COSATU'S Contested Legacy

South African Trade Unions in the Second Decade of Democracy


COSATU's Contested Legacy provides a fresh and up-to-date analysis of trade unionism in contemporary South Africa by focusing on the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the largest and most powerful federation. Drawing on quantitative data from four time series surveys of union members over a period of sixteen years, the authors present rigorous and authoritative analyses that shed light on the dilemmas and opportunities facing trade unionism today. The volume shows how various sections of the trade union movement grapple with these dilemmas and contest with one another to chart a future trajectory for trade unionism.

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Biographical Note

Sakhela Buhlungu, PhD (2002), University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, is Professor of Sociology at the University of Pretoria. He has published extensively on labour, including A Paradox of Victory: COSATU and the democratic transformation in South Africa (UKZN Press, 2010).

Malehoko Tshoaedi, PhD (2008), University of Leiden, is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of South Africa. She has published widely on women and trade unions. Her recent publication is (En)gendering the Transition in South Africa: the Role of COSATU Women Activists, Transformation (2012).

Table of contents


List of tables
List of figures
Abbreviations and acronyms

1 A contested legacy: organisational and political challenges facing COSATU
Sakhela Buhlungu and Malehoko Tshoaedi

2 The experience of conducting a longitudinal study: the COSATU Workers’ Survey, 2008
Christine Bischoff and Malehoko Tshoaedi

3 COSATU, oligarchy and the consolidation of democracy in an African context
Johann Maree

4 Making sense of unionised workers’ political attitudes: the (un)representation of women’s voices in COSATU
Malehoko Tshoaedi

5 The sociology of upward social mobility among COSATU shop stewards
Themba Masondo

6 COSATU, the ‘2010 Class Project’ and the contest for ‘the soul’ of the ANC
Ari Sitas

7 ‘What would you do if the government fails to deliver?’: COSATU members’ attitudes towards service delivery
Sarah Mosoetsa

8 COSATU’s influence on policy-making in post-apartheid South Africa: fact and fiction
Grace Khunou

9 COSATU members and strike violence: what we learn from quantitative and qualitative data
Karl von Holdt

10 COSATU and internal migrant workers: old fault lines, new dilemmas
Nomkhosi Xulu

11 COSATU’s attitudes and policies towards external migrants
Mondli Hlatshwayo

12 The trade union movement and the Tripartite Alliance: a tangled history
Sakhela Buhlungu and Stephen Ellis

Taking democracy seriously: COSATU Worker’s Survey data set 1994, 1998, 2004 and 2008


All interested in trade unionism, South African transition, unions and politics, strike violence, gender relations in unions and the challenges facing unions in developing countries in a globalising world.