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It is with immense pride that I write the foreword to this historic book – Hlanganani Basebenzi – a brief summary of the South African working-class history. It is a beautiful and historic book, which we are publishing to commemorate COSATU’s twenty years of struggle and sacrifice from 1985 to 2005. It traces the history from the time when diamonds were first discovered in Kimberley until to today’s struggles and events.

Zwelinzima Vavi, General Secretary of COSATU

Book information

ISBN: 978-1-919855-69-1

Trim size: 293 x 210mm

Binding: paperback

Page count: 80 pages

Imagery: Full colour and black and white photographs

Cost: R100

Genre: Politics / Cultural History

Publication date: November 2005



In Durban, on 1 December 1985, a giant was born: the Congress of South African Trade Unions.

Today, our federation has become the standard-bearer for South Africa’s workers. Here, we take time to recall our history, to reassess our ideas, and to reaffirm our commitment to defend the working class.

The story of COSATU is, above all, the story of our country’s working class. It tells a long, hard story, spread over hundreds of years of colonial and capitalist oppression and exploitation. It tells a story of pain and resistance, of victory and joy.

Our working class was forged in the fires of restrictions tied to colour and race, bound by harsh lines of gender oppression, and twisted by brutal demands for profit for a few and the barest survival for most. Families and villagers were forced off their lands and into labour. Men and women planted sugar in Natal, grew grapes in the Cape, dug diamonds in Kimberley and mined gold on the Rand. They sweated on railroads and docks and over machines in factories. Some taught in schools and tended the sick in hospitals.

Our struggle today – our experiences and our beliefs, our demands, our strategies and tactics — has been nourished in this hard red soil. This accessible publication is written in layman’s language so as to give readers of all ages a solid grasp of COSATU’S history. Numerous full colour and black and white photographs complement the story.