‘AMCU by day, workers’ committee by night’: Insurgent Trade Unionism at Anglo Platinum (Amplats) mine, 2012–2014

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17 Citations (Scopus)


This article investigates the relationship between the workers’ committee, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) at Amplats between 2012 and 2014. Drawing from in-depth interviews with worker leaders, it explores the contestation over representation and recognition in the platinum mines during a time when workers waged historic strikes putting forward radical demands for pay increases. There has been a rocky transition (one that is incomplete) from the values and culture of the workers’ committee at Amplats to that of the union – AMCU. Gouldner's critique of Michels’ classic ‘Iron Law of Oligarchy’ provides a useful starting point from which to understand this transition as well as the contemporary mineworkers’ movement in South Africa more generally. Gouldner suggested that Michels ignored democratic impulses thereby putting forth a model which was monolithic and static rather than socially constructed and contextually specific. The article advances the concept of Insurgent Trade Unionism in order to argue that when the rank and file takes on an insurgent character, the trade union's bureaucratic or official power (at the national, regional and branch level) becomes marginal, but only relatively so in this case, as the events reveal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)591-605
Number of pages15
JournalReview of African Political Economy
Issue number146
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2015


  • Anglo Platinum
  • Insurgent Trade Unionism
  • Marikana
  • Rustenburg platinum belt
  • unprotected strikes
  • workers’ committees

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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