- Cyril Ramaphosa was arrested on this day in history
- This was due to staging an illegal strike
- It became the longest and most expensive strike in mining history
On this day 29 years ago, the first general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Cyril Ramaphosa, and its president, James Motlatsi, were arrested in Newcastle, Natal.
NUM was formed in 1982 and in December of that year, Ramaphosa became its first secretary. Ramaphosa was conference organiser in the preparations leading to the formations of the Congress of South African Trade Union (COSATU). He delivered a keynote address at Cosatu’s launch rally in Durban in December 1985. In March 1986 he was part of COSATU’s delegation which met the African National Congress (ANC) in Zambia.
In July 1986, after the declaration of the state of emergency, Ramaphosa went into hiding after security police swoops on the homes and offices of the political activists. He travelled to the United Kingdom and appeared with NUM president, James Motlatsi, at a conference of the British national union of mineworkers. Ramaphosa was refused a passport to travel to Britain in September 1987, but when he became the recipient of the Olaf Palme prize, was permitted to travel to Stockholm to receive it.
Ramaphosa and Motlatsi, along with 59 other union members, were arrested when they staged an 'illegal' march through the city centre during a strike, which turned out to be the longest and most expensive strike in the history of the mining industry. The strike was also costly for the NUM as the mining companies fired over 40 000 workers in order to end the strike.
Earlier that same year, in January, Ramaphosa had accompanied released ANC political prisoners to Zambia. He served as chairman of the National Reception committee, which co-ordinated arrangements for the release of Nelson Mandela and subsequent welcome rallies within South Africa, and also became a member of the international Mandela Reception committee.
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