The National Union of Mineworkers start South Africa’s longest wage strike



Sunday, 9 August 1987

South Africa's longest and biggest strike was organised by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), led by Cyril Ramaphosa. At the time it was the second largest trade union in South Africa. NUM represented mainly Black mineworkers in the gold and coal mines belonging to the Chamber of Mines.

Approximately 360 000 Black miners went on strike over wage and working conditions. It lasted for three weeks costing the Chamber of Mines close on R250 million. In an attempt to break the strike, the Chamber of Mines retrenched approximately 50 000 workers.

The mineworkers' strike was violent, according to NUM; 11 people died, 500 were injured and over 400 workers were arrested.

The mineworkers' strike finally came to an after an agreement was negotiated with the Chamber of Mines outlining new working conditions and wage increases for mineworkers. Click here to read our Labour history project

• Howcroft, P. (undated). South Africa Encyclopaedia: Prehistory - 2000, unpublished papers part of SA History Online's archive.
•  Mariaan Webb, [2007], ' SA miners mark two decades since crippling 1987 strike', from Mining Weekly [Online], Available at [Accessed: 08 August 2013]

Last updated : 09-Feb-2017

This article was produced by South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011

Support South African History Online

Dear friends of SAHO

South African History Online (SAHO) needs your support.

SAHO is one of the most visited websites in South Africa with over 6 million unique users a year. Our goal is to fulfill our mandate and continue to build, and make accessible, a new people’s history of South Africa and Africa.

Please help us deliver this by contributing upwards of $1.00 a month for the next 12 months.

Make a donation here and send us a message of support.