Connie September
South African Women Activists Celebrated

© Tracey Derrick

Trade Unionist

Connie September was born in the Western Cape in 1959, worked as a factory worker in Salt River with little interest in politics or trade unions. This changed in 1982 when she attended a meeting for the community newspaper Grassroots, where politics and workers’ rights were discussed. Subsequently, she became an active member of community organizations in the Cape. From this awakening, she then became an active member of various organisations, including the Lotus River/Grassy Park Civil Association, which had a youth wing and advice offices of which she became the national secretary. She also became involved in the United Democratic Front (UDF). She also obtained a Masters degree in Economics from Warwick University.

She became more active within the unions as she worked in a clothing factory and was part of the largest clothing strike in South Africa. This was the start of her stellar rise in the labour movement. Starting as a shop steward to the Western Cape provincial deputy chair of the Government and Allied Workers Union she rose up to become the national treasurer and in 1993 she became the first female deputy president of COSATU. September is mostly known as the chairperson of the September Commission, which in 1997 produced a report on the future of trade unions and the future challenges and scenarios. As the ANC branch secretary in 1998, she was nominated to become an MP.

Connie September as a member of parliament has served on various Portfolio Committees. She has acted as the minister of human settlements. She has served as Chairperson for the Portfolio Committee on Water Affairs and Forestry, but also served as Chief Whip in the National Assembly from 2004 until her appointment. Today, she is the current Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training.

She is known for her activism during the apartheid years and her relentless pursuit of equal rights for all South Africans.