The Journal of Politics


Input Structures, Output Functions, and Systems Capacity: A Study of the Mineworkers' Union of Zambia*

Robert H. Batesa1

a1 California Institute of Technology

In this article, we study the attempts of the Government of Zambia to render the Mineworkers' Union of Zambia an agency for implementing development policies.

The Union was founded in 1948. Although its emergence resulted in large part from indigenous industrial grievances, it also grew out of the efforts of the colonial government to forestall the attempts of European miners to organize their African counterparts. Not only did the government fear the power of a comprehensive mineworkers' union, it also recognized that a major objective of the European miners was to prevent the economic and racial advancement of the African workers that would result from an independent African union. The new African union made rapid progress. By 1956, it had increased earnings by more than 200% for its highly paid members and by more than 400% for its members at the bottom of the pay scale. The Union also became increasingly militant. When in 1956 it initiated a series of “rolling” strikes—over the companies' recognition of an African staff association—the colonial administration arrested and detained nearly all its leaders. Following these detentions, the Mineworkers' Union slowly regained its position of strength in the copperbelt. Its power was best revealed in the successful attempts of its leaders to repel the efforts of the nationalist movement to gain control over the Union. In the post-independence period, the Union was faced by a new challenge: that of adjusting to governmental policies aimed at rapid economic development. The manner in which the Union met this challenge forms the topic of this article.

Robert H. Bates is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the California Institute of Technology. He is author of a forthcoming book on Unions, Parties, and Political Development: A Study of Mineworkers in Zambia and has written several monographs on urbanization, ethnicity, and politics in Africa.


* I wish to acknowledge the support given to this project by the Institute for Social Research of the University of Zambia, the Foreign Area Fellowship Program, the National Science Foundation, and the Center for International Studies of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Some of the materials are drawn from my forthcoming book, Unions, Parties, and Political Development: A Study of Mineworkers in Zambia, and are published with the permission of Yale University Press. None of these institutions, of course, is in any way responsible for the content of this article.