Published on website November 7, 2018
Samson Cele, an experienced NUTW shop steward at Frametex in Pinetown, and a key figure in the negotiations in the Frame strikes; was shot dead at point blank range by a hooded gunman on Friday, 18 July 1980. It is claimed that he was assassinated.
Samson was first elected to Frametex Liaison Committee in April 1976, and he was re-elected in 1978 and again in 1980. This was because workers felts that ‘he really represented the workers interests’
“Samson’s not afraid to speak to management. He was a very brave man. During the strike he just told management straight, ‘management, you caused this trouble. You must say what you are going to give’. When he was arrested and charged under the Riotous Assemblies Act, he just asked a question to Lieutenant Du Toit straight- ‘Who told you we forced workers out?’ Du Toit got angry and shouted, ‘Don’t ask me questions’. This showed me he’s a brave man. He told me he’s not afraid if he gets fired after the strike, ‘I will go to another factory and organize the union there’, he said.
Another reason why Samson impressed the workers was because he refused promotion. He didn’t want any privileges for himself, even though he had to support his mother who was suffering. His father died a week before the strike. For him everything must be done on a majority basis. Politics must be fought fully on a union front”.
When he was 15, Samson was a domestic worker before he moved on to work in a bottle store, and thereafter as a laborer. In 1974, he started at Frametex as a weaver. He stayed there until his dismissal which took place soon after the strike in 1980.
At the time of his passing, he had two children from his wife whom he married in 1975.
With his below minimum wages, he would support his own family and also send money home to his parents. Since his father had been ill and unable to work after 1996, they relied on his regular contribution.
Frametex workers collected R300 for the funeral expenses, despite management threats of dismissal for anyone found collecting. Workers allege that they were warned not to attend the memorial service.
A huge gathering of workers participated in the memorial. As the speakers revealed. Samson Cele, committed and fearless, lives on in the collective consciousness. The individual may appear defeated, but not the cause he served.
South African Labour Bulletin. Vol 6. No. 2 & 3. September 1980