Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Direct Action Gets the Goods

There's an old saying among union organizers that "direct action gets the goods." An up-and-coming trade union in South Africa may have decided to take this statement literally, enlisting paranormal assistance to increase their membership. The country's largest established mineworkers union, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), has accused a rival union, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), of using magick to boost recruiting.

"One of the tools which is used strongly is 'muti'," NUM General Secretary Frans Baleni told journalists on Thursday night, referring to traditional medicines that can be made from a range of ingredients including animal or human body parts. Baleni said NUM's members believed that AMCU had a "very strong 'sangoma'," or witch doctor. "One of the myths is that if you don't toe the line, especially if you are a man, if you defy them you might have bedroom problems at home," he said.

Sangomas are widely respected by South Africans of all walks of life, including business leaders and politicians. Baleni later told Reuters it was an issue that was not being taken lightly because many workers believed in such things."We are taking it seriously as part of the tactics of this union as our members are telling us about the use of sangomas and muti," Baleni said.

AMCU officials said they were not using witchcraft."There is no one among us who is using muti or sangomas. It is rubbish that he is saying. We uphold Christian principles, we don't use sangomas," said AMCU General Secretary Jeff Mphahlehle.

On the one hand, it seems to me that since everyone else in Africa seems to make use of magick whenever it's convenient for them, there's no reason that trade unions should not get in on the action. On the other hand, given Africa's history of baseless witchcraft accusations, it may be that the NUM is simply trying to smear the competition in order to maintain their membership and status. I suppose we'll just have to wait and see how the story develops.

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