The son of a union shop steward raised in a working class family, Papike Mohale had an idea of the direction his life and career would take when he decided to pursue a bachelor of arts degree, instead of becoming an engineer like his father had hoped.
As a triple major student in politics, international relations and media studies at Wits, Mohale was an active participant in student politics. His activism paved the way for his recruitment into Cosatu while completing his undergraduate degree.
“My appointed at Cosatu is one that I would coin ‘when opportunity meets preparation’. I have always been a student activist, coupled with my love for international and current affairs,” says Mohale.
Through hard work dedication and diligence, he worked his way up through the ranks very quickly. “I was noticed by my current employer, who believed I would be of greater use to them and municipal workers if I was to head the communications unit, given my multifaceted approach to my work and qualification.”
He attributes his success to making the best of the situation you are in by using the resources available to you to the best of your ability.
At the age of 25, he became the youngest communicator in politics when he was appointed as the national spokesperson for the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) in 2014.
“The mammoth task for me has been to maintain constant and accurate flow of internal and external information, especially in the first months of my appointment at Samwu when the union was facing serious challenges, which we have been able to work through with colleagues.”
While politics comes with the job, Mohale says he prefers to leave the politicking to the politicians, and focuses his attention on providing technical support for the movement.
“The South African labour movement is undoubtedly on its knees and at its weakest point, given the current politics within Cosatu and the alliance, politics which have managed to trickle through to unions.”
He says serious work needs to be done to attract the youth if the unions are to survive.