The most dramatic development within the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa involves the growth of the black trade union movement. This movement's history (to be addressed later) goes back a number of years and had its first limited success during World War I.
The area of labor-management relationships in South Africa, particularly the development of trade unions, is one area in which the South African government can assert that it has made concessions of substance, albeit within carefully defined constraints. These concessions do not involve what is characterized as the so-called “petty” apartheid policies. They involve, instead, new legislation enacted in a series of statutes beginning in 1979. However, the concessions were soon constrained and limited because the black trade unions were and are operating in South Africa in the context of a number of policies and laws which do not fall under the rubric of labor law, but which nevertheless have a substantial impact upon the ability of the black trade union movement to function effectively. (Indeed, it seems apparent that the government is now curtailing union activities in political and other spheres as of this writing in February 1988.)