William Mothipa (Willie) Madisha

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Biographical information


William Mothipa (Willie)


Teacher, Chairperson of the Northern Transvaal Teachers' Union, member of the UDF and the ANC, branch secretary of the South African Communist Party, President of SADTU, President of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, Member of the Congress of

First name: 
William Mothipa (Willie)
Last name: 

Willie Madisha grew up in the Atteridgeville Township of Pretoria. He completed his high school education in Attridgeville and then studied to become a teacher at the Transvaal College of Education in Soshanguve, Pretoria North. Madisha moved to the Northern Province district of Zebediela after battling (without success) to find a job in the Pretoria area. Madisha became the chairperson of the Northern Transvaal Teachers' Union in Zebediela, Limpopo.

In Attridgeville, he participated in the activities of the United Democratic Front (UDF). After the unbanning of the African National Congress (ANC), Madisha became the first chair of the ANC in the Zebediela area. He served as the Lebowakgomo branch secretary of the South African Communist Party (SACP) between 1992 and 1993. Between 1993 and 1996, he served as a member of the Provincial Executive Committee of the SACP in the Northern Province.

He joined the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU), at its formation, and was elected SADTU Deputy President in 1995, rising to the position of President in 1996.  At a Special Congress, Madisha was elected President of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) in 1999. Madisha fell out of favour with COSATU in 2007, when he supported thenPresident Thabo Mbeki in the ANC's leadership race in 2007 over the federation's preferred candidate.

In 2008, COSATU removed Madisha as President of the organisation. He was found guilty of unprofessional conduct and misconduct for talking to the media about an alleged R500 000 donation to the SACP Secretary General, Blade Nzimande, and for disobeying a SADTU and COSATU resolution to support Jacob Zuma's candidacy for the ANC presidency. The SACP also expelled him from the organisation over the same allegations.

Madisha then went on to join the Congress of the People (COPE), which was formed in 2008 in Johannesburg by breakaway ANC members dissatisfied with that organisation's decision to "recall" President Mbeki in September 2008 and replace him with Kgalema Motlanthe.

In March 2009, Madisha announced that a new trade union movement was to be launched. In an obvious reference to COSATU, he said that the need for an independent labour movement was necessary since a politically aligned union or federation failed to address the needs of workers across industries, both in the private and public sectors. Madisha called on all workers to join "this new centre of labour".

Madisha became embroiled in controversy, in September 2010, when a COPE member laid a formal complaint with the party, accusing Madisha, “of indecently and intentionally" violating her sexually during a party meeting on in Johannesburg. Madisha was suspended from the party, but COPE’s disciplinary committee acquitted him on charges of sexual harassment in 2010.

• ACTU, (2003) Biographies of Guests Willie Madisha [online] Available at  www.actu.org.au . Accessed on 28 November 2011
•  Mail & Guardian, (2008)  Madisha removed as Sadtu president from the Mail & Guardian,[online] Available at www.mg.co.za.  Accessed on 28 November 2011
• Prince C. (2010). COPE women tell Lekota to think again on sex charges from TimesLive [online] Available at www.timeslive.co.za. Accessed on 29 November 2011
• Mahlangu D. and Ncana N. (2010), Madisha intentionally touched my private parts from Times Live [online] Available at www.timeslive.co.za. Accessed on 30 November 2011
• Mail & Guardian, (2009),  Madisha announces new trade union launch  from Mail & Guardian,  [online],  Available at www.mg.co.za. Accessed on 30 November 2011

Last updated : 01-Nov-2012

This article was produced for South African History Online on 06-Dec-2011