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John Mtholeni Zikhali (Posthumous)

The Order of Luthuli in

John Mtholeni Zikhali (Posthumous) Awarded for:
His excellent contribution to fighting for justice, challenging unjust labour laws through progressive unionism development and galvanising workers.
Profile of Mr John Mtholeni Zikhali

Mr John Mtholeni Zikhali served the trade union movement for more than 30 years at all levels, from shop steward to union president. His contribution to the workers’ movement and the national liberation struggle was massive.

He was a descendant of the 1973 Durban strike wave and carried forward the great fighting traditions of those battles. He was the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Chairperson of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) from 1994 to 2000.

He was a great mobiliser and played a leading role in the African National Congress’s (ANC) election campaigns, particularly in the historic 1994 campaign, and  delivered good results. He was also a renowned peacemaker during a time of intense conflict between the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party.

As president of the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (SACTWU), he ensured that the union responded well to challenges such the catastrophic loss of jobs, the flood of cheap imports and the World Trade Organisation’s trade talks which threatened to cut protective tariffs even further.

The Cape Town Fashion Festival is an outstanding initiative by SACTWU to protect and promote the industry and workers. This collaboration with employers, designers, provincial and national government bears testimony to the calibre of Zikhali and those he served within the SACTWU. It is an attempt by workers to maximise partnerships meant to save jobs in the clothing, textiles and footwear industry.

At the time of his death, Zikhali also served as vice-president of the Brussels-based International, Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation, as a member of the COSATU Central Executive Committee, as a member of the Cotton Board of South Africa and as a Trustee of the SACTWU Educational Trust.