« Zairian, who is your Father? » : Trade unionism and multiple kinships in the Zairian Copperbelt, 1970-1980

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Abstract

This article studies the role played by Zaire’s sole trade union UNTZa (Union nationale des travailleurs du Zaïre) in transmitting the grievances of Zairean mineworkers to the party-state MPR (Mouvement populaire de la révolution) and the nationalized mining monopoly Gécamines in the 1970s. Although the Zairian “in-tegral state” aimed to nip in the bud any possibility of dissent, the crucial role played by the mining industry in the national economy allowed its workers to make their demands at least partially heard. This research, based on Gécamines’ “informal” archives and interviews with former trade unionists, offers a new take on the negotiation spaces allowed by the repressive Zairian system. Discussions on the Africanisation of managers, privileged access to employment for workers’ children, the distribution of rations and the extension of the medical coverage shed light on how trade unionists mobilized the polysemic notion of “family” to put their demands forward.
Original languageFrench
Number of pages15
JournalRevue d'Histoire Contemporaine de l'Afrique
VolumeFévrier
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2022

Keywords

  • Trade Unions
  • Zaire
  • Family history
  • Mines

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