|Sizwe Timothy Phakathi|
Worker agency proved instrumental for workers in fighting racially repressive labour practices in colonial and apartheid mining workplace regimes. The agency of underground workers to resist the despotic management system was a boon to the formation of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in the 1980s. In reflecting on the views of the NUM rank-and-file members solicited in a South African gold mine long before the eruption of the Marikana tragedy, this article seeks to pose a question: if workers can exercise their agency to restrict or expand output at the point of production, can they use their agency to withdraw or extend their union membership? The article seeks to highlight that membership-leadership conflict within the NUM was brewing in the gold mines long before the Marikana tragedy in the Rustenburg platinum belt.