Labour history Group (1984), “Organising at the Cape Town Docks”

This 1984 text, Organising at the Cape Town Docks, is notable for its discussion of the revolutionary syndicalist Industrial Workers of Africa in Cape Town from the late 1910s, and its links to the rise of the massive Industrial and Commercial Workers Union of Africa (ICU). The ICU was influenced by syndicalism (among other things).

Get the PDF here.

A Xhosa translation, Abasebenzi Basedokisini Ekapa, can be found here.

Organising at the Cape Town Docks was produced by the “Labour History Group” based in Cape Town. The Group issued a series of pamphlets on the history of the working class in South Africa in the early 1980s, covering the period from the 1910s into the 1970s.  The focus was on trade union history: presented in a clear, simple style, their accessibility was increased by translation from the English originals into Afrikaans, Xhosa and Zulu (with a few planned for Sotho). This was a project in historical memory: arming the wave of radical unions that surged from 1973 onward, with knowledge of its past and lessons for its future. Such publications were part of the great upsurge of popular and working class struggles from the late 1970s into the early 1990s, when a flourishing alternative media and network of radical education centres complemented and was part of mass movements.

The “Labour History Group” authors were not named although in hindsight its possible to make some shrewd guesses for specific texts. This text was probably written by anti-apartheid activist Debbie Budlender, who wrote a thesis roughly on the same issues, with the same arguments, as the pamphlet’s.


Labour History Group, 1984, “Abasebenzi Basedokisini Ekapa” (Xhosa translation of “Organising at the Cape Town Docks”)

The “Labour History Group” based in Cape Town issued a series of pamphlets on the history of the working class in South Africa — more precisely, on some notable events in trade union history. For more on this group and its context, see here.

This particular pamphlet, entitled Abasebenzi Basedokisini Ekapa is a Xhosa translation of Organising at the Cape Town Docks, which you can read here.  It is of especial interest for its discussion of the revolutionary syndicalist Industrial Workers of Africa in Cape Town from the late 1910s, and the rise of the massive Industrial and Commercial Workers Union of Africa (ICU), which was influenced by syndicalism (among other things).

Get the PDF here.




Ulrich, 2004, “Remembering and Learning from the Past: The 1976 Uprising and the African Working Class” (Zabalaza)

Nicole Ulrich, 2006, “Remembering and Learning from the Past: The 1976 Uprising and the African Working Class,” Zabalaza: A journal of southern African revolutionary anarchism, number 7, pp. 22-23. 

PDF here, text below

This year [2006] marks the 30th anniversary of the 1976 Soweto uprising in South Africa, which marked the start of the fall of apartheid, and inspired activists worldwide. African working youth played a leading role, and their sacrifices showed us that ordinary people can make a difference to the injustices of our world. Revolutionaries should commemorate this struggle, but also learn from its failings.


The 1976 uprising was sparked by the imposition of Afrikaans-language teaching in African schools, seen as an act of national oppression. But there was more at play. The 1970s saw growing inflation creating much discontent amongst urban African youth. South Africa’s economy, which boomed in the 1960s, entered crisis in the 1970s. Unemployment grew steadily, reaching levels unseen for decades.

This was fuelled by under-funded, racist and authoritarian government institutions like the local government township administrations, the Bantu Education system and the miserable conditions in the segregated township schools. Although the government and large companies such as Continue reading

A. Lerumo, 1971, “Kadalie of the ICU” – ‘African Communist’ no. 44

Reference: A. Lerumo, 1971, “Kadalie of the ICU,” African Communist number 44. 

Get the PDF here.

This piece is a lengthy, insightful review of My Life and the ICU, the posthumously published autobiography of Clements Kadalie (1896-1951). Kadalie, a Malawian immigrant and ex-school teacher, was a leading figure in the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union of Africa (ICU). Founded in 1919, the ICU spread like wildfire in southern Africa from the 1920s . Itwas at least partly influenced by revolutionary syndicalism, as well by the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA), Garveyism, Christianity and social democracy. For more on the ICU, go here, and for more on the ICU and syndicalism, start here.

“A. Lerumo” was a pseudonym for Michael Harmel (1915-1974), a leading theorist and writer for the CPSA (re-established as the underground South African Communist Party, or SACP, in 1953). The African Communist, founded in 1959 and still published, is a SACP journal for Marxist-Leninist thought.

Shawn Hattingh, 2007, “BHP Billiton and SAB: Outward Capital Movement and the International. Expansion of South African Corporate Giants”

From here

Get the PDF here

Citation details: HATTINGH, S. 2007. BHP Billiton and SAB: Outward capital movement and the international expansion of South African corporate giants. Available at: African giants.pdf [accessed 2014-02-18].        

Shawn Hattingh (ILRIG), 2007, “BHP Billiton and SAB: Outward Capital Movement and the International Expansion of South African Corporate Giants”

From the 1940s until the mid-1970s, the largest South African corporations, including the South African Breweries (SAB) and Gencor (forerunner to BHP Billiton) thrived under apartheid and its social and economic policies. Indeed, corporations such as Gencor and SAB benefited from the migrant labour system that the apartheid state strengthened and bolstered. Added to this, corporations, such as SAB and Gencor, received various tax incentives for the apartheid state, which included tax breaks for establishing operations in the apartheid homelands. This situation dramatically altered, however, with the global economic crisis that struck in the mid-1970s, which revolved around a crisis of capital over-accumulation and over-production. In this context, South African corporations began to experience problems of profitability under an increasingly ailing economy. In response, South African corporations, like their international counterparts, began expanding internationally in a bid to restore profits. By the 1980s, however, South African corporations faced various barriers such as sanctions and stringent exchange controls. Nonetheless, they implemented various mechanisms to circumvent exchange controls, including transfer pricing. In the case of SAB, they established various paper companies in the Netherlands and ceded their trademarks in South Africa to these companies. Through this, and the royalty payments they made on these trademarks, they were able to move massive amounts of capital out of South Africa to the Netherlands and, thereby, avoid exchange controls and reduce their tax rate in South Africa. Indeed, they also used this capital to expand internationally and avoid sanctions.

Nonetheless, avoiding both sanctions and exchange controls was cumbersome and South African companies began to feel disadvantaged when compared to their international competitors, who did not face political barriers. In this context, many South African corporations began favouring a political settlement in South Africa. Indeed, with a successful political settlement, South African corporations ensured that the post-apartheid state implemented neoliberal policies that would favour their international expansion. In hindsight, the South African state has served the largest South African corporations well. It was the South African state that allowed the likes of SAB and Gencor/ Biliton to restructure and ultimately shift their primary listings to the financial centre of London. With this, the post-apartheid state enabled SAB and Billiton to become massive global players. This was done even though it meant these corporations could, from that point on, freely repatriate their profits out of South Africa and that these corporation’s entities in South Africa, ceased to be South African owned.

Profiles: Bobo Makhoba, 1975-2016, ZACF founder member

Bobo Makhoba of Soweto, South Africa, was a founder member of the Zablaza Anarchist Communist Federation (later, Front), and active in the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee, largest affiliate of the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF), a coalition of post-apartheid protest movements in Gauteng. He later moved to Trostkyism.

This obituary from here.

Hamba kahle comrade Bobo Makhoba (1975-2016)

1 October 2016, by Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF)


C’de Bobo at the “Reclaim June 16” demonstration in Soweto, 2009.

The ZACF is saddened to learn of the passing away of comrade Bobo Makhoba in Soweto this Thursday 29 September, at the age of 41, after a long illness. He is survived by his son, to whom we extend our deepest sympathies and condolences – as we do to the rest of his family, friends and comrades.

Bobo was a founding member of the ZACF as well as one of the original guerilla electricians for the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee’s Operation Khanyisa campaign, which illegally reconnected thousands of households’ electricity after it was cut off for non-payment – forcing Eskom, the state electricity utility, to scrap arrears for thousands of Sowetans.

Born in KwaNongoma in KwaZulu Natal, Bobo first became involved in politics and struggle in high school, where he joined the Pan African Students Organisation.

He became involved in social movements and community struggles when he joined the SECC, soon after it was established in 2000, and later served as the organisation’s organiser and then co-ordinator.

He first came into contact with anarchism in 2002 during the mobilisations around the UN’s World Summit on Sustainable Development and soon thereafter established the Shesha Action Group (SAG). Based in Dlamini, Soweto – where Bobo lived – the SAG ran a study group and community food garden, as well as some of its members being active in the SECC and social movements, and was one of the founding collectives of the ZACF in 2003.

The SAG was unfortunately not very long-lived, its members dispersed and Bobo later moved toward Marxism and joined a small Trotskyite organisation but we maintained mutual respect and comradely relations. Although we saw less of him in later years we were always happy to run into him at demonstrations, where he would still ask to fly our red and black flags, or at Careers Centre in Soweto, where the SECC has its office.

Comrade Bobo Makhoba will be remembered as a dedicated and struggle-hardened working class militant who believed in direct action and grassroots organisation and made important contributions both to the ZACF, notably its model of township organising adopted in the early 2000s, and the struggle of the black working class in South Africa.

We find consolation in the belief that Bobo would not have wanted us to mourn his death, but rather for us to strengthen our resolve in the struggle of the exploited and oppressed majority against capitalism.

For our fallen comrades not a moment of silence – but a lifetime of struggle!

Profiles: Abel Ramarope, 1961-2005, South Africa

Abel Ramarope was a political prisoner from the nationalist Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC), who did not receive amnesty in South Africa’s transition to a parliamentary, post-apartheid state. He was in contact with the Anarchist Black Cross, a project of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation (later, Front), and ran an anarchist study circle in Pretoria.

Obituary from ZACF here.

Obituary from mainstream media here.

Profiles: Ousi Lawrence Zitha, 1969-2013, South Africa, TAAC

Ousi Lawrence Zitha came from Kliptown,Soweto. A factory worker much of his life, he lost his job in 2006, and became involved in anarchist political schools/ Red and Black Forums, and joined ZACF-linked Tokologo African Anarchist Collective (TAAC).

The following appeared as Nobuhle Dube, 2014, “Obituary of Ousi Lawrence Zitha,” Tokologo: Newsletter of the Tokologo African Anarchist Collective, number 3, p. 3. (You can get the full issue here, offsite).

Comrade Lawrence was born on 7 July 1969 in Kliptown before moving to Ceza in KwaZulu-Natal. He attended Ceza Primary and Nghunghunyone Secondary, matriculating in 1986 with exemption (excellent at that time).

He was employed by Nampak Polyfoil as a factory worker until 2006. He was an activist, and became involved with anarchism in 2011.

He passed away on 13 June 2013, suffering from chronic kidney failure. He is survived by his mother Johanna Zitha, two brothers (Jaby and Bongane Zitha) and his sister (Gladness Zitha), not forgetting his nieces and nephews.

May he rest in peace.

Interviews: ZACF Interviews Two Libertarian Socialist Activists from Zimbabwe, 2008

From here

A member of the ZACF poses the same set of questions to two activists from Zimbabwe.

The first interviewee, Biko Mutsaurwa, is an anarcho-communist from the Uhuru Network and facilitator for the Toyi Toyi Artz Kollektive in Harare.

The second interviewee is Comrade Fatso, AKA Samm Farai Monro, a cultural activist and artistic facilitator for Magamba! The Cultural Activist Network.

The interviews were conducted in Johannesburg on 21st of June, 2008 – the day before MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai announced his decision to not participate in the June 27 presidential election run-off.

Interview with Biko Mutsaurwa, anarcho-communist from the Uhuru Network and facilitator for the Toyi Toyi Artz Kollektive. Conducted in Johannesburg on 21st June 2008 by the ZACF.

ZACF: Have you heard about the regime’s alleged 3-stage election scheme (“electoral cleansing”, falsify the vote, declare a state of emergency)?

Biko: About the regimes intentions to outrightly rig the Zimbabwe electoral outcome I could say that i am convinced merely from watching the regimes reactions to the 29th March elections results that Mugabe has refused to accept that he was defeated in that election. The state media has continued to propagate the myths that there was no election winner. So I’m clear that their intention was to rig the election. With regards to how the regime is actually intent on cleansing after the elections, decimating the middle lay of activists within the Movement for Democratic Change I could say that I have second hand information, actually I got it from my mother who was forced-marched to a ZANU PF rally this Wednesday, 18th June 2008 where war veterans from the Zimbabwe Liberation War Veterans Association addressed that rally and they came to say that they were not there to campaign but they were there to inform the people that ZANU PF was not going to accept the electoral victory of MDC and also that they were going to come back to beat up the residents of Chitungwiza, where I stay with my family, primarily because Chitungwiza has been traditionally voting for the MDC.

ZACF: Can you tell us something about conditions on the ground in Zimbabwe, the extent of repression etc.. We’d like to hear about something else other than the repeated arrests of Tsvangirai & other MDC big-shots.

Biko: The arrests of senior MDC leaders comes in the wake of ZANU PF’s realisation that this time around the MDC leadership is prepared to call upon the masses of Zimbabwe to rise up and defend their vote using peoples power.The specific incident that gave rise to this awakening in terms of ZANU PF’s Continue reading

Interview: Lekhetho Mtetwa, 2013, on Soweto anarchism, Landless Peoples Movement (LPM)

A 2013 interview with Lekhetho Mtetwa of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF), focused on his work in the Landless Peoples Movement (LPM), a post-apartheid social movement. The name notwithstanding, the LPM was mainly involved in urban squatter communities, not amongst farm-dwellers and farm-workers.

Full reference details are included in the PDF.

Get the PDF here.

Interview: Lucien van der Walt, 2010, on Johannesburg anarchism, Wits 2001, NEHAWU, Anti-Privatisation Forum

Interview from the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF) archives,  created by Dale McKinley, held at the South African History Archive (SAHA), at Constitution Hill, Johannesburg. In this interview Lucien van der Walt talks about his background, the anarchist and left movement in Johannesburg in the 1990s and 2000s, and experiences in the APF, a major coalition of post-apartheid movements founded in 2000. He also draws some lessons from the APF experience.

PDF of interview here.

Full reference details for interview: Lucien van der Walt, 23 March 2010, Interview, Johannesburg. Interviewed by Dale McKinley, Johannesburg.The Anti Privatisation Forum collection, AL3290, South African History Archive (SAHA), Constitution Hill, Johannesburg.

More on SAHA, an independent archive, here.

Index to APF collection here (register online for access to all materials).