One of SA’s oldest trade unions, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), is in its death throes. Current and former leaders have sounded the death knell for the 36-year-old formation, which was the first to organise exploited black workers in SA’s mining industry during the apartheid era. The organisation has lost its relevance among mineworkers, construction and energy sector employees, and with membership having dwindled from more than 300,000 in 2011 to 187,000 last year, the NUM must adapt or die. Its influence in political circles has also waned; it is now only a shadow of the union that was a leading voice in the ANC-led alliance and played a key role in the formation of Cosatu in 1985. Without the numbers it boasted in the past as the country’s biggest union, the NUM has become a spectator within Cosatu, with insiders saying its most significant contribution is the "payment of subscriptions". One need not look far for evidence of how this once mighty movement is grasping at ...

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