Union Songs

Union Songs in South Africa

an article by Thobile Maso (December 2003)

Basebenzi hlanganani – Workers Unite.

Yeyanina lentshutshiso kubasebenzi bomhlaba?
What is this repression against the workers of the world?

Sayibamba sayidudula imikhuba yabaqeshi
We shall hold and push away the employers' horrible deeds

Basebenzi hlanganani ngemikhuba yabamqeshi
Workers unite against the horrible deeds of employers

The above song is like a church song but has got a strong message, which we used in recruiting the Post & Telecommunication workers in 1986 when we were forming the union, which was called Post & Telecommunication Workers Association (POTWA). Most of the workers were churchgoers and it was strategic to use church "hymns" but we put in lyrics, which, have aworking class message. Everybody would very soon follow the beat and quickly grasped the lyrics.

Masi qonde phambili – Lets look forward

Nkqo sithi nkqo singa basebenzi thina balaphe Africa
We are knocking, hallow, we are workers of Africa

Phakamani basebenzi siqonde phambili
Wake up workers let us look forward

Manyanani basebenzi siqonde phambili
Unite workers and look forward

Zeni yilw' intlupheko niqonde phambili
Fight the poverty and look forward

The above song was always used when there are differences and encouraging workers to be united and at that time in early 1980s, the apartheid regime was both using the tactics of persuasion and brutal repression trying to confuse the working class in general particularly the workers. This song was also reminding the workers of South Africa that they belong in Africa and they are African workers

Zingqi – Footsteps

Zingqi zabasenzi ziqine njengo Khongolozi
Footsteps of the workers are strong as ANC (African National Congress)

Zingqi zabasebenzi ziqine njenga Makomanisi
Footsteps of the workers are strong as Communists (SACP)

Zingqi zabasebenzi ziqine njengo COSATU
Footsteps of the workers are strong as COSATU (Workers' Federation)

Yini – Socialism – What is Socialism

Umhlaba wonk' ezandleni zabantu
The whole land be in the hands of people

Akukho muntu onomhlaba yedwa
No one alone has monopoly of land

Ayesaba ama Bujwa nooNgxowa
The bourgeoisie and Capitalists are running

Xa befuna ukusetyenzelwa ngabantu
For solely intention of exploiting the people

This song is recently composed, it means that the mission of the working class is to see the land and its resources being in the hands of the people, not among individuals monopolizing it and living people with small useless pieces of dry unfertile lands. When Trade Unions, fight for increases, better benefits and working conditions, it is the usual habit of the Bourgeoisies and Capitalists to run away to look for cheap labour for higher profits by exploiting workers in other countries particularly the poor ones.

Sisebenza nzima – We work hard

Sisebenz’ emgodini kanzima sisebenzela imal’ encinci
We work hard in the Mine, we work for slavery wage

Sisebenza kwmaMaspala kanzima sisebenzeli mal’ encinci
We word in municipality, we work for slavery wage

The strike song

Ilizwe lelethu basebenzi masimanyane
This country is ours, workers we must unite

Solimetyeni kudala sisebenz’ ababhulu mahala,
basebenzi masimanyane

We shall plough on the rock we have been working for white farmers for free,
Workers we must unite

Amandla nga wethu yebasebenzi, basebenzi masimanyane
The power is our workers, workers we must unite

The song was mostly sung in early 1980s and it's still being sung in Union Congresses, calling the workers to unite during the strike and also it was in a way educating workers about how the exploitation was constructed by the employers and white farmers, bringing forward the message and the plight of the workers working long hours and making huge production for free and at the end they get a slavery wage in their own country and knowing well that most of the white employers are not indigenous people of this country, they are here to steal the wealth that has been generated by the sweat and the blood of the workers.


Many thanks to Thobile Maso for permission to add this article to the Union Songs collection
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