The Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) at Rhodes University, which includes the Neil Aggett Labour Studies Unit (NALSU), hosted its Vuyisile Mini Winter School 2015 in Grahamstown on 15-18 July 2015. Named in honour of a hero of the South African labour movement and liberation struggle, the winter school was aimed at trade union office bearers in the Eastern Cape. It created a space in which all participants could engage critically with social democratic ideas, particularly as those pertained to the linking of social policy and labour market interventions. Funded by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, approximately forty participants were accommodated on Rhodes campus for the duration of the winter school.
The programme worked through the emergence of the welfare state and social democratic ideas, the history of such ideas in the South African liberation movement, the history and practice of workers’ education, concerns about flexibility and the labour market, NALSU research on working poverty, a case study of inequality and labour in the construction sector in South Africa since apartheid, the national minimum wage debate, the parameters of social policy, the struggle for a national health service in South Africa, the proposed implementation of the NHI, the global context of workers and health policy, and a historical perspective on the South African labour movement and the national question.
The following Rhodes University staff members presented at the Winter School: Dr John Reynolds (NALSU/ISER), Prof Robert Van Niekerk (ISER), Dr Michael Rogan (NALSU/ISER), Ms Laura Alfers (ISER), Prof Gilton Klerck (Sociology), David Fryer (Economics and Economics History), Dr Nicole Ulrich (History), and Prof Lucien van der Walt (Sociology). Guest speakers included Mr Enver Motala (University of Fort Hare), Mr Eddie Cottle (Labour Research Service), and Dr Aquina Thulare (Department of Health).
Participants in the winter school engaged vigorously with the ideas presented by these speakers. Discussions occurred in relation to particular presentations and in group discussion sessions, and explored a range of perspectives.
The Vuyisile Mini Winter School was formally opened by the Vice-Chancellor of Rhodes University, Dr Sizwe Mabizela, and was honoured by a presentation by the spokesperson of the Mini family, Ms Bongiwe Mabusela, and by the presence of Vuyisile Mini’s sons, Mr Mlungwana Mini and Mr Xolile Mini. All future winter schools will carry the Vuyisile Mini name.