04 December 2010
The rise of a giant: 25 years of COSATU
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) emerged out of the turbulent political landscape that followed the Durban Strikes of 1973. These strikes marked the rebirth of the tradition of militant trade unionism that dated back to the Industrial and Commercial Union (ICU) of the 1920s. According to trade union leader Zwelinzima Vavi, COSATU received a "baptism of fire" through its emergence within the context of a state of emergency.
The South African History Archive (SAHA) salutes COSATU as it celebrates a quarter century of sustained lobbying for workers against exploitative capitalism, the apartheid regime, and especially its ability to adjust and remain relevant. COSATU has committed to improving the material conditions of its members, to further implement its vision of non-racialism by extending its ranks to all workers. According to Vavi, the movement was
"always guided by a vision of a union movement committed not only to defending its members but to social transformation, in South Africa and internationally."
SAHA and trade unions
Reflecting its support and commitment to the struggles of workers, SAHA has a number of collections either containing materials created or collected by particular trade unions, or images of various trade union activities, particularly from the 1980s. The inventories of these collections may be accessed on the site by registered SAHA website users.
In addition, the Original SAHA Collection (AL2457) contains a substantial selection of documents relating to trade union federations, including FOSATU and COSATU, as well as materials from over 60 trade unions. The SAHA Poster Collection (AL2446) includes a number of COSATU posters from the 1980s and early 1990s.
Visit SAHA's trade union collections.
Learn more about the Congress of South African Trade Unions.