African Mine Workers' Strike

The African Mine Workers' Strike, by mine workers of Witwatersrand started on August 12, 1946 and lasted around 1 week. The strike was attacked by police and over the week, at least 1,248 workers were wounded and at least 9 killed.

[edit] African Mine Workers' Union

In 1941 a miners' conference was called by the Transvaal Provincial Committee of the African National Congress. The conference was supported by Paramount Chief of Zululand and trade unions.[1]

It was here that the African Mine Workers' Union came into being and elected a committee under the presidency of J. B. Marks, who also became President of the Transvaal African National Congress.

At first the union was not recognised by the Chamber of Mines, but after sustained pressure for better wages and conditions, the prime minister, Field Marshal Jan Smuts, announced some piecemeal increases improvements in conditions while at the same time issuing War Measure No. 1425–banning gatherings of more than twenty people on mining property without permission.

Despite union officials being arrested in 1944 at a meeting in Witwatersrand and in Springs, a conference was held in May 1946 which decided to approach the government with demands for a ten shillings a day wage and other improvements–or to take strike action.

In August 1946 an open air conference was held in Newtown Market Square as no hall where Africans could hold meetings was big enough to accommodate those present and the decision to strike was taken.[2]

[edit] Bloody Tuesday

The police attacked the workers with batons, bayonets, and gunfire outside the mines and in the mines when forced to work.

Police brutality reached a bloody climax on a peaceful march from the East Rand to Johannesburg on Tuesday, 13 August. Police opened fire on the procession and a number of workers were killed.

This lead to the Transvaal Council of Non-European Trade Unions (CONETU) calling a general strike in Johannesburg on Wednesday, 14 August. CONETU called a meeting at Newtown Market Square the next day which was banned by the Riotous Assemblies Act. This meeting was also attacked by police with guns and bayonets.

During the week workers and leaders of the ANC, the Communist Party, the Indian and Coloured Congresses and the trade unions were arrested, tried, imprisoned, and deported.

[edit] References

  1. ^ E. Roux, Time Longer than Rope. University of Wisconsin Press, p. 335.
  2. ^ THE AFRICAN MINERS' STRIKE OF 1946 by M. P. Naicker

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