The Union, The Nation, and the Talking Crow: The ideology and tactics of the Independent ICU in East London

Beinart, William
Bundy, Colin
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In January 1930 a meeting was held at Headman Koliwe's location in Kentani district, Transkei. It was addressed by Elias Mabodla (or Agitator No. 53 as he was identified in a police report) who had come "to preach ICU amongst you people". He recounted how nine trade union leaders had been arrested in East London where they had called a strike. Their plight evoked strong sympathy in Kentani, especially as one of those arrested was a local man, Dorrington Mqayi. Headman Nkonki summed up the mood of the meeting: "It is for us to see into this matter as our blood is amongst those people in the gaol at East London." Fifty years later, during our research on rural popular movements we encountered Mqayi in his identity as an ICU "agitator" in Kentani. We then retraced his footsteps. In an archival echo of his journeys between the Transkei and the harbour city, we moved from the boxes holding the records of the Kentani magistracy to those of the East London Town Clerk. We had no way of knowing whether Mqayi would resurface in the East London documents, but began our search for him in speculative optimism. We did meet Mqayi again - but not him alone. Mqayi in East London was not the leading actor that he might have been on the smaller stage of Kentani; rather, he had a modest speaking part in a vibrant urban drama - a drama recorded in the vivid and detailed police records* of ICU activity in the Town Clerk's files.
African Studies Seminar series. Paper presented March,1985
I.C.U. (South Africa) , East London (South Africa) , Labor unions, Black. South Africa. Political activity , Labor unions. South Africa , Political activists. South Africa