Council of Non-European Trade Unions

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The Council of Non-European Trade Unions in South Africa was established in November 1941.[1]

Moses Kotane presided over the inaugural conference. Gana Makabeni, who had been the leader of the Coordinating Committee of African Trade Unions was elected president, and David Gosani elected secretary.

The war economy led to rapid increases of manufacturing industry, bringing large numbers of African workers into urban areas and increasing the price of food and other goods. This led to much increased industrial unrest. There were 37 registered strikes by African workers in 1941. This led to the government informally recognising African unions. After a one-day strike by the African workers organised by CNETU in December 1942 the Johannesburg City Council agreed to raise the salaries of its workers by 60%.[2]

In 1945 119 unions with 158,000 members, a majority from Johannesburg, were affiliated.[3] These unions were not recognised by the government or the employers.

Gana Makabeni opposed strike action and campaigned for government recognition of African unions. In 1945 he was replaced by J. B. Marks. [4]

In 1946 it pushed, with the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party, unsuccessfully, for the African Mine Workers' Strike to become a General Strike.

By 1950 only 53 unions were still affiliated.

After the passing of the Native Labour (Settlement of Disputes) Act, 1953 it collapsed.


  1. ^ Kiloh, Margaret; Sibeko, Archie (2000). A Fighting Union. Randburg: Ravan Press. p. 18. ISBN 0869755277.
  2. ^ "Council of Non-European trade unions (CNETU)". South African History online. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  3. ^ Lewis, Jon (November 1984). Industrialisation and Trade Union Organization in South Africa 1924-1955: The Rise and Fall of... (ebook). Cambridge University Press. p. 1. ISBN 0-521-26312-3. Retrieved 2006-07-11.
  4. ^ Kiloh, Margaret; Sibeko, Archie (2000). A Fighting Union. Randburg: Ravan Press. ISBN 0869755277.