Linda Komape

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Biographical information


Trade unionist and women’s rights activist

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Gauteng (then Transvaal), South Africa

Linda Komape was born in Gauteng (then Transvaal) in 1949. She did not enter politics at an early stage in her life, but went through a difficult time with her husband who abused her.

After their divorce, she began work in a factory in 1975. Here she joined the Metal and Allied Workers Union, and participated in a strike in 1976. After this she was fired, and since she was recognised as a shop steward she could not find another job.

In 1977, she joined the Metal and Allied Workers Union as an organiser, but spent the first months doing odd jobs for men rather than being given proper work. She complained about this, and eventually changed the system so that menial tasks were divided.

Komape moved from organising to recruiting, and again faced problems, as men did not expect to be recruited by a woman. After two years with the Metal and Allied Workers Union, she founded and became an organiser for the Transport and General Workers Union. Here she worked to improve wages and conditions. By the time she left, membership stood at about 24 000.

From here, Komape turned to working with a union which was concerned with the interests of female cleaning staff. She found out that many were sexually harassed in their jobs and had no legal rights. Membership of the union grew to 3 000 and conditions were improved.

In 1984, Komape attended a workshop organised by the Federation of Transvaal Women (FEDTRAW) where she objected to the tradition of ‘lobola’ as she believed it objectified women.

Throughout her life, Komape fought for the rights of workers through trade unions, and for the rights of women.

• “Soweto” supplement, “The Leader”

Last updated : 08-Aug-2017

This article was produced by South African History Online on 17-Feb-2011

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