On 14 October 2015, student protests began at the University of Witwatersrand in response to an announcement by the university board that there would be a 10.5% increase in tuition fees. On 15 October, students barricaded the gates of the university. Over the next two days, both student and staff members held a sit in, causing the eventual lock down of the university as the blockades obstructed lectures and activities. On 17 October, the University of Witwatersrand agreed to suspend and renegotiate the fee increases.
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 May 1980 the Town City and Divisional Council of the Greater Cape Flats and neighboring areas informed residents, largely blacks and Indians, that their rents would increase in June. Government-supported apartheid had previously forced people of color to move from Cape Town to suburbs in the Cape Flats. The announced rent increase in the Cape Flats was unaffordable to the residents of the area, who were already burdened by unemployment, low wages, and an economic recession. The increased costs would force people of color in Cape Flats even farther from their previous homes.
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.
In Durban, South Africa, black African workers constituted one of the largest groups of industrial workers in South Africa with 165,000 workers. However, the minimum wage for black African workers was set considerably lower than the Poverty Datum Line.
In 1957, the Public Utility Transport Corporation (PUTCO) in South Africa raised the bus fare from 4d to 5d for commuters in Johannesburg. This was equivalent to 2 pennies or 1 shilling (15c) more that the South Africans would need to pay a week.
However, 80 percent of Johannesburg Africans lived under the poverty line, and so the raise was far more than the Africans could afford. The black South Africans in Alexandra grew tired of the behavior and exploitation of the PUTCO and of their own meager wages.
Apartheid, the legalized segregation of blacks – and other people of color – and whites, was actively employed in South Africa. Black South Africans experienced discrimination in facilities, workplaces, educational institutions, medical care, and public services. However, organizations and individuals began rising up and demanding the end of apartheid. The African National Congress (ANC) was founded in 1912 and was the primary organization through which black South Africans began actively pursuing their rights through legal means.