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The Spirit of Marikana: The Rise of Insurgent Unionism in South Africa

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Spirit of Marikana

A book launch was held for Luke Sinwell and Siphiwe Mbatha’s "The Spirit of Marikana: The Rise of Insurgent Unionism in South Africa" on 23rd August 2017, in partnership with Wits University Press as part of the Labour Studies Seminar Series. The series is jointly co-ordinated by the Neil Aggett Labour Studies Unit (NALSU) and the Departments of Sociology, History, and Economics and Economic History.


Luke Sinwell, a Senior Researcher at the University of Johannesburg, spends a significant amount of time writing about grassroots militants, but believes that he is at his best while standing by their side in a common struggle for social and economic justice. He is co-author of "Marikana: A View from the Mountain and a Case to Answer," co-editor of "Contesting Transformation: Popular Resistance in Twenty-First-Century South Africa" and the author of numerous articles on participatory democracy and contentious politics in South Africa.

Siphiwe Mbatha is a coordinator of the Thembelihle Crisis Committee (TCC), a socialist civic organisation that fights for free basic services for all. Siphiwe Mbatha is a co-ordinator of the Thembelihle Crisis Committee  (TCC), a socialist civic organisation in South Africa which fights for basic services for all. He first visited Marikana the day after the massacre to provide solidarity to the striking mineworkers He is also a part-time researcher at the University of Johannesburg and Wits University and co-author) of "The Spirit of Marikana: The Rise of Insurgent Trade Unionism in South Africa" (Wits University Press/ Pluto Press, 2016).


On August 16, 2012, thirty-four black South African and immigrant mineworkers were shot by police working under the auspices of the African National Congress (ANC)-led government in what has become known as the Marikana massacre. An attempt to stop the rise of independent working-class power, the incident is now seen as a major turning point in the history of South Africa and its politics.

"The Spirit of Marikana" is the story of working class rebellion and working class power that shook the mines and withstood the massacre. It tells the story of worker activists and leaders at the world's three largest platinum mining companies, who survived ongoing state-sponsored campaigns of violence, intimidation, torture, and murder to push forward a worker's rights agenda and begin the hard work of transforming their workplaces and their nation. A close-up ethnographic account, the book brings the seemingly ordinary people behind the movement to life through vivid interviews and oral histories. From initial meetings to workers' committees to the mass strikes of 2012 and 2014, this is their story.