Review of: Raphael Botiveau (2018) Organise or Die: Leadership of a Special Type in South Africa's National Union of Mineworkers

Asanda Benya
2019 Global Labour Journal  
In Organise or Die, Botiveau disentangles the DNA strands of South Africa's National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). The book is divided into two parts and gives what is arguably one of the clearest accounts of the union's history. Botiveau not only looks at processes and events, but at the very core of what constitutes the NUM. He looks at union strategy, the foundations of its administration, internal politics, including its strategic bureaucratisation by its leaders, the widening gap between
more » ... ing gap between leaders and members, the courting of leaders by management and union investments. The first part unpacks and links the historical project of the founders of the NUM to the unions' current developments. It mainly deals with the top-down construction and functioning of this well-resourced, well-staffed and legal-oriented bureaucratic modern machine, the NUM. The analysis is grounded in experiences of ordinary members and moves to focus on the regional and national structures where power "over" members and resources resides. Botiveau demonstrates how the unions' development and how it groomed its leaders contributed directly to the distance from and contempt felt by workers towards their leaders and eventually to its demise. Botiveau deconstructs and critiques what he calls the "SWOP hypothesis" that has been used to understand the NUM. The Society, Work and Politics Institute (SWOP) is a research institute based at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. SWOP researchers have been at the forefront of labour and trade union studies in South Africa since the early 1970s. According to Botiveau, SWOP's hypothesis of the NUM has largely relied on what SWOP researchers have seen as a "transformation" of unions and the "paradox of victory" in post-apartheid South Africa (Buhlungu, 2010). The NUM image painted in the SWOP hypothesis, he argues, is that of a united, altruistic and democratic union, with a militant membership and responsive leadership during apartheid, and a distant and unresponsive leadership after the political transition to the post-apartheid period (pp. 13, 121). In other words, the union "transforms" to a bureaucratic structure far removed from its membership only after apartheid. The paradox of victory alluded to is in the considerable power the union has in national political structures, while some local branches are weak, crumbling and with a disgruntled membership. Botiveau argues that the analysis of the NUM in SWOP research faithfully follows this apartheid and post-apartheid logic and periodisation of South African history. The emphasis on this binary has limitations and dangers related to the notion of "paradox", he argues -the paradox of victory over apartheid, and the paradox of post-apartheid unionism that has come to pervade our labour studies vocabulary. He thus critiques what he sees as an over-subscription to an artificial chronological binary between the apartheid and post-apartheid eras. He argues that REFERENCE Buhlungu, S. (2010) A Paradox of Victory: COSATU and the Democratic Transformation in South Africa. Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press. BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE ASANDA-JONAS BENYA is a senior lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Her research concentrates on labour studies, gender and the extractive industries, and feminist and labour movements. She is currently working on a book on women in mining, which explores the construction of gendered subjectivities by female underground mineworkers. [Email: asanda.benya@uct.ac.za]
doi:10.15173/glj.v10i3.4078 fatcat:oxu6dltjnfbs7m3dnveldtptpe