This essay presents an analysis of recent protests in South Africa, providing historical context for the current cycle of mobilization, including the longest strike in the country’s history and the growing struggle among poor residents for free access to basic utilities. Taking the state-sanctioned massacre of striking mineworkers at Marikana in 2012 as a significant marker for this current phase of protests, the essay explores some of the subsequent political shifts, including challenges to the hegemony of the ruling political party—the African National Congress—and to the trade union in its traditional form. It argues that although experiences of collective action in the aftermath of the Marikana massacre hold the potential for a radical reconfiguration of politics in South Africa, there is also the danger that they will be unable to escape the old frameworks and sutures of the existing political landscape.

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