SWOP Staff


Prof Karl von Holdt



Karl von Holdt has had a long and distinguished history of political engagement and scholarship. He was editor of the South African Labor Bulletin, at a time when labor was dictating the movement of South African society. He has worked for NALEDI, the policy institute of COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions), and served as coordinator of COSATU’s Commission on the Future of Trade Unions (1996-7).


Most recently he served as labor’s representative on the National Planning Commission of South Africa. He is now Director of the Society, Work and Politics Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. His many publications include Transition From Below: Forging Trade Unionism and Workplace Change in South Africa, one of the most important analyses of South Africa’s transition to democracy.


With Michael Burawoy he co-authored Conversations with Bourdieu: The Johannesburg Moment (2012). His current research includes the functioning of state institutions, collective violence and associational life, violent democracy, citizenship and civil society. Von Holdt is a member of ISA Research Committee on Labour Movements (RC44).

email: karl.vonHoldt@wits.ac.za

office: 27 11 717 4464

Publications & Presentations


Transition From Below: Forging Trade Unionism and Workplace Change in South Africa


Conversations with Bourdieu: The Johannesburg Moment (2012)

Lucinda Becorny 

Operations Manager

Lucinda joined SWOP in May 2017. She holds a Business Administration Degree from the University of Johannesburg. She is tasked with heading the Administration and Financial direction of the Institute. She manages all the projects within SWOP, administration staff and post-graduate students.

mail: lucinda.becorny@wits.ac.za  

office: 27 11 717 4464


Prof Emeritus Jacklyn Cock


Professor Emerita in Sociology and Honorary Research Professor

BA (Hons), PhD (Rhodes)


Professor Cock has published widely on issues relating to gender, environmental and militarisation issues. Her best known works are Maids and Madams: A Study in the Politics of Exploitation (Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1989); Going Green: People, Politics and the Environment (co-edited with Eddie Koch) (Cape Town: Oxford University Press, 1991); Colonels and Cadres: War and Gender in South Africa (Cape Town: Oxford University Press, 1991); From Defence to Development: The Redirection of Military Resources in South Africa (edited with P. McKenzie) (Cape Town: David Phillip, 1998); Rainbow Nations and Melting Pots: Conversations about Difference and Disadvantage (with A. Bernstein) (Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2002); and most recently The War Against Ourselves: Nature, Power and Justice (Wits University Press, 2007). Her current research focus is on struggles for environmental justice.

Publications & Presentations

Cock J, 2014 The Political Economy of Food in South Africa

Cock J, 2014 Inequality Consumption and Some Damaging Conceptions of the Modern in Contempora

Cock J, 2014 The Green Economy

Cock J, 2014 The Vocation of Sociology

Cock J, 2013  The Challenge of Ecological Transformation in PostApartheid South Africa

Cock J, 2012  Review of Michael Burawoys The Extended Case Method

Cock J, 2010  Corporate Power, Society and the Environment: A Case Study of ArcelorMittal South Africa

Bezuidenhout A & Cock J, 2009 A Gendered Analysis of the Crisis of Social Reproduction in Contemporary South Africa

Fakier K & Cock J, 2009 The War Against Ourselves: Nature, Power and Justice

Cock, J, 2007 Public sociology and the social crisis

Cock J, 2006 Throwing Stones at a Giant: an account of the Steel Valley struggle against pollution from the Vanderbijlpark Steel Works

Cock J & Munnik V, 2006  Connecting the Red, Brown and Green: The Environmental Justice Movement in South Africa

Cock J, 2005 Engendering Gay and Lesbian Rights The Equality Clause in the South African Constitution

Cock J, 2003 Public sociology and the struggle against corporate environmental abuse in Africa


Prof Emeritus Edward Webster

BA (Hons) (Rhodes), MA (Oxon), BPhil (York), PhD (Wits)


Edward Webster is Professor Emeritus in the Society, Work and Politics Institute (SWOP), at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg  and director of the Chris Hani Institute in COSATU House. He is an internationally recognized sociologist, and is the author of six books and over one hundred academic articles as well as numerous research reports. Amongst his books, is Cast in a Racial Mould: Trade unionism and the Foundries. It is an analysis of how the transformation of work in the metal industry led to the destruction of the craft unions and the creation of a powerful industrial union, the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) and the birth of a working class politics.  In 2004 he was rated, based on his scholarly research, the top sociologist n South Africa.

He was the Director of the Sociology of Work Unit (SWOP) at the University of the Witwatersrand for 24 years. In 2008, SWOP was recognized as a strategic area of research of the University and is now the Society, Work and Politics institute. He pioneered the study of labour in South Africa and has taught and mentored many of the key labour scholars and activists in South Africa, including 70 Masters and PhD graduates over three decades.  He was a non-executive director of the Development Bank of Southern Africa, the Labour Job Creation Trust, and the Human Science Research Council. He was recently appointed to the Human Resources Development Council, chaired by the Deputy Minister Kgalema Motlanthe.


Professor Webster has had a life long interest in worker education and taught courses in the Worker Educational Association (WEA) while a graduate student in the United Kingdom He returned to South Africa in the wake of the Durban strikes in 1973, where he and his colleagues at the University of Natal established the South African Labour Bulletin and the first workers college in South Africa, the Institute of Industrial Education. In 1976 he was charged under the Suppression of Communism Act for calling for the release of Nelson Mandela and promoting “worker unrest”.  He launched a pioneering two-week course on labour studies at Wits University for the Federation of South African Trade unions (FOSATU) in 1980. He has retained an interest in trade union education, and shop stewards in particular, and undertook, on behalf of COSATU, the first nation-wide shop steward survey. In 1994, he and fellow academics initiated a nation-wide survey of the political attitudes of COSATU members. Professor Webster has been centrally involved in the survey since then, in 1998, 2004 and, most recently, In 2009. His research interests have expanded over time into studies of the democratic transition, including the economic dimensions of transition, with a growing focus on processes of informalisation of work and the economy.


He was appointed the first Ela Bhatt Visiting Professor of Development and Decent Work at the newly established International Centre for Development and Decent Work at Kassel University in Germany in 2009/2010. He recently completed a research report on vulnerable work for the Gauteng Department of Economic Development. He is currently engaged in a south-south interdisciplinary research project examining how India, Brazil and South Africa are responding to economic insecurity through innovative social protection and public work programmes.

Professor Webster has degrees from Rhodes University, University of the Witwatersrand, York and Oxford Universities in England. He was a Senior Fulbright Scholar at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1995/1996. He is on the International Advisory Board of the Economic and Labour Relations Review, Labour, Capital and Society, Work, Employment and Society, Social Forces, and the Labour Studies Journal. He recently launched a new on-line, open access journal, the Global Labour Journal, in collaboration with Mac Master University in Canada. He is a past president of the South African Sociological Association and the Research Committee on Labour Movements of the International Sociological Association from 2002 to 2006. He was chair of the Global Labour University at the University of the Witwatersrand from 2006-2009, an initiative of the International Labour Organisation with campuses in Germany, Brazil and India.  His most recent book is Grounding Globalization: Labor in the Age of Insecurity. He and his co-authors were awarded the prestigious American Sociological Association award for the best scholarly monograph published on labour in 2008.


Publications & Presentations


Contesting the New Politics of Space: Labour and Capital in the White Goods Industry in Southern Africa, Bezuidenhout A & Webster E, 2010

Unions and parties in South Africa: Cosatu and the ANC in the wake of Polokwane, Southall R & Webster E, 2010

Grounding Globalization: Labour in the Age of Insecurity, Webster, EC, Lambert, R & Bezuidenhout, A, 2008

Making Visible the Invisible: South Africa's Decent Work Deficit, E Webster, A Benya, X Dilata, K Joynt, K Ngoepe and M Tsoeu, 2008

Recasting Labor Studies in the Twenty-First Century, Webster E, 2008

Residual Unionism and Renewal: Organized Labour in Mozambique, Webster, E, Wood, G, Mtyingizana B & Brookes, M, 2006

Making a Living, Earning a Living: Work and Employment in Southern Africa, Webster E, 2005

Beyond the Apartheid Workplace: Studies in Transition, Webster E & Von Holdt, K (eds), 2005

Between Marginalisation & Revitalisation? The State of Trade Unionism in South Africa, Buhlungu S & Webster E, 2004

Work Restructuring in Post-Apartheid South Africa, Omar R & Webster E, 2003

Work and Organizations, Webster EC, Buhlungu S & Bezuidenhout A, 2003

Trade Unions and Democratization in South Africa, 1985-1997, Adler G & Webster E (eds), 2000


Dineo Skosana



Dineo Skosana joined SWOP as a researcher in coal-mine affected communities in October 2018. Her current research investigates forms of dispossession and resistance to coal mining and burning, as well as a just transition from coal to renewable energy. She explored the contestations over African grave relocations in a coal-mined area in Tweefontein, Mpumalanga for her PhD. She also has expertise in the subject of traditional leadership and disputes in South Africa. 


Publications & Presentations

Skosana. D and Buthelezi. M, “The Salience of Chiefs in Post-Apartheid South Africa: Reflections on the Nhlapo Commission”, in Comaroff Jean & Comaroff John, eds. The Politics of Custom: Chiefs, Capital, and Culture in Contemporary Africa, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018

Skosana. D, “Protecting the dead: The South African National Heritage Resources Act in context”, in M. Christian Green, Rosalind I. J. Hackett, Len Hansen, and Francois Venter, eds. Religious Pluralism, Heritage and Social Development, Stellenbosch: Sun media, 2017


Skosana. D, ‘The Interface Between Tradition and Modernity: An Outline of the Kekana Succession Dispute and their Encounter with the Platinum Reef Resource Mine, New Contree, No. 67, Special Edition, December 2013, pp 83-96

Tasneem Essop

Assistant Researcher

Tasneem Essop recently joined SWOP as an Assistant Researcher on the BRICS Politics project. Tasneem completed her Masters Degree in Political Studies at Wits University in 2016 after completing her Honours Degree in 2013. Her Masters’ research focused on the political party the Economic Freedom Fighters, branch politics and populism. Her current research as part of the BRICS project includes work on community protests and popular politics. 


Tasneem research interests include political organisations, social movements and popular politics. Tasneem has professional work experience in government and the NGO sectors. She is politically active and has been involved in movements both within and outside of the university.

Recent publications: 

Essop, T (2015). Populism and the Political Character of the Economic Freedom Fighters: A View From the Branch. Labour, Capital and Society, Vol 48 (1&2), p214-238.


Dr Kally Forrest

Senior Researcher


Kally Forrest is currently working on a year long Coal Mining and Water project titled “Regulatory Breakdown? An investigation into the social processes around the issuing of water licenses in the coal sector.” 


By focusing on regulatory failure in the mining industry (including fieldwork in Mpumalanga province) the project seeks to examine transformative legislation enacted on the dawn of democracy and the grey zones which militate against the successful implementation of such policies. This investigation illuminates how weak law enforcement has marginalised fenceline mining communities comprising both commercial white farmers and poor township dwellers and has sacrificed water and food security in the interest of promoting a black entrepreneurial class in the new South Africa.


The Coal & Water project falls under the Nature & Society cluster in Swop and is a new departure for Forrest who has previously worked in the industrial relations arena. In the past few years Forrest, a former trade unionist, has turned her attention to researching rapacious platinum mining in Rustenburg in post-apartheid South Africa.  This took the form of an examination of shifts in the migrant labour system investigated through a mine recruitment lens both formal and informal (see “Rustenburg’s fractured recruitment: Who Benefits?” African Studies 73:2 August 2014; & “Rustenburg’s labour recruitment regime: shifts and new meanings” Review of African Political Economy (Roape) 42:46 December 2015).  Her lecture as a Ruth First Fellow was based on this research.


Prior to the foregoing research Forrest was editor of the South African Labour Bulletin and completed a PhD in SA labour history writing two histories of the militant SA unions that emerged in the 1980s: Asijiki: A History of the South African Commercial Catering & Allied Workers Union STE, Johannesburg 2005; Metal that will not bend: National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa 1980 -1995 Wits Press, Johannesburg 2011).


Her research in Rustenburg subsequently led to her employment as a senior researcher on the Marikana Commission where she examined the underlying causes of the brutal Marikana mine worker killings in 2012.  An independent evaluation of the Commission’s work and Report followed in 2015 leading to a report titled Marikana Commission: Unearthing the Truth or Burying It?


This interest in the mining landscape led to her current environmentally inflected research.


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t: +27 (0) 11 717 4460   |   info@swop.org.za

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