Solidarity (South African trade union)

Solidarity (Afrikaans: Solidariteit) is a South African trade union that negotiates on behalf of its members and attempts to protect workers' rights. Although the union is often involved in issues of political interest, it does not align or formally affiliate itself with any political party. Solidarity is a trade union within the Christian tradition of unionism.

Founded22 June 1902
HeadquartersPretoria, South Africa
  • South Africa
202,283 (2024)[1]
Key people
Flip Buys (Chairperson)
Dirk Hermann (Chief Executive)
Steve Scott (president)



Its origins go back to 1902, when the Transvaal Miners' Association was founded in the mines on the Witwatersrand.[2]: 490  In 1913, it became the Mine Workers' Union, and it later became the largest affiliate of the South African Confederation of Labour (SACOL), which supported the apartheid system.[3]

In its earliest iteration, the TMA took militant stances in a series of “great industrial strikes” and, as the renamed Mine Worker’s Union, in 1922 was a major player in the “Rand Revolt,” in which it fought for preservation of jobs for white South Africans at the expense of black workers in South Africa’s gold mines.[4]

It left SACOL in 1992 to reinvent itself as a general union, MWU - Solidarity.[5]

In 1997, when the union's current general secretary, Flip Buys, was appointed, the union was in dire financial straits. The extreme right-wing views associated with the union had led to a dramatic decline in popularity and membership: it had only about 30,000 members left at that stage. In 2001, it absorbed the South African Workers' Union, the Denelunie, the Karweiersunie and the Bosbou- en Plantasiebestuursunie, and renamed itself as Solidarity.[6][3] Since the beginning of Flip Buys' term, the membership had increased to more than 130,000 by 2009.[2]: 490  The union has more than 17 offices throughout the country and a staff complement of about 300 serve the members.

Solidarity affiliated with the Confederation of South African Workers' Unions (CONSAWU) in 2006, but left again in 2011.[3] Through this affiliation Solidarity is represented at the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

Initially a multi-ethnic – though exclusively white – union, the role it and its predominantly Afrikaner constituency has played as a civil society organization has shifted over the course of the last century, a product of both economic and political tides that have washed the country.[4]



In 2013, Solidarity sued the Department of Correctional Services on behalf of one white and four coloured Correctional Services officials in the Western Cape who alleged they were denied promotions due to the department's employment equity policy.[7] Another five applicants were later added to the case.[8]

The ANC in the Western Cape called the suit an "attack on employment equity", and accused the applicants of "stirring up racial antagonism between Africans and coloureds".[9]

Additional operations


The "Solidarity Movement" originated from the trade union and includes several organisations.[10]

Solidarity Helping Hand

A Helping Hand volunteer unloads donated food in Welkom.

The Solidarity Helping Hand is a social responsibility organisation that, though started by Solidarity, is an independent entity that functions on its own, separate from the union. It does however receive financial support from the union's members. It is registered as a Section 21 company (not-for-profit). It focuses specifically on supporting communities that have limited access to state support. The two areas where the Helping Hand operates intensively is Pretoria and environs and in Cape Town. Nevertheless, the Helping Hand actively expands into many other areas. As of June 2010, there were 32 other smaller regional branches throughout the country.[11] The Helping Hand focuses on assisting destitute Afrikaans-speaking people, but not to the exclusion of individuals from other cultural groups.


An AfriForum protest in Pretoria against the destruction of a Great Trek monument in Standerton.

AfriForum, an independent initiative of Solidarity, is an organisation in South Africa linked to the Solidarity trade union.[12] It was established in 2006 to encourage the re-engagement of the Afrikaners and other minorities in the public sphere.[13] It promotes the protection of Afrikaner culture,[14] and has opposed renaming streets and affirmative action. AfriForum has attracted significant controversy because of its views, especially denial that Apartheid was a crime against humanity, albeit nonetheless immoral.[15][16][17][18]

According to AfriForum CEO, Kallie Kriel, AfriForum is a civil rights initiative to mobilise civil society and specifically minority communities, in order to take part in democratic debate. Kriel further stated that AfriForum would like to achieve balance in South Africa. "True democracy needs alternative voices in order to succeed. While we aren’t a political party, we give alternative ideas and suggestions, where applicable, to the government stance".[19] AfriForum's claim to be a civil rights organisation has been questioned in the South African media,[20][21][22][23] and South African and international media often characterize Afriforum as a white nationalist or white supremacist group.[24][25][26][27][28][29]


Some of Sol-Tech's students at the old campus in Centurion, Gauteng.

In 2007 Solidarity started an Afrikaans technical college in Centurion with 3 lecturers and 64 students.[30] According to them this was in response to the ANC government's allegedly racist policies which allegedly discriminates against White Afrikaners and their Afrikaans language,[31] and in their eyes to enable Afrikaner youth to have a future in South Africa with the right skills.[32]

Reception was mixed with ANC politician Panyaza Lesufi calling it a symbol of Solidariteit's "hatred of a democratic South Africa" and an "insult to the overwhelming majority of our people".[33] While the Sowetan said that, "the establishment an Afrikaans-medium college should be applauded as an example of a proactive community intervention to address a social need rather than wait for the government to provide".[34]

SolTech college offers young people training in technical areas like vehicle mechanics, electronics, fitting and turning.[35] The college claims that 94.7% of their students get employment offers after their studies.[30]

On 1 February 2021, the college opened their new R300 million campus for 3000 students in Pretoria.[36]

General Secretaries

1902: W. Mather[6]
1903: S. W. Fursey[6]
1904: J. Wood[6]
1907: M. Trewick[6]
1908: Tom Matthews[6]
1915: James Forrester-Brown[6]
1921: Percy Fisher[6]
1922: J. Cowan[6]
1922: E. S. Hendriksz[6]
1923: W. Price[6]
1925: M. Dunne[6]
1926: J. C. Medo[6]
1929: H. Day[6]
1930: M. J. du Plessis[6]
1931: ?
1933: Piet Harms[6]
1935: Charles Harris[6]
1940: Fred Kukkuk[6]
1941: Bertie Brodrick[6]
1948: Daan Ellis[6]
1963: Eddie Gründling[6]
1967: Arrie Paulus[6]
1987: Peet Ungerer[6]
1997: Flip Buys[6]


  1. ^ "Solidariteit â€" Jou vangnet vir werksekerheid -Solidariteit WĂŞreld". Retrieved 20 April 2022.
  2. ^ a b Pretorius, Fransjohan (2014). A History of South Africa: From the Distant Past to the Present Day. Hatfield, Pretoria: Protea Book House. ISBN 978-1-86919-908-1.
  3. ^ a b c Blackburn, Daniel (2021). Trade Unions of the World (PDF). ICTUR. Retrieved 25 March 2021.
  4. ^ a b Diamond, Jonathan (May 2010). "Solidarity: South Africa's Majority White Union Adapts to the Post-Apartheid World". SSRN. SSRN 1980341.
  5. ^ Special Report of the Director-general on the Application of the Declaration Concerning Action Against Apartheid in South Africa. International Labour Conference. 1993.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Visser, Wessel (2002). Van MWU tot Solidariteit; Geskiedenis van die Mynwerkersunie, 1902 tot 2002 (PDF). Solidariteit. ISBN 978-0-620-42142-3. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  7. ^ Raubenheimer, Graeme. "AA lawsuit underway", Eyewitness News, South Africa, 24 April 2013. Retrieved on 13 May 2013.
  8. ^ Raubenheimer, Graeme. "Solidarity takes Correctional Services to court", Eyewitness News, South Africa, 25 April 2013. Retrieved on 13 May 2013.
  9. ^ Phakathi, Bekezela. "Solidarity court bid 'stirring up racial antagonism'", BDlive, South Africa, 30 April 2013. Retrieved on 13 May 2013.
  10. ^ "Who are we".
  11. ^ Helping Hand website.[permanent dead link] Accessed on: 1 June 2010
  12. ^ "AfriForum And Solidarity's 'Parallel State'". Huffington Post South Africa. 31 January 2017.
  13. ^ Visser, Wessel P. "From MWU To Solidarity – A Trade Union Reinventing Itself" (PDF). University of Stellenbosch. p. 20. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 August 2013. Retrieved 14 January 2014.
  14. ^ "AfriForum and the rise of the new right". Thought Leader. 8 January 2014. Retrieved 14 January 2014.
  15. ^ "South African group under fire for lobbying US for white rights".
  16. ^ "Who is AfriForum CEO Kallie Kriel?". Times Live.
  17. ^ "'Apartheid was not a crime against humanity': AfriForum CEO's remark sparks outrage". Times Live.
  18. ^ "No-one can and should deny the brutality of apartheid". South Africa: Independent Online.
  19. ^ "Afrikaner aspirations: An hour with AfriForum's Kallie Kriel". 16 April 2008.
  20. ^ "Don't exaggerate, Sisulu asks AfriForum". News24. Archived from the original on 23 August 2019. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  21. ^ "AfriForum can't spot the irony in its own whiny argument". The Citizen. 17 May 2018.
  22. ^ "Apartheid not a crime against humanity – AfriForum CEO". The Sowetan.
  23. ^ "Mampara of the week: Kallie Kriel". Retrieved 7 November 2018.
  24. ^ "South African group under fire for lobbying US for white rights". Retrieved 7 November 2018.
  25. ^ Chothia, Farouk (1 September 2018). "The groups playing on the fears of a 'white genocide'". BBC News. Retrieved 7 November 2018.
  26. ^ Bort, Ryan (23 August 2018). "Trump Is Using a White Nationalist Conspiracy Theory to Inform Policy". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 7 November 2018.
  27. ^ "Trump's tweet echoing white nationalist propaganda about South African farmers, explained". Vox. Retrieved 7 November 2018.
  28. ^ Msimang, Sisonke. "South Africa's Afriforum and Trump's kiss of death". Retrieved 7 November 2018.
  29. ^ "AfriForum an incubator for white supremacy in South Africa". Independent Online.
  30. ^ a b "Nuwe Sol-Tech kampus 'n monument van hoop vir jongmense -Solidariteit WĂŞreld". Retrieved 20 April 2022.
  31. ^ "Lesufi building a political career on anti-Afrikaans agitation – FF Plus - Search results | Politicsweb". Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  32. ^ "Ons bou om te bly - OPINION | Politicsweb".
  33. ^ Staff Writer. "Why a new Afrikaans-only university is a bad idea: Lesufi". Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  34. ^ "Solidarity college project laudable". The Sowetan. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  35. ^ "Studierigtings – Sol-Tech". Retrieved 20 April 2022.
  36. ^ "Foto's: Ambagstudente betree nuwe Sol-Tech-kampus". February 2021.

Further reading

  • Visser, WP. 2002. Van MWU tot Solidariteit; Geskiedenis van die Mynwerkersunie, 1902 tot 2002. ISBN 978-0-620-42142-3
  • Visser, WP. 2006. From MWU to Solidarity; A trade union reinventing itself. South African Journal of Labour Relations, 30(2), 2006, pp. 19–41
  • Hermann, Dirk. 2007. The Naked Emperor; Why affirmative action failed. Protea Book House. ISBN 978-1-86919-143-6 (Originally published in Afrikaans as: Die Keiser is Kaal; Hoekom regstellende aksie misluk het. ISBN 978-1-86919-142-9)