The Second Neil Aggett Labour Studies Lecture was delivered by Prof Edward Webster on 21 September 2015 at Rhodes University. The lecture was attended by staff and students from Rhodes University, visiting academics, members of the broader Grahamstown public, and staff and pupils of Kingswood College, which is the school from which Dr Neil Aggett matriculated.
Prof Webster, who is the out-going Director of the Chris Hani Institute, a Professor Emeritus at the University of the Witwatersrand, and a Visiting Professor in the Institute of Social and Economic Research at Rhodes University, addressed the following topic: The death of Neil Aggett: unions and politics, then and now. He gave an overview of the history of the trade union movement from the early 1970s, leading up to the birth of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and beyond. He reflected on the Marikana massacre and the events following that, including the expulsions of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and the COSATU General Secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, from COSATU. Prof Webster explored what these events might mean for labour organisation and South African politics, including the question of political representation of workers’ interests.
Prof Webster is generally regarded as the father of modern South African labour studies. An outstanding example of an engaged intellectual, Prof Webster has shaped not only the academic discipline of Sociology, but has actively contributed to the building of the South African trade union movement. His lecture stimulated active discussion on some of the key political issues of our time.
A copy of Prof Webster’s Second Annual Neil Aggett Labour Studies Lecture can be downloaded here. An article based on his lecture can be found at https://theconversation.com/why-south-africa-is-primed-for-fundamental-political-realignment-47234.