Marikana platinum mine, near Rustenburg, South Africa, employed thousands of workers, composed mostly of migrants working for low wages. Lonmin, a British mining company, owned Marikana. The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) represented most of the workers at Marikana. NUM was one of the two largest unions in the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), an extremely powerful organization and a major player in South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC).
In 1960 South Africa was under the rule of the National Party, which was imposing harsh, demeaning laws on black South Africans. The party was made up entirely of white people, mostly the descendants of Dutch immigrants. The party was devoted to apartheid and white supremacy, maintained through a collection of policies, including the pass laws.
In 1941 the pay disparity between black South African mine workers and white South African workers was R70 to R848, respectively. The African Mine Workers’ Union (AMWU) formed in response to address this issue. By 1946 the 12:1 ratio of pay had not changed, as black workers were paid R87 while white workers were paid R1,106.
Before the start of the 20th century, there were about 62,000 Indians living in South Africa, including the British colonies of Natal and the Cape, and the Boer republics of Transvaal and the Orange Free State (OFS). Most Indians were indentured laborers or newly freed laborers.
The Defiance of Unjust Laws Campaign was developed by the African National Congress (ANC) to combat apartheid. More specifically, the campaign used large-scale national noncooperation to target laws enacted by the South African government that the ANC deemed unjust. The campaign began on June 26, 1952, as groups throughout South Africa executed various acts of defiance in main cities. The ANC and the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) united Africans and Indians alike to take on apartheid.