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We Demand Better Living Conditions
SAHA T-shirt archive, photographed for Common, curated by Khanya Mashabela for Common, 6 May–26 July 2023. Image courtesy of A4 Arts Foundation.
Title We Demand Better Living Conditions Date 1980s Type Archival garment
Associated organisations East Rand People's Organisation (ERAPO)
Dimensions 61 x 71 cm

We Demand Better Living Conditions ERAPO (front)
There shall be housing security and comfort for all EAST RAND PEOPLE'S ORGANISATION (back)

In the 1980s, the increased occupation of SADF forces in the townships led to greater involvement in township politics by the unions. The establishment of community-based shop steward councils on the East Rand (Johannesburg) indicated greater collaboration between factories and communities. Students also regularly asked unions for co-operation in their strikes. They became the critical point of connection between workers and the community.

The territorial structure of trade-union organisations facilitated political interactions that defined shop-steward councils as areas of community and political engagement beyond workplace issues. Indeed, leadership of local structures helped to form civic organisations, such as the East Rand People’s Organisation (ERAPO), and supported township protests.

The links between union and community organising forged an alternative collective order grounded in an expansive notion of citizenship rights that brought together the struggle against racism with an organised claim for socioeconomic equality.