in Zambia and Zimbabwe. I won the 2008 international 'Labor History' thesis prize, and the 2008/2009 Council for the Development of Social Science Research prize for best African dissertation, for my PhD thesis on South African anarchism, syndicalism and black militants. My books includd include 'Politics at a Distance from the State: Radical and African Perspectives' (2018, co-edited with Kirk Helliker), 'Negro e Vermelho: anarquismo, sindicalismo revolucionário e pessoas de cor na África Meridional nas décadas de 1880-1920,' and 'Anarchism and Syndicalism in the Colonial and Postcolonial World, 1880-1940: the praxis of national liberation, internationalism, and social revolution' (co-edited with Steve Hirsch, Brill, 2010/ 2014).