Sidumo Dlamini

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trade unionist and president of COSATU

First name: 
Last name: 
Location of birth: 
Nsthingila Hlatsikhulu, Swaziland

Lives of Courage

Sidumo “Sdumo” Dlamini was born in a rural village of Nsthingila Hlatsikhulu in Swaziland on 2 March 1966.  He moved to South Africa with his aunt at a young age. Sdumo Dlamini started schooling at the age of seven, in 1973, at Magugu Higher Primary in Ingwavuma, KwazuluNatal Province. He attended Ingwavuma High School in 1980 and finished his matriculation in 1984.

At an early age, Sdumo use to look after cattle and ploughed mealie fields using an ox plough and a hand plough.In 1984, at the age of 17 years old, Sdumo was one of the leaders of the first strike at high school challenging corporal punishment and the system of education and the abuse of the school fund and fees.  Months later, he discovered that the strike had been spearheaded by African National Congress (ANC) underground operatives.  Many of his school friends were arrested and detained for almost a year.

From 1986 to 1988, Sdumo trained as a pupil nurse. He has a diploma in general nursing and midwifery which he completed in 1988. He was a nurse at Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital in Kwazulu Natal Province. In 1990, he joined the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) after workers at Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital embarked on an illegal strike in September 1990. Later, he was elected a shop steward of NEHAWU and he led six major strikes in that organisation. He led NEHAWU at branch or regional level as chairperson and provincial level.

He became a member of the African National Congress (ANC) as well as a member of Provincial Working Committee (PWC) of the South African Communist Party (SACP) in 1990. He was a Chairperson of Congress of the South African Trade Unions (COSATU) in 2000, and he became deputy president of COSATU in 2006.  In 2009, following the decision to remove Willy Madisha as president of COSATU in terms of Clause of the COSATU constitution, the CEC unanimously elected Sidumo Dlamini as the president of COSATU.

He was Cosatu's deputy president when he was elected the president. He was only meant to hold the position of the president of Cosatu until the 10th national congress, where members would decide whether to retain him or not. He was elected unopposed at the 10th and 11th congresses.

Dlamini has been outspoken about the need to fight for the unity of Cosatu and its alliance partner, the ANC, saying that speculations are merely a distraction that he will not allow. He was quoted in the Mail and Guardian saying, “We are not working to divide or to split. Why spend time on fear? Why do you not spend time building Cosatu”. He emphasised that as a trade unionist he is not a friend of the ANC, but rather that he shares the same struggles as the ANC.

He married Gugu Dlamini, Business Executive, as well as the former Umgeni Water and Drake and Skull chief executive officer. They both have three children. 

• Sidumo Dlamini. Who’s who Southern Africa. Available at: [accessed on 12 May 2015]
• Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini. Available at: [accessed on 12 May 2015]
• Nandipha, K. (2013). Sdumo Dlamini: Do the mighty always fall? Available at: [accessed on 12 May 2015] 

Last updated : 22-May-2015

This article was produced for South African History Online on 15-May-2015