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Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Pedro Mzileni is Lecturer and PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Nelson Mandela University
Local soccer clubs as underground trade union movements in Zwelitsha, Eastern Cape: 1970-1990
Zwelitsha, a township near King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape was an instrumental organ in the fight against apartheid in South Africa. The banning of liberation movements and arrest of political leaders in the 1960s banished all black political activity in South Africa underground. The people of Zwelitsha found local soccer clubs as available options to organise, agitate, and educate for liberation consciousness. Zwelitsha as a township was also an industrial site that housed factory workers labouring in the neighbouring Da Gama clothing plant – a British firm built in the former Bantustan of Ciskei by the apartheid government. This factory and Zwelitsha in the 1970s and 1980s became sites of struggle for the labour movement. Workers played soccer during their leisure time near the Da Gama factory that they worked for and this also extended them organising politically as a community in the overall fight for liberation. Therefore, sport generally and local soccer clubs particularly became counterspaces of political consciousness for the people of Zwelitsha. Oral histories are utilised in this study as research method, where a collection of 15 interviews with men and women who lived through that period is transcribed and interpreted by the researcher. This is an important contribution to the developing archiving and histography of the South African struggle for liberation with local black township experiences and its sociopolitical relationship sport being central to such memoirs.