“Two hundred thousand subterranean heroes who, by day and by night, for a mere pittance lay down their lives to the familiar ‘fall of rock’ and who, at deep levels, ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 feet in the bowels of the earth, sacrifice their lungs to the rock dust which develops miners’ phthisis and pneumonia.” – Sol Plaatjie, first Secretary of the African National Congress, describing the lives of black miners in 1914.
International Labour Day is also known as the International Worker’s Day and May Day which is celebrated on an international level to promote and encourage the international labour associations.
It has also been declared as the national holiday in almost 80 countries of the world in celebrating the great achievements and sacrifices of the workers working in various fields.
The theme of International Labour Day of 2016 is “Celebrating the international labour movement”.
“In South Africa the history of working people, and particularly Black workers, to organise is inextricably tied to the struggle against racism and national liberation. The roots of Trade Unionism and Socialism can be traced back to the vast influx of majority White workers who came to Southern Africa from across the globe in the search of fortunes and work in the wake of the discovery of diamonds and later gold.
The story of labour is also the story of forced labour. A vast number of people were forced through intimidation, taxes, colonial and capitalist expansion to become wage labourers in White owned mines, industries and agriculture. It is also the story of the descendents of slaves, indentured labourers from Asia and the poor and prosecuted minorities of Europe, arriving in Southern Africa and joining Black working people in the fight for the right to a decent wage, equality, fraternity and freedom.
Labour struggles still continue today with the organised working class and the poor continuing to struggle to overcome the massive inequalities, unemployment and the economic, political and social legacies of apartheid”.