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


Date: 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