Decolonising the labour law curriculum

Authors Alan Rycroft, Rochelle le Roux

ISSN: 2413-9874
Affiliations: Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town; Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town
Source: Industrial Law Journal, Volume 38 Issue 3, 2017, p. 1473 – 1487


This article investigates the call for decolonising the academic curriculum, in particular the labour law curriculum in South African law faculties. This may strike many as misplaced because most labour law is found in post-apartheid statutes, passed by a democratically elected government and grounded on the constitutional values of equality and non-discrimination, fair labour practices, and the right to strike. But the legacy of the law of master and servant lives on. The regularly cited defining features of the contract of em-ployment in the locatio conductio operarum (the employee is under the control of and subordinate to the employer) play out in the disciplinary process (insubordination and insolence remain a frequent basis for dismissal). The article proposes a contemporary definition of employment, and ends with reflections on Critical Race Theory, suggesting that law has a limited role in the transformation of working relations.