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By Tom Lodge

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Even those miners who had access to some land were finding that the period between contracts during which they could afford to work on it was becoming shorter and shorter. In 1941, on the initiative of two communists within the ANC leadership, Gaur Radebe and Edwin Mofutsanyana, a conference was held under Congress auspices to discuss the formation of a mineworkers' trade union. Amongst those present at the conference was James Majoro, a representative of the Native Mine Clerks' Association. The mine clerks, though not subject to the same restrictions and hardships as surface and underground workers, had by virtue of their employment within the mining industry been excluded from the cost of living allowance and this motivated them to affiliate to the new African Mineworkers' Union (AMU).

Its memorandum to this effect to the Chamber evoked no other response than a printed postcard stating that the resolution was 'receiving attention'. In May, in the wake of wildcat stoppages in support of the minimum wage demand, a meeting held on 19 April, attended by 2 000 BLACK POLITICS IN SOUTH AFRICA SINCE 1943 mineworkers, voted in favour of a general strike if their demands were not met. Subsequently an organising committee was formed by union officials and the Johannesburg district committee of the Communist Party.

But the months following the December conference allowed little time for careful planning. In 1950 the government began its first major offensive against organised African opposition. , by the promotion of disturbance or disorder, by unlawful acts' or 'encouragement of feelings of hostility between the European and non-European races of the Union'. ' The Communist Party's leaders were already affected by banning orders on J. B. Marks, Moses Kotane and Yusuf Dadoo. It was announced at a 'defend free speech convention' held in Johannesburg on 26 March and presided over by Dr Moroka that May Day would be marked by a stay-away from work in protest against the restrictions and low wages.

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