COSATU mourns the death of anti-apartheid stalwart and pioneering trade unionist Ntate John Nkadimeng

The Congress of South African Trade Unions join millions of workers in South Africa to mourn the death of veteran trade unionist and revolutionary Ntate John Nkadimeng. The Federation lowers its banners for this revolutionary and we send our heartfelt condolences to his family and his friends.

Ntate Nkadimeng was a pioneering trade unionist who contributed immensely to building the trade union movement and in shaping the South African democratic dispensation. His immense contribution to the struggle for the emancipation led to him being honoured with Isitwalandwe/Seaparankwe award by the ANC in 2019 but he was also a recipient of the Elijah Bharayi Award given to him by the COSATU Eight National Congress in 2003.

He first became a Shopsteward in 1949 after joining the African Tobacco Workers’ Union. He subsequently became a full-time organiser for the Transvaal Council of Non-European Trade Unions until the Council joined the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU), which was formed in March 1955. Ntate Nkadimeng served on SACTU’s 19-person executive committee and was deployed to work full-time for the Transvaal Iron, Steel and Metal Workers’ Union.

He was arrested during the 1952 Defiance Campaign and detained for a month. He was charged with treason in the 1956 Treason Trial and banned in 1963. He left the country in 1976 and went to Swaziland where he worked for the ANC for two years.

He moved to Mozambique where he was chairman of the senior structure of the ANC in the country. He re-joined the ANC national executive committee and served as chairman of its political committee until he became general secretary of SACTU on 17 August 1983.

He continued to serve on the ANC’s political and military council. 
As SACTU’s general secretary, Nkadimeng propagated the formation of one central federation of trade unions in South Africa and called on unions to unite in the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).He was general secretary the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) in which position he contributed to the formation of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).

Ntate John Nkadimeng forms part of the cadreship of anti-apartheid activists who occupied leading positions in the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) amongst them Moses Mabhida, Mark Shope, Eric Mtshali (Stalin), Moses Kotane and Joe Molokeng. These stalwarts planted the seeds of internationalism in the Alliance and played a big part in lobbying the WFTU to rally behind the anti-apartheid struggle.

He also served the South African Communist Party as a member of its central committee, and was later appointed Ambassador to Cuba in 1995.

We will remember him as part of a ground-breaking group of trade unionists that managed to popularise the cause of trade unions at a time of great hostility and from both employers and the apartheid regime. Despite these uphill struggles and increasing hostility, he led during an era, where the trade union movement growing.

He was a big proponent of worker unity. To honour this giant of our struggle, COSATU commits itself to pledge solidarity with the struggles of other unions in defending workers at this difficult time.

To preserve his legacy, we shall develop a mass mobilisation programme geared at responding to the unfolding socioeconomic crisis involving progressive mass-based organisations in particular and progressive civil society structures in general.

Ntate John Nkadimeng never got tired of our invitations and appeals for help and remained very close to his base, the working class. We will miss his wealth of wisdom, insight, and principled counsel in times of difficulty and instability.

May his soul rest in Peace! 

Issued by COSATU

 Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)
Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794