ROAPE’s Ruth First Prize – Paddington Mutekwe

The Editorial Working Group of the Review of African Political Economy is pleased to announce the 2019 winner of the Ruth First prize. The prize is awarded for the best article published by an African author in the journal in a publication year.

This year, the prize was awarded to Paddington Mutekwe for his article ‘Resistance and repression in Zimbabwe: a case study of Zimplats mine workers’. It was published in ROAPE Volume 46, Issue 160 in Autumn 2019.

The article ‘contends that contemporary resistance in the mining sector in Zimbabwe is grounded in everyday acts of resistance and is directed towards power relationships exercised at work. Overt forms of resistance have been waning in Zimbabwe because of various pieces of draconian legislation, and subterranean forms of resistance have been gaining traction and deserve to be studied. Drawing on in-depth interviews and participant observations at Zimplats, the article employs Scott’s concept of the ‘weapons of the weak’, which posits that covert forms of resistance are favourable when open and collective resistance seems dangerous, as a means to understand some of the current dynamics of worker struggles in Zimbabwe.’

ROAPE Prize Committee members commented on Mutekwe’s article:

  • ‘It was well structured and argued, drawing on existing literature on infrapolitics, but extending Scott’s argument by showing there is collective organisation in this form of resistance as well. Mutekwe is also effective in drawing out the voices of individual mineworkers and their struggles with exploitation. Overall, this paper resonates with Ruth First’s legacy, which is grounded in labour struggles, race, class and political movements.’
  • ‘I found this reading the closest to First’s work because of the strength and primacy of the voice of the “oppressed” in the data. …letting the voices of the workers, proletariats, peasants, and other oppressed speak through their oppression and emancipation stands out as a hallmark of Ruth First’s work. … this was the most accessible reading for me in terms of clarity and articulation of ideas around subterranean resistance and in terms of its very clearly written theoretical framework based on Scott’s “weapons of the weak” and the very informing and equally clear literature review and research context. In short this piece is the freest from the sort of academic and other kinds of jargon that often make research meanings inaccessible to those outside particular fields of research.’
  • ‘this is the liveliest of all the papers. Looking at – through Scott’s ‘weapons of the weak’ – resistance in name-calling, absenteeism and foot-dragging etc. … Low level of strike action and state repression has led to a growth of other forms of “subversion”, the paper uses Zimplats as a case-study. The “name calling” section – Tollgate and Satanist – made me hoot with delight. Quite a fitting submission for the RF prize.’
  • ‘Of all the pieces, it was the one that most reflected the spirit of Ruth First.’

Paddington Mutekwe is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). His doctoral research investigates the dialectical relationship between resistance and repression in Civil Society Organisations in Zimbabwe between 2000 and 2020. He is a member of the UJ Centre for Social Change (UJCSC). His research interests include issues related to social movements, resistance, race, class, labour and politics.

He holds a master’s degree in Industrial Sociology from UJ that investigated subterranean forms of workplace resistance at Zimplats between 2000 and 2016. Paddington has worked as a research assistant with the UJCSC, as a tutor and currently as an assistant lecturer in the UJ Department of Sociology.

The article can be read for free until July 2021 and can be accessed here.


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