The National Union of Mineworkers was founded in 1982. Its birth was facilitated by comrades Cyril Ramaphosa who rose to be its first General Secretary , James Motlatsi who turned to be its first President , and Elijah Barayi who became its Vice President and later the President of COSATU in 1985 when the federation was formed .
It has 11 regions namely Carletonville, Eastern Cape, Free State, Highveld, Kwazulu-Natal, Kimberley, Matlosana, North East, PWV, Rustenburg, Western Cape and has a dedicated office and staff complement in all these regions to ensure access of its services to members across the country and across the sectors.
The history of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is a history of class struggle. This struggle is embedded in the inherent contradictions that exist between capital and labour. For their own survival and dignity, the workers learned through history that unity was strength hence the logic of forming trade unions at the workplace.This alone has cemented the spirit of coming together, but more so the believe of victory through solidarity.
The success of this solidarity in the mining industry made NUM grow and its fighting spirit to permeate into both energy and construction sectors. Thus, this giant ever-growing institution of the workers represents 312 000 members in 2012 across the three sectors.
NUM's strength is ensuring that its members are protected from health and safety hazards and where there is negligence the company must adequately effect compensation.It has also succeeded in its struggle to transform hostels into decent family units and single accommodation units as opposed to the crowded compounds that deprived workers privacy.
It continues to effectively drive and monitor the training and skills development of its members.It also conducts its own training and educational programmes for shop stewards and members at its institute called the Elijah Barayi Memorial Training College. All leaders are taken through this college for political education and deepening of their class consciousness which is important in enhancing class solidarity at the shop floor, beyond the borders and overseas.
NUM has also linked its class struggle with the struggle for non-racialism hence it supports affirmative action to empower black people into positions of authority in mining, energy, and construction. It also supports gender equity as an antithesis to the historical legacy of suppression of women in the three sectors abovementioned. So the NUM believes that its class struggle should also resolve the national questions of gender domination and racial inequality.Hence, it also supports women empowerment and employment in mining, construction, and energy.
It is within this context NUM supports and relevance of the Tripartite Alliance constituted by the ANC, SACP, and COSATU. It also believes that its successes at the shop floor can be enhanced by supporting a correct political party in power which is the ANC as the leader of the alliance and the governing party in South Africa.The alliance is a unique model and appropriate to advance the National Democratic Revolution a programme intended to entrench a free non-sexist, non-racial and prosperous society that respects worker rights.In this context, NUM believes that decent work is a possibility.In making sure that this is realizable the union continues to support strategic initiatives that seek to ban labour brokers in the three sectors already mentioned.
NUM was the first union to adopt the Freedom Charter and also adopted Comrade Nelson Mandela as its honorary lifetime President. Through these gestures, it cemented the relations between worker aspirations and the national liberation project.It defined its struggle at the shop floor with the broader aspirations of progressive freedom-loving South Africans.This maturity was later to be transmitted into COSATU which signaled a death knell to workerist tendencies within the federation at its inception.
The Union regards itself as a leadership grooming institution hence it has always been willing to avail its graduates to assume important roles within the alliance structures e.g. Cyril Ramaphosa who became ANC Secretary General 1995 and currently the Deputy President of the ANC, Kgalema Motlanthe who became ANC Secretary General 1997-2007 and who became Deputy President of South Africa 2009, and the current incumbent Secretary General of the ANC Gwede Mantashe, to mention but a few.