Regional solidarity and a new regional movement in post-apartheid southern Africa: retail workers in Mozambique and Zambia: labour, capital and society
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South African multinationals in Southern Africa are opening new possibilities for regional trade unionism. With South Africa's democratization in the 1990s, pent-up capital in South Africa expanded northwards into Southern Africa and beyond. Their impact has been significant. While governments have welcomed foreign investment, workers have welcomed their new workplaces with a mixture of optimism and resistance. South African multinationals are agents of a new kind of regionalism that has opened up new possibilities for workers and their trade unions in Southern Africa. This article shows these firms are unleashing a regional geographic imaginary that entails a set of 'regional claims' to the South African company. The ability to translate these 'regional claims' into regional trade union solidarity, however, is limited by the uneven development of trade unions in the region. Drawing on the case study of workers at Shoprite, a South African retail multinational, in Zambia and Mozambique, this article shows that South Africa is a central reference point and regional standard-bearer for workers at these firms. While workers at Shoprite in Mozambique have been unable to mount a successful strike against the company, workers in Zambia have organized militant national strikes, regenerating their trade union leadership in the retail sector. The stronger South African trade union movement, on the other hand, has had little resources to harness this new regional political opportunity into a combined challenge to South African capital at the regional level given its defensive national stance.