Dissertation Abstracts

Reproducing Order and Disorder: Explaining Variations in Strike Violence. A Case Study of Impala Platinum, Rustenburg (1968-2012)

Author: Chinguno, Crispen , crispenchinguno@gmail.com
Department: Sociology
University: University of the Witwatesrand, South Africa
Supervisor: Professors Karl Von Holdt and Jackie Cock
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Strike violence , Strike action , Order and disorder , Solidarity
Areas of Research: Labor Movements , Economy and Society , Armed Forces and Conflict Resolution


Strike actions in South Africa, during apartheid and post apartheid, were and continue to be characterized by different forms of violence. Strike violence during apartheid was an integral part of worker and the broader community strategy for the struggle for democracy. This strategy was expected to lose salience following the democratic transition in 1994. It has however, remained an important phenomenon after the democratic transition. This study explains and analyses the variations of strike violence in different regimes. It presents the shift over time and the underlying dynamics and meanings from three historical regimes: the apartheid, the transition, and the post transition democracy. During the apartheid regime strike violence was integral to black repression and racial discrimination and partly a result of lack of institutionalization of industrial conflict for black workers. In the transition period, strike violence was explained by the articulation of the shop floor struggles to the broader national political struggle for democracy. After the democratic transition, strike violence remains salient and is related to inter and intra-group contestations over the bureaucratization, collaboration, and co-option by the state, capital and labour. The study makes a number of propositions on how we should understand strike violence after the democratic transition in South Africa. It argues that strike violence relates to the contestation of different forms of orders and solidarities in a given regime. In addition, it may also be a means of challenging what may be perceived as hegemonic and exploitative power structures and orders and to forge collective solidarity to overcome fragmentation. However, the relationship between strike violence and collective worker solidarity is dialectical. On the one hand, strike violence may be a reflection of the dearth of collective solidarity and retrogression. On the other, strike violence may be a means of forging solidarity. This study draws from workplace ethnography of Impala platinum in Rustenburg (1968-2012) and identifies a number of strike actions in the three phases and draws an in-depth analysis. The analysis relies on a triangulation of in-depth interviews, archival research and participant observation through a lived experience of the 2012 platinum belt strike wave which culminated into the Marikana massacre.