The history of IMATU

At the beginning of the 20th century local government employees were represented by a number of trade unions.

In 1917 some of the unions operating in Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth and the old Transvaal decided to form a federation. This federation became known as SAAME (South African Association of Municipal Employees) in 1919.

Unions representing municipal employees in Durban (Durban Municipal Employees Association) and Johannesburg (Johannesburg Municipal Employees Association) remained outside the federation, but worked in close co-operation with SAAME.

Other unions such as the National Union of Employees of Local Authorities (NUELA) and the South African Local Authorities and Allied Workers Union (SALAAWU) continued to operate as independent unions in the local government sector.

The unions in the federation co-operated over the years on the basis of their similar philosophies, aims and objectives.

After more than two years of consideration and deliberation, these unions came to the conclusion that the concept of amalgamating into one strong union made good sense. The Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (IMATU) was established on 8 March 1996, at the Inaugural Congress, in Bloemfontein, as a fully-fledged successor of the unions mentioned below:

  • Durban Municipal Employees Association (DMES)
  • Johannesburg Municipal Employees Association (JMEA)
  • National Union of Employees of Local Authorities (NUELA)
  • South African Association of Municipal Employees (SAAME)
  • South African Local Authorities and Allied Workers Union (SALAAWU)

IMATU is not aligned to any political party. The union’s constitution is based on democratic principles where all members are equal, irrespective of colour, gender, ethnic group, religion, culture, profession, political persuasion, sexual orientation or creed.