- Department of Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand
Sakhela Buhlungu


  • Currently working on a PhD in Sociology at Wits University. Topic: "Full-time Officials and The Dilemma of Leadership: A Study of the Dynamics of Democracy and Power in the Post-1973 Trade Unions"
  • 1996 - MA, (Sociology), Wits Topic: "Trade Union Responses to Participatory management: A Case Study"
  • 1985-86 - BA Hons (African Studies), UCT
  • 1980-82BA, University of Transkei
Current and previous positions
  • 1997: Lecturer, Department of Sociology (confirmed for tenure in 1999)
  • 1996: From the beginning of 1996 appointed lecturer on a three year Development Fellowship programme in the department. In 1996 taught four courses, namely,
    a) "The Sociology of Work and Industrial Democracy", Industrial Sociology III
    b) "Work and Industrial Relations in SA", Industrial Sociology III
    c) "Researching Social Life", a research methods course for third years
    d) "Work and Industrialisation in SA", Sociology I
  • 1995: Temporary Junior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology, where I taught two courses:
    a) "The Sociology of Work", a core course in the Industrial Sociology III programme,
    b) "Work and Industrial Relations in SA", Sociology I.
  • 1994: From February 1994 I worked as a Research Officer in the Sociology of Work Unit (SWOP). Apart from my involvement in the research and public education activities of SWOP, I also did some service teaching in the Department of Mechanical Engineering (6 - 27 May 1994, 4th year, "The Engineer in Society") and in the School of Social Work (1994 - 95, MA, "Trade Unions and Industrial Relations").
  • 1992 - 1994: Writer for The Shop Steward, COSATU's shop stewards' magazine which was published by Umanyano Publications. Early in 1994 I left this job to take up a job in the Sociology of Work Unit (SWOP) at Wits University and to work in a situation which is more conducive to academic activities and to complete my MA.
  • 1987 - 1992: Education officer and later assistant general secretary, Paper, Printing Wood & Allied Workers' Union (PPWAWU), a COSATU affiliated union. I left this job because to do an MA degree at Wits.
  • 1986: Research trainee, International Labour Research and Information Group (ILRIG), University of Cape Town.
  • 1983 - 84: Teacher, Manzana High School, Engcobo, Transkei. I resigned from this job in 1984 to do a BA Hons degree at the University of Cape Town.
Areas of Academic and Research Interest
Although I have an interest in a number of areas in the broad field of Sociology, my current teaching as well as my research work fall within the area of Industrial Sociology. The courses that I teach as well as research projects which I have done or which are still in progress include:

  • Trade unions and trade union organisation
  • Trade unions and transition
  • The labour process and work organisation
  • Industrial Democracy and workplace change
  • Social Movements and Collective Action.
  • Leadership and Power in Social Movements
Other activities
In addition to the teaching and research activities and interests mentioned above I also have also participated in other activities which enable me to engage with the issues and research interests which are listed above,

  • From 1994 to the present I have been a member of the editorial board of the SA Labour Bulletin. In this capacity I have contributed articles to the journal. In 1995 I was invited to guest edit the first edition of 1996 (SALB, 20, 1).
  • Since 1996 I served served on the Governing Board of the National Labour and Economic Development Institute (NALEDI), a research institute sponsored by COSATU-affiliated trade unions.
  • In 1995 - 96 I was a member of the Presidential Labour Market Commission which investigated and recommended on strategies to restructure the South African labour market.
  • Research Associate, Sociology of Work Unit (SWOP), Sociology Dept., Wits University.
  • As part of SWOP, I have conducted a survey of all full-time employees in COSATU and its affiliated trade unions. Through this survey it is hoped that we will be able to gather information about all union employees in the federation (+- 1300). The information is primarily intended for use by the September Commission into the Future of Unions, a COSATU initiative aimed at developing strategies to revitalise the trade union movement.
  • In 1998 I worked with Professor E. Webster to prepare and present expert evidence in a court case inolving the South African Municipal Workers’ Union and some of its members in Springs. The case (and the issues it raises) form part of my PhD research.
  • Buhlungu, S. "Generational Change in Union Employment: The Organisational Implications of Staff Turnover in COSATU Unions" (forthcoming in Transformation in 1999)
  • Buhlungu, S. (1999) "Trade Union Organisation and Capacity in the 1990s: Continuities, Changes and Challenges for PPWAWU", in Adler, G. And Webster, E. (eds) Consolidating Democracy in a Liberalising World: Labour and Transition in South Africa, London: Macmillan.

  • 1998
  • Webster, E. and Buhlungu, S., (1998) "Commissions of Inquiry and Policy-making in South Africa: Between the ‘Grand Tradition’ and Democratic Corporatism", in Cruz e Silva, T.M. and Sitas, A. (eds) Gathering Voices: Perspectives on Southern African Social Science, Montreal: International Sociological Association. (pp. 89 - 95)
  • Buhlungu, S. (1998) "Constructing Consensus", (Book review, Dale McKinley (1997) The ANC and the Liberation Struggle, London: Pluto Press), South African labour Bulletin, 22, 3, 1998. (pp. 71 - 74)
  • Buhlungu, S. And E. Webster (1998) "Where There’s a Will: Interview with COSATU general secretary, Sam Shilowa", South African Labour Bulletin, 22, 1, 1998. (pp. 44 - 52)

  • 1997
  • Adler, G. And Buhlungu, S. (1997) Labour and Liberalisation in Zambia", South African Labour Bulletin, 21, 3, 1997. pp. 48 - 50.
  • Buhlungu, S. (1997) "Flogging a Dying Horse: COSATU and the Alliance", South African Labour Bulletin, 21, 1, 1997., pp. 71 - 78
  • Buhlungu, S. And van der Walt, L. (1997) "The Voice from Below: Zambian Workers Speak Out", South African Labour Bulletin, 21, 3, 1997. pp. 64 - 68.
  • Buhlungu, S. (1997) Working for the Union: A Profile of Full-time Union Officials in COSATU, Sociology of Work Unit (SWOP), Labour Studies research Report, No. 8, October 1997.

  • 1996
  • Buhlungu, S. And Gostner, K. (1996) "Driving the Alliance: Cosatu’s Springs Local", SA Labour Bulletin, 20, 1, 1996.
  • Macun, I. and Buhlungu, S. (1996) "When the Rain Comes, It Rains for Everybody: Interview with Gwede Mantashe", South African Labour Bulletin, 20, 1, 1996. (pp. 24 - 31)

  • 1995
  • Ginsburg, D., Webster, E., Southall, R., Wood, G., Buhlungu, S., et al (1995) Taking Democracy Seriously: Worker Expectations and Parliamentary Democracy in South Africa, Durban: Indicator Press.
  • Buhlungu, S. (1995) "Workplace Change for Who?", SA Labour Bulletin, 19, 6, 1995.

  • 1994
  • Bethlehem, L., Buhlungu, S., Crankshaw, O. And White, C. (1994) "Co-determination vs Co-option: PPWAWU and PG Bison Negotiate Restructuring", SA Labour Bulletin, 18, 1, 1994.
  • Buhlungu, S. (1994a) "COSATU and the Elections", SA Labour Bulletin, 18, 2, 1994.
  • Buhlungu, S. (1994b) "The Big Brain Drain: Union Officials in the 1990s", SA Labour Bulletin, 18, 3, 1994.
  • Buhlungu, S. and von Holdt, K. (1994) "Facing the Future: COSATU Defines its Role", SA Labour Bulletin, 18, 5, 1994

  • 1992
  • Buhlungu, S. (1992) "Thumping the Table: An Interview with Jayendra Naidoo", SA Labour Bulletin, 16, 5, 1992.
Papers submitted for publication/unpublished
  • Buhlungu, S., "Between Independence and Marginalisation: COSATU and the ANC Alliance".
  • Buhlungu, S. and Psoulis, C. (1999) "Enduring Solidarities: Accounting for the Continuity of Support for the Alliance Amongst COSATU Members"
  • Buhlungu, S. and Metcalfe, A. (1999) "Breaking the Racial Division of Labour in Knowledge Production: Reflections on Internship Programmes".
  • Buhlungu, S. (1997) "A Question of Power: Co-determination and Trade Union Capacity, A paper done for the NALEDI Project on Co-determination and Tripartism in South Africa, October 1997"
Conference papers
  • Buhlungu, S. "Gaining Influence But Losing Power? Labour Under Democracy and Globalisation in South Africa", A paper to be presented at the ‘Labor and Globalization in the Developing World’ speakers’ series, organised by the Labour and the Global Economy Research Circle, University of Wisconsin - Madison, 7 December 1998.
  • Buhlungu, S. "Servicing Co-determination", A paper presented at the Annual Congress of the South African Sociological Association, University of Transkei, Umtata, 6 - 10 July 1997.
  • Buhlungu, S., "Till Death Do Us Part: COSATU and the Tripartite Alliance" , A paper presented at The Third International Conference on Emerging Union Structures: Reshaping Labour Market Institutions, Australian National University, Canberra, 1 - 4 December 1997.
  • Webster, E. and Buhlungu, S., "Commissions of Inquiry and Policy-making in South Africa: Between the ‘Grand Tradition’ and Democratic Corporatism", paper presented at the Annual Congress of the South African Sociological Association, University of Transkei, Umtata, 6 - 10 July 1997.
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Centro de Estudos Sociais MacArthur Foundation
Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian