Donate to Links


Click on Links masthead to clear previous query from search box

Read Green Left Weekly, our sister publication





Syndicate

Syndicate content

South Africa: (updated Aug. 29) Justice now for the Marikana workers and community!

August 24, 2012 -- In the aftermath of the terrible Marikana massacre on August 16, 2012, a number of statements have been released by South Africa's left condemning and explaining the murder of more than 34 minerworkers on the day, and a number of others in the weeks previously. Below Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal publishes a selection of the most significant. They include an article by veteran South African Communist Party member and former ANC government minister Ronnie Kasrils and statements by the Democratic Left Front (and a report of a public meeting), the South African Municipal Workers Union, Amandla!, Abahlali baseMjondolo, the Unemployed Workers Movement and the Congress of South African Trade Unions. More will be added as they come to hand.

See also "South Africa: The massacre of our illusions … and the seeds of something new".

* * *

COSATU shocked at ‘shot-in-the-back’ allegations

August 29, 2012 -- The Congress of South African Trade Unions is shocked at the report in The Star that post-mortem results from the shooting on August 16, 2012, , when 34 miners were killed in Marikana, indicate that “most of the people were fleeing from the police when they got killed. A lot of them were shot in the back and the bullets exited through their chests."

While we must await the full report of the Commission of Enquiry to establish the whole truth of what happened on that tragic day, this report, if true, will contradict the South African Police Service (SAPS) claim that they were defending themselves against attack.

It will confirm the federation’s worst fears about the pattern of excessive violence by the police in response to public demonstrations, which we have described as a "skiet en donner" attitude on the part of the commanders of the police.

COSATU reiterates its condemnation of immediately resorting to firing live ammunition and the SAPS’s serious lack of training and planning on crowd control tactics.

The federation is also alarmed at reports of ill treatment of the 260 workers arrested in Marikana. Defence lawyer, advocate Lesego Mmusi, alleges that some of the mineworkers arrested in connection with the murder of 10 people at Marikana, North West, have not had their TB and HIV and Aids treatment since August 16.

There are even allegations that some of the accused are being tortured. It is reported the Independent Police Investigative Directorate is investigating allegations that detainees apprehended at Marikana, and held at Phokeng and Mogwase Police stations, were assaulted.

COSATU calls on government, through its minister, to ensure that the human rights of all those arrested are not trampled upon.

COSATU is determined to get the whole truth about what happened at Marikana and will demand the strongest action against anyone found to have acted illegally. Everything possible must be done to ensure that there will never be any more Marikanas.

Ronnie Kasrils: It was like poking a hornet's nest

August 26, 2012 -- Sunday Times (South Africa) -- Those in power say, don’t point fingers. But we need exactly that if we’re to learn from this, writes Ronnie Kasrils.

Our country reels with horror and shock at last week‘s Marikana shootings. There is disbelief around the world that this has happened in a democratic South Africa.

An order was given to deploy almost 500 police armed with automatic weapons, reinforced by armoured vehicles, horsemen and helicopters; they advanced on a desolate hill where 3000 striking miners were encamped. That denoted an order from on high with a determination to carry out a dangerous and dubious operation to clear an isolated, stony outcrop of desperate strikers armed with the sticks and spears often referred to as “cultural” weapons in our country.

These people were hardly occupying some strategic point, some vital highway, a key city square. They were not holding hostages. They were not even occupying mining property.

Why risk such a manoeuvre other than to drive the strikers back to work at all costs on behalf of the bosses who were anxious to resume profit-making operations?

If by occupying that hill the strikers constituted a threat to other workers, officials or rival unionists, then a feasible solution could only be through reasonable, patient negotiations and remedies, no matter the timeline — not a deployment of state force that could only end in the dreadful manner witnessed: 34 strikers dead, up to 80 wounded, their families devastated.

It may well have been instinctive fear that caused the police to open fire as a group of miners apparently desperately charged them, or even possibly tried to get out of the encampment, but why put the law enforcers there in the first place?

The police manoeuvre was akin to poking a hornet‘s nest. What mind-set was behind the police intention?

Who set the agenda? What was the government‘s hand in this? This cannot be kept secret, or can it?

First it was our new national police commissioner who told the nation: “This is not the time to point fingers.”

Our president reiterated the call, word for word, soon thereafter. He naturally announced that an independent judicial inquiry would be appointed. The Minister of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, Collins Chabane, presiding over an interministerial committee, repeated the refrain “we must not point fingers”. It seems the national police commissioner had set the politicians‘ agenda. We dare ask: is this not a recipe for avoiding accountability and just plain stalling until the hue and cry dies down?

We have heard much about the illegality of the strike and the panga-wielding strikers who, it is alleged, brought the disaster on themselves, a clear-cut case of blaming the victims, victims who are among the most exploited of our workforce and who labour under the most dangerous and dreadful conditions — truly the wretched of the earth.

The president hints that there is much that lies behind this incident. Who knows what is implied? Sounds like the stuff of plots and conspiracy.

Of course, much lies behind the catastrophe, which the judicial inquiry should examine — chiefly the exploitative mine owners and the horrendous conditions under which our country allows mineworkers to toil and their communities to fester. Add to the mix trade-union rivalry, demagoguery and intimidation, and previous killings.

Then there is the role of mine management, disputes about pay and conditions, victimisation and dismissals. Whatever manner of cause and effect may be discerned, there is no escaping where the finger needs to point in the first instance.

And that is right at the trigger fingers responsible for mowing people down as at a duck shoot.

Let us not do what the forces of apartheid automatically did in the past and hide the truth about state violence. Let us not create a fog of war around this massacre and declare that fingers must not be pointed, because in effect what that implies is that we shall not point to where responsibility lies.

We shall not point to those who fired the weapons; to those who gave the orders; to those who have encouraged the police to maintain a bellicose culture of “shoot to kill”; to those who failed to train them in acceptable methods of crowd control; to those who decided that the time for reckoning with striking mineworkers had arrived. To adopt such a course will mean that leadership will be exonerated and accountability will become yet another victim.

If we do not point fingers at the right targets, the politicians — who bear executive authority for those who may have given some kind of green light, or by dereliction of responsibility left the police to their own devices — will go unscathed.

We are asked to put our faith in a judicial commission and let the dust settle. Nice, sober talk. But in a democracy that has sworn to make such massacres a thing of the past we need to cry out in the name of humanity and justice and demand full transparency and accountability.

Indisputably the mine owners and managers are guilty for their greed and arrogance. But then we are all guilty for allowing this extreme exploitation of our working people to persist into the 19th year of freedom.

If by default we fail to hold our police system and government accountable for the systemic brutality we run massive risks, detrimental to our very security and democratic freedoms. A judicial inquiry must run its course speedily and, hopefully, provide the truths we desperately need.

A national crisis like this requires frank talk by all concerned South Africans. We need to mobilise and demonstrate solidarity with the victims. Our history reverberates with the words: Do not blame the victims!

For we have seen it all before, from Sharpeville to Bisho and last year‘s police killing of Andries Tatane. If we fail to point to the cause of the gunfire, the fingers will be pointed at the victims as they lie dead in the fields or the streets. And the shootings will continue.

Marikana is undoubtedly a turning point in our history. If we fail to act decisively, we do so at our peril and we leave the space to the demagogues. If, as a young democracy we are to emerge stronger and better we need the truth and we need to spare nobody‘s position or reputation. Above all we need a new deal for our mineworkers and we need a system based on economic justice for the poor of our land. We need a political leadership not distracted by holding on to their positions at all costs, but one focused night and day on urgently solving our people‘s problems and serving their needs.

[Ronnie Kasrils is a veteran SACP members, author, activist and former ANC government minister.]

Democratic Left Front: Justice now for the Marikana workers and community!

Democratic Left Front statement on the Marikana massacre

August 23, 2012 -- On August 16, 2012, post-apartheid democracy lurched into a horror. It was estimated 34 mineworkers at the Lonmin mine in the North West province were brutally gunned down by police, and in total over 70 workers have been injured. The death toll at this stage is still not completely verified, with the community still reporting loved ones missing and not accounted for in official body counts.

The Democratic Left Front (DLF) has been providing solidarity to the Marikana workers and community over the past few days and has actively supported a public meeting with the Marikana workers held at the University of Johannesburg on August 22 [report below]. We have not produced an earlier statement because we wanted to be clear on the mineworkers’ own account of what happened.

From eyewitness accounts and academic assessments, provided at the public meeting, all the evidence of police action points to pre-mediated and orchestrated state violence. A day after the provincial police commissioner stated that the police will end the strike, workers were herded towards a barbed wire exit with tear gas and rubber bullets then gunned down as they tried to make their way through a narrow opening. Moreover, other workers were randomly shot in other parts, in and around "Horror Mountain", and some were run down with police Caspirs [armoured vehicles]. The DLF believes the state at its highest levels has a case to answer for the cold-blooded murder of the Lonmin workers.

We condemn the management of Lonmin for its refusal to negotiate with the striking mineworkers and believe that they also have a case to answer for their complicity in the massacre. We note that BEE [black economic empowerment] figures such as Cyril Ramaphosa also have a financial stake in Lonmin.

The Marikana massacre was a barbaric act of planned state violence. It is also unfortunate that South Africa’s media is not reporting in an all-rounded manner about the massacre and what happened. The call by the City Press for the National Intelligence Agency to investigate the strike action is an attempt by the media to securitise legitimate and constitutionally guaranteed strike action. We reject this kind of partisan reporting.

However, the Marikana massacre merely illustrates an invisible and localised trend of ANC-police orchestrated violence against communities giving voice to their legitimate concerns about corruption, lack of service delivery and wanting democratisation of ward communities. Marikana is the most visible expression of a low-intensity war by the ANC state against the working class. South Africa in the lives of the poor has became a nightmare of state authoritarianism. The brutal shooting of Andries Tatane among others underlines this.

Despite the ANC government’s call for a week of mourning, the Marikana massacre has garnered national and global sympathy for the mineworkers. The ghastly and painful visual images of the massacre mobilised public opinion in support of the victims of this tragedy. We welcome all statements and acts of solidarity, such as those by the Labour Party of Pakistan and workers in Oakland, California. We encourage progressives in the world to actively demonstrate their solidarity as they have done outside South African embassies in Spain, New Zealand and Ireland thus far.

The DLF fully supports the concerns raised by the Marikana workers and community about the potential partiality of the state announced commission of enquiry. Together with the workers and community we believe this would be a scapegoating exercise, without full transparency, and will protect the political forces in the state responsible for this heinous deed.

Together with the Marikana workers and community we have agreed on the following to support the ongoing strike action and struggle for justice:

  • August 29 to be a national and international day of solidarity with the Marikana workers;
  • To give solidarity to workers in the platinum industry willing to advance solidarity strike action and a general strike;
  • To call for an independent people's commission of enquiry to provide a basis for testimony and witness to be documented. The people’s truth has to prevail about what happened rather than an official state version;
  • Continue discussions with the Marikana workers and community on how to deepen solidarity.

The DLF supports the mineworkers’ demand for a basic wage increase from R4000 to R12,500 for the dangerous work that they do underground, and calls on the profit-rich platinum industry to extend this to all underground mineworkers.

We also call on the unemployed not to undermine the strike of the workers by working as scab labour and to stand in solidarity with workers.

Moreover, the DLF fully supports the charges of murder laid by the Marikana workers against the South African Police Services.

We also demand the immediate release of all mineworkers being held in police custody and for all charges to be dropped. This is punitive  in the light of the state’s announcement of a so called Commission of Enquiry.

The DLF believes the Marikana massacre is a defining moment for our democracy and underlines the importance of reclaiming our democracy from below. Like the 1946 mineworkers' strike, Marikana opens a new period of struggle for  a post-national liberation and post-neoliberal South Africa. Like the Marikana workers we believe a post-apartheid labour market and another South Africa is possible; an eco-socialist South Africa.

Justice now for the Marikana workers and communities!

Solidarity with the striking mineworkers!

Long live the memory of the Marikana martyrs!

Speak out now! Defend democracy from below!

Forward to an eco-socialist South Africa!

Johannesburg meeting on Marikana massacre

By Martin Legassick

August 23, 2012 -- Facts for Working People -- Last night there was a meeting in Johannesburg protesting the Marikana massacre. It was attended by Marikana miners and people from the Marikana shack settlement next to the mine. Also there were people from the Fokeng community, where there is another platinum mine, and a strike has just started.

There were numerous organisations represented, and a large number of speakers. The room was crowded: hundreds present. The ad hoc body that called the meeting is Justice for the Marikana strikers. It became apparent (a) that there are a number of miners still missing, whose bodies have not been found, who are not in hospitals, etc. (b) that therefore it is almost certain that the death toll is more than 34 (even on that August 16, let alone the 10 killed in the previous week) (c) that the TV coverage of the police shooting people accounts for only nine or 10 bodies.

A University of Johannesburg professor has researched the site, together with the workers, and they discovered a hill behind the hill where the miners were gathered where there are police yellow paint marks A to J indicating where other bodies were located. This is named Horror Mountain, and is in the opposite direction from where the first people were shot. It indicates miners trying to escape from police fire, and then being killed wantonly.

The police claim that the miners they shot were about to attack them (they were actually escaping through a narrow gap in razor wire). But those killed on the Horror Mountain were escaping! (This is covered in Socialist Worker, see http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=29403).

The general secretary of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) was there, admitted it did not call the strike and told how the union pleaded with workers to leave the hill they were camped on shortly before the shooting, and then reluctantly left. They were warmly received by the miners present.

Then someone from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) was called to speak but was shouted down by the miners, and sat down with fear on his face. When he was escorted from the meeting there was applause. There were calls for a national/international day of action on August 29. There were predictions and calls for a general strike in the platinum industry. We shall see what happens.

[Martin Legassick is member of the Democratic Left Front.]

SAMWU: No more Marikanas

Statement by the South African Municipal Workers Union

August 23, 2012 -- SAMWU -- This union has been watching the developments in Marikana after the killing of 37 mine workers last week, and believe it is important that we express a viewpoint about what has happened. While we support the call for the various enquiries that are scheduled, and hope that they uncover the whole truth, we cannot remain silent. The killing of 37 workers, regardless of which union they belong to, or their demands, or the way that they have conducted their dispute, is still a shocking attack on the working class, and especially organised workers. Our federation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) was built on the slogan of "An Injury to One is an Injury to All". There are a number of reasons why we must not flinch from commenting on what has happened.

Our most pressing concern is the continuing arrogance of the mine owners. In almost the same breath that they expressed their condolences, they threatened all those who refused to go back to work with dismissals. This is unacceptable behaviour. The whole community is traumatised and to expect them to behave as if it was business as usual is an indication of how the profit motive is paramount for mine owners. In other words they don’t give a damn about the workers, or the communities where they live. The report from the Benchmarks Project that was written just before the massacre exposes their callous disregard for workers and their communities. It was left up to no less than the presidency to inform the company that a period of seven days of mourning had been declared and that threats of dismissals were therefore inappropriate.

Our second concern is the very worrying role of the police in industrial disputes. We have still to hear a convincing argument why vast numbers of police personnel were supplied with automatic weapons and live ammunition. What was the strategy that they were following? Was this considered a war situation? Why was there not a fall-back position in place? What were the police hoping to achieve? We hope that the various inquiries will also explain why so many of the dead and wounded were shot in the back while retreating, and why there has been a thorough police clean-up of possible evidence in the killing fields of Marikana.

As a union we are no strangers to the police opening fire on our members, including with live ammunition as the killing of one of our local leaders Comrade Petros Msiza indicates in Tshwane in February 2011. An arrest for this killing is still to be made. We hope that the whole of the trade union movement and civil society will join with us and demand that armed battalions of the police have no role to play in settling industrial disputes. This is not befitting the democratic society we claim to be. Is it any wonder that people all over the world are shocked at what has happened in the rainbow nation?

Finally, we hope that the trade union movement will regard this tragic situation as a wake-up call to strengthen our democratic structures, to ensure that our leaders and our members are united and act together, including in the communities where they live, and that we do not make the mistake of putting short-term interests in front of what is needed for the working class as a whole.

Our sincere condolences go out to all of the families and communities who have lost loved ones, and also to those who are recovering from injuries. We hope that out of this massacre, important lessons are learned for all concerned, and that we can say with confidence, Never Ever Again.

Abahlali baseMjondolo press statement

August 23, 2012 -- Abahlali baseMjondolo [Shackdwellers' Movement] has held a number of serious discussions about the Marikana massacre within our movement and with our comrades. It has also been very important for Abahlali to send a delegate straight to Marikana in the North West province to meet directly with striking workers and struggling residents of the Wonderkop shack settlement. We, together with the Unemployed People's Movement, were also able to send two delegates to the meeting held to discuss the massacre at the University of Johannesburg last night [see report above].

We wish to set the record straight and to say clearly that the account of what has happened that has been given in the media has mostly come from the state. The views and experiences of the striking workers and struggling residents of Marikana has been silenced. It is essential that the media must talk to the striking workers and struggling residents of Marikana and not just about them.

What has also concerned us about some media reports as well as what the state has been saying is that it seems now as if communities are violent and that what we must all pray for is an end to community violence. They say that we are violent nation. They say that this is a tragedy. But they do not say that for a long time the police and various anti-land invasion units and private security companies have been waging a war against the poor. They have been driving us out of the cities and into transit camps and they have especially attacked, beaten, tortured and killed those of us who are still struggling for real freedom, equality and justice. This has been the reality for struggling communities for years. But most middle-class people only started to understand when they saw Andries Tatane being killed by the police on television. Now the truth of our democracy is here for all with eyes to see.

The police do not act as peace keepers when there is disagreement between employers and employees or citizens and government officials. They take sides. They are there for the employers and the government officials. They are not there for the people.

And we all know that we are living in a country where every police action is intelligence driven. The police have their spies everywhere and are listening to all the activists' phones. Their intelligence is not used to keep the peace. It is used to repress us.

The reality of police violence against poor people and especially against poor people that are resisting their life sentence of poverty raises difficult questions. Why does the government, that so many poor people vote for, repress the poor? Why are our votes wanted but not our presence in the cities or in the discussions? Why is the government trying responding to the protests that are happening everywhere with violence rather than support? It is clear that they want to respond to all this anger and protest by beating us back into the dark spaces where we are supposed to be kept. They want us in the bantustans and transit camps. They want us silent.

They want a solution to the reality that this society does not provide for everyone and include everyone that takes the form of violence and intimidation. The only real solution is to work with the poor to build a society in which everyone can participate in decision making and the land and wealth of the country is shared fairly. That is the only way to build a just peace. A peace built on state violence will never be just or democratic.

Abahlali basemjondolo will be holding a memorial service in Durban on August 24, 2012. We need to mourn the dead and strengthen ourselves for the struggles to come.  We are inviting all churches, shackdwellers, progressive movements and individuals to attend this service. We are happy that Bishop Rubin Phillip has confirmed his attendance.

COSATU: NUM must take up rock drillers wage claims

Congress of South African Trade Unions message to Marikana memorial services, August 23, 2012

On behalf of the 2.2 million members of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, we bring our heartfelt condolences to the families and fellow workers of those who perished in the tragic events in Marikana.

We join all South Africans, and many millions more across the globe, in mourning this tragic loss of 44 lives and we also send our best wishes to the 78 people who were injured and hope that they recover as quickly and fully as possible.

We share the pain, grief and despair that the families of the bereaved must be feeling. You have lost your loved ones, your husbands, sons and brothers, and in most cases have also lost the only breadwinner.

We know that most employed workers support as many as 12 family members from their meagre wages. The biggest source of income for the unemployed -- 70% -- is in the form of remittances from employed family members.

The families affected by this tragedy come from all over South Africa, not just around the mines, but in the "sending areas", the former "homelands" established by the apartheid regime to facilitate the supply of cheap labour in the mines.

COSATU will be holding a media conference on August 24, 2012 at 10h00, about the Marikana events, and on August 28, 2012, we shall issue a detailed report on the background to the workers' dispute with Lonmin and other related developments in the platinum mines and the trade union movement.

Now is not the time to go into this detailed assessment, nor to play the blame game. We must await the findings of the Commission of Enquiry, which we hope will establish exactly what happened on that tragic day.

We must however appreciate the massive significance of this tragedy. After 18 years of democracy we have witnessed scenes which we had hoped were now only part of our history. For 34 workers to be killed within three minutes is a colossal disaster. It has understandably made headlines and provoked protests throughout the world.

We must reject any idea that this is just a normal feature of South African life and become immune to such unnecessary loss of life. Never again must we see such scenes on our TV screens!

One question which we have to confront immediately however, is what COSATU has raised for many years now the brutality and skiet en donner attitude on the part of the commanders of the police. While the Commission of Enquiry must determine precisely what happened -- and we cannot attach blame until we have the full picture -- there can be no doubt that the police response was excessive.

We have countless occasions protested against the immediate resort to firing live ammunition which reveals a serious lack of training and planning on crowd control tactics. Police must be trained to negotiate before opening fire with automatic rifles and live ammunition. We want to see riot shields, water cannons and tear gas not automatic rifles to control crowds.

At the same time we must ensure that members of society do not carry dangerous weapons and our demonstrations must be peaceful and free from intimidation of those who choose not participate in our strikes or protest actions.

COSATU has consistently condemned the use of live ammunition in protest actions by workers and in communities, and will continue to argue for a better trained, better equipped and socially responsible police service.

We must also equally condemn the carrying and use of arms by demonstrators and strikers. Workers have every right to be militant and angry, but must also be peaceful, lawful and orderly, as COSATU has always insisted.

The underlying problems which give rise to incidents like those at Marikana are the stark levels of inequality in South Africa and the super-exploitation of workers by ruthless and rapacious employers. Since they discovered diamonds, gold and platinum these greedy companies forced people from all over Europe and sub-Saharan Africa to go down every day deep in the bowels of the Earth and dig out precious stones.

They work in most dangerous conditions in high temperatures, in damp and poorly ventilated areas where rocks fall daily, killing many and condemning others to a life in a wheelchair and the loss of limbs. Some families have never even had the chance to bury their breadwinners, whose bones remain buried underground.

The rock-drill operatives at the centre of the dispute perform a more dangerous, unhealthy and difficult job than anyone else. They face death every time they go down the shafts. Yet their monthly earnings are just R5600!

Compare that to their bosses. The earnings of Lonmin's financial officer, Alan Ferguson, are R10,254,972 a year, R854,581 a month, 152 times higher than a rock-drill operative! 

We urge the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) to take up their claim, with comparable demands for other workers in the industry, whose wages are equally pathetic, and whose living conditions are also still squalid and lacking in basic services.

The NUM has a proud 30-year history of fighting to improve the lives of this most exploited section of the working class. It has always been a fortress of the mineworkers' struggle, championing their demands for better wages and working conditions. It has earned its stripes as a true representative of workers and lifted the bar for all the workers they represent.

As COSATU's biggest affiliate, with over 300,000 members, it will continue to defend and improve the lives of mineworkers and play a leading role in the federation for years to come.

But now the NUM, and the whole trade union movement, is facing a huge threat to workers' unity. The report to be issued on Tuesday will reveal what we have identified as a as a co-ordinated political strategy to use intimidation and violence, manipulated by disgruntled former union leaders, in a drive to create breakaway "unions" and divide and weaken the trade union movement.

In less than a month, the "workers' parliament", COSATU's national congress, will be convening. While we shall be celebrating yet another record level of membership, we will also have to discuss how we can defeat this attempt to divide and weaken the workers, how we can give even better service to our members, and cut the ground from under the feet of these bogus breakaway ‘unions' and their political and financial backers.

We must do everything possible to prevent splits and preserve and strengthen our unity. The old slogan: "United we stand. Divided we Fall" is not empty rhetoric. It is the key to our success in transforming workers' lives, building prosperous and peaceful world and preventing any more Marikanas.

[Statement issued by Patrick Craven, COSATU national spokesperson, August 23, 2012.]

South African mine shootings: A tragedy that should never have happened

Below is the August 18 editorial published by the left-wing South African magazine Amandla.

* * *

No event since the end of apartheid sums up the shallowness of the transformation in this country like the Marikana massacre.

What occurred will be debated for years. It is already clear the mineworkers will be blamed for being violent. The mineworkers will be painted as savages.

Yet, the fact is that heavily armed police with live ammunition brutally shot and killed over 35 mineworkers. Many more are injured. Some will die of their wounds. Another 10 workers were killed just prior to this massacre.

This was not the action of rogue cops. This massacre was a result of decisions taken at the top of the police structures. The police had promised to respond with force and came armed with live ammunition.

They behaved no better than the apartheid police when facing the Sharpeville, 1976 Soweto uprisings and 1980s protests where many of our people were killed.

The aggressive and violent response to community service delivery protests by the police have their echo and reverberation in this massacre.

This represents a bloodstain on the new South Africa.

This represents a failure of leadership. It is a failure of leadership from government: its ministers of labour and minerals resources who have been absent during this entire episode; its minister of police who maintains this is not political but a mere labour dispute and defends the action of the police; a failure of the president who can only issue platitudes in the face of this crisis and not mobilise the government and its tremendous resources to immediately address the concerns of the mineworkers and now their bereaved family members.

It has been a failure and betrayal of the Lonmin mine management that refused to follow through on undertakings to union leaders to meet the workers and address their grievances. The management summersaults between agreeing to negotiate with workers and then reneges saying they have an existing two-year agreement with National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

It is unfortunately also a failure of the union leadership. In the first instance of the NUM, which regards any opposition to their leadership as criminal and asserts that such opposition must necessarily be a creation of the Chamber of Mines. This is obviously not true.

It is also a failure of the leadership of Association of Mining and Construction Union (AMCU), which acts opportunistically in an effort to recruit disgruntled NUM members, mobilises workers on unrealistic demands and fails to condemn the violence of its members.

The level of violence at our mines demonstrates the deep divisions within and polarisation of South African society. Mineworkers are employed in extreme conditions of poverty, often living in squalor in squatter camps without basic services.

The mineworkers are often employed through labour brokers and informally without decent work conditions.

The “wildcat strike” (like other similar strikes on the mines) that set off the events leading to the slaughter is a response to the structural violence of South Africa's system of mining. However, it is also a response to something else, which we dare not ignore.

Enriched mineowners with the experience of co-option see an opportunity of driving a wedge between “reasonable” union leaders and the workers. They entice the unions into sweetheart relations dividing them from the worker rank-and-files.

The anger at the mines is a deep-seated anger at mine management, which is progressively being directed at the compliance and failure of their union leadership to defend and represent worker interests.

The alienation between union members and the unions' leadership is a factor behind what has happened at Lonmin and what is happening at other Platinum mines.

Nevertheless, the slaughter of more than 35 mineworkers is a result of the violence of the state, specifically the police. At the very least police minister Nathi Mthethwa must take responsibility and resign.

Marikana mineworker's massacre – a massive escalation in the war on the poor

By Ayanda Kota

August 18, 2012 -- Abahlali baseMjondolo -- It’s now two days after the brutal, heartless and merciless cold blood bath of 45 Marikana mine workers by the South African Police Services. This was a massacre!

South Africa is the most unequal country in the world. The amount of poverty is excessive. In every township there are shacks with no sanitation and electricity. Unemployment is hovering around 40%. Economic inequality is matched with political inequality. Everywhere activists are facing serious repression from the police and from local party structures.

Mining has been central to the history of repression in South Africa. Mining made [the wealthy city] Sandton to be Sandton and the bantustans of the Eastern Cape to be the desolate places that they still are. Mining in South Africa also made the elites in England rich by exploiting workers in South Africa. You cannot understand why the rural Eastern Cape is poor without understanding why Sandton and the City of London are rich.

Mining has been in the news in South Africa recently. ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, a corrupt and authoritarian demagogue who represents a faction of the BEE elite, has been demanding nationalisation. Progressive forces inside and outside of the alliance oppose Malema because he represents the most predatory faction of the elite and is looking for a massive bail out for his friends who own unprofitable mines. What we stand for is the socialisation, under workers' control, of the mines. We also stand for reparations for the hundred years of exploitation.

Things are starting to change but not for the better. Khulubuse Zuma, the president’s nephew, and Zondwa Mandela, the former president’s grandchild, and many others with close family ties to politicians have become mining tycoons overnight. China has joined the bandwagon as well, plundering our resources.

Frans Baleni, the general of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) earns R105,000 a month. NUM has become a route into high office in government and even to places on the boards of the mining companies. The union is rapidly losing all credibility on the mines. It is clear that it is now co-opted into the system and is part of the structures of control. It is the police that take NUM to address the workers. Baleni's betrayal of the workers has made him a very rich man – a rich man who condemns and tries to suppress the struggles of the poor. It is no surprise that workers are rejecting NUM, trying to build an alternative union or acting on their own without any union representing them. The workers are right to chase the NUM leaders away from their strikes.

The Marikana mine is the richest platinum mine in the world and yet its workers live in shacks. Most of the slain workers are rock drillers, the most difficult and dangerous work in the mine. They do the most dangerous work in the mine and yet they earn only R4000 a month. Through the blood and sweat in the mines they do not only produce wealth that is alienated from them, they also produce the fat cats, which wine and dine on naked bodies and call that sushi.

The workers who occupied the hill came from many places including Swaziland and Mozambique. But most of them came from the rural Eastern Cape, from the former bantustans where people live their lives as a living death under the chiefs, without work, without land and without hope. Every rand that they win back from the capitalists is another rand coming to the poorest part of the country. The part of the country that has been most devastated by the mines over the last century. We celebrate every rand that the workers have taken back from the capitalists and fully support their demand of a salary of R12,500 a month. Will Baleni or [SACP leade Blade] Nzimande or [President Jacob] Zuma accept R4000 a month? If not why should anyone else?

The strikers see the NUM leaders as traitors. They delinked from the NUM because they saw that they needed to delink from the alliance of capitalists and tendepreners that run the ANC. The decision to delink was very courageous! We will have to delink in every sector if we are going to build a real movement for change.

Workers under the tripartite alliance are being sundered from socialism; they are only being encouraged to vote for the ruling party. Nothing is being done to fuse social consciousness in their struggle. They are encouraged to participate in sensational politics, the politics of who should lead and who should be removed. They are encouraged to see communities and workers that organise independently as their enemies.

It is easy to decide not to decide. It is much harder to make a decision pregnant with risk and promise. For miners to delink from the likes of Baleni and tripartite alliance was a courageous decision. They understand that courage is an important element of all struggles. They understand that there is no quick fix in the struggle for a just society, a society that will respect and uphold the rights of workers and nature, a society that will be ruled on the principle of each according to his needs. This society is based on each according to his political connections with the elite that has captured the ANC and its alliance partners.

If the strikers were protesting under the banner of the tripartite alliance they wouldn’t have been slaughtered. COSATU strikes have often been violent but their members are not shot like animals. In fact the campaigns to support Zuma in his rape and corruption trials were full of threats of violence and yet Zuma supporters were not gunned down.

Before the miners occupied the hill they made a vow that no bullet will deter them. They were willing to fight and die to get a fair share of the wealth of this mine for themselves and their families. What this demonstrates is that these were people who were aware of the risks that their decisions entailed, who thought about such risks carefully, guided by their conscience and concluded that they were willing to face the consequences that could arise.

Hellen Keller's words ring true: “There is no such thing as a complete security, and if there was what fun would life be. Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success". She added, “To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate and adversity is strength undefeatable.”

The immense courage of the miners that gathered on Nkaneng hill was tremendous. They were prepared to take a real stand. They were prepared to face real risks. We do not see this courage amongst the left. In fact most of the left has abandoned real struggle in real communities for meetings and conferences and emails. The left has become something that NGOs run. It is about bussing poor black people into meetings that they have no control over and that are very far removed from the realities of our real struggles. It is about educating the poor and not about fighting with the poor. When real struggles happen in places like the shack settlements of Zakheleni, eTwatwa or Kennedy Road most of the left is not there. But when there is a big conference they are all there.

The ANC government has killed workers for demanding a salary increment from a notoriously exploitative and very, very rich company. The workers earn only R4000 per month doing the most dangerous work. The ANC president and cabinet ministers earn not less that R2 million per year. And on top of that there is corruption everywhere. Our politicians are part of the global elite. The lowest ANC deployee earns not less than R20,000 excluding benefits.

The Marikana mineworkers lived in shacks with their families. The president of the ANC has recently built a mansion in his homestead, a mansion that cost tax payers not less than R200 million.

It is the ANC government that shoots and kills protesters when they are fighting for the assertion of their humanity. They recently killed Andries Tatane. They have killed at least 25 others on protests since 2000. If you are poor and black your life counts for nothing to the ANC.

What lesson can be learnt from the Marikana mine workers' massacre? The ruthlessness of this government does not diminish but on contrary increases with the number of workers and unemployed who starve. They are criminalising our struggles and militarising their police. It is clear that anyone who organises outside of the ANC, in communities or in the workplace, will face serious and violent repression from the party and the police.

The NUM and the SACP have made it very clear which side that they are on. By supporting the massacre and calling for further repression against the workers they have made it quite clear that they are on the side of the ruthless alliance between capital and the politicians. They have declared, very clearly, that they support the war on the poor. Their reactions to the massacre are a total disgrace. No credible left formation in South Africa or anywhere in the world can work with the NUM or SACP again. The decision of the miners at Marikana to delink from the corrupt and ruthless politics of the alliance has been vindicated.

Things will not get better but will get worse. When the elite’s power is threatened they will respond with more and more violence. War has been declared on the poor and on anyone organising outside of the control of the ANC. We are our own liberators. We must organise and continue to build outside the ANC. We must face the realities of the situation that we confront clearly and courageously. Many more of us will be jailed and killed in the years to come.

What they have done can never be forgotten nor forgiven.

[Ayanda Kota is the spokesperson for the Unemployed People's Movement in Grahamstown.]

 

Comments

Gavin Capps on brutal history of S. Africa's platinum industry

www.socialistworker.org.uk

Gavin Capps looks at how platinum has taken centre stage in South Africa’s mining industry—and how workers have paid the cost.

Platinum mining is a big part of South Africa’s economy. South Africa holds 88 percent of the world’s platinum reserves and accounts for over three quarters of global platinum production.

In the boom years between 1994 and 2009 the industry grew by 67 percent, making it the single largest component of the country’s mining sector.

The period saw a huge wave of mine expansion and investment, including at British-owned Lonmin, the owners of the mine at the centre of the battle (see below).

With gold in long-term decline because of the difficulty of reaching the remaining reserves, platinum has become the pivot around which South Africa’s mining future turns.

The ANC government has identified mining as central to its new resource-based development strategy. It even plans a “platinum valley” to concentrate platinum-based manufacturing industries.

However, its plans have been severely hit by the global crisis and a dramatic fall in the price of platinum over the past year. The earlier scramble to expand production has now led to a situation of global over-supply.

Pressure

At the same time, rising wage pressure, electricity and transport costs are squeezing profits. This has led some smaller producers such as Aquarius to temporarily close their mines. All the big players are radically cutting back on their investment plans.

Anglo Platinum—which alone accounts for 60 percent of world platinum production—has been particularly hard hit. It recorded a loss of £20 million in first six months of 2012. For its part, Lonmin has cut its planned spending for the next two years from £285 million a year down to £160 million.

Now the South African ruling class is panicked by militancy. It is particularly scared by the growth of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and its power to shut down production.

It is equally worried by the loss of control by the established National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

The union has been central to dampening and deflecting struggle since it became deeply embedded with management. Since 1994 it has effectively worked for the government.

A militant strike at the Impala platinum mine in January set a pattern. It lasted six weeks, cost Impala £180 million and stopped almost half of national platinum output.

This strike resulted in a sudden growth of the AMCU at other mines, including Lonmin, which is terrifying the bosses, the ANC and the NUM alike.

Lonrho’s shameful hidden history

Lonmin is the renamed British company Lonrho. The name change hides a shameful history even for an industry as brutal as mining. The firm was originally set up in 1909 to grab mining rights in what was then called Rhodesia.

Even British Tory prime minister Edward Heath called Lonrho’s boss Tiny Rowland “the unacceptable face of capitalism” in 1973.

This was amid allegations of tax avoidance, bribing African leaders and breaking UN sanctions against the racist regime in Rhodesia.

Golden tradition of workers’ fight

Since gold was discovered in South Africa in the 19th century, more than 80,000 miners have died in avoidable accidents. But this brutality has gone along with a long history of militancy.

The current National Union of Mineworkers first built its strength from strikes in the gold mines under the apartheid regime in 1975. It faced systematic repression.

In 1986 177 miners died in an accident caused by cost-cutting. More than 300,000 miners struck for a day. And in 1987 330,000 miners struck for 21 days, proving the power of the black working class in South Africa.

Marikana Solidairty Campaign formed

Our organisation now has a name - We are called the Marikana Solidairty Campaign a 7 person adhoc committee was appointed by the meeting and it will meet at 4pm this Friday e at Central Methodist church. It has been initiated to call for Truth and Justice to prevail regarding the killing of 34 miners on the 16th August.

We are demanding the most thorough investigation possible be undertaken into the actual massacre itself , we will support submissions and possibly make our own submission to amend the terms of reference of the official commission of inquiry, we are particularly disturbed by the limited time frame and the focus on the industrial relations, rather than possible collusion within the state and government in relation to the use of maximum force.

In addition we are calling for an independent process to be launched and we are awaiting on the response from a number of legal NGO’s who met to discuss this possibility on Monday of this week. We are of the opinion that this process involve at least one leading figure from the church, and two others who are respected across our society, in addition in line with AMCU’s call we believe that this have some form of international participation. This grouping of NGOs are busy drafting a statement that will address their common stance regarding the massacre.

Campaign Focus and Mobilisation
The long to medium term focus of the campaign will be the police shootings – in the short term, the immediate release of the detainees, the immediate halt to police beatings of detainees, the removal of the police from the Marikana community in order to stop continued harassment . Ensuring all those arrested and charged are provided with legal defense. To establish with the support of the church, a fund which can assist those who have been left destitute due to their arrest, injuries, the strike and the loss of a breadwinner. To establish a campaign fund to build solidarity action. To support the demand for a living wage.

To this end we have also agreed to call for a day of action for the 8th Sept, we are calling on people to demonstrate outside police stations or courts in their respective cities, towns, townships. All international actions we would like you to consider supporting this day with taking action on this day. Please keep the group posted of your plans.

To date this initiative has the support of numerous bodies including 20+CBOs , one of which is Marikana Development Forum, UJ Social Change Unit, Central Methodist Church, the Democratic Left Front, R2K, Section 27, AMCU have pledged their support, we now need other organisations to formally pledge their support.

This communication will be sent to all those who attended Wednesdays Public meeting in Johannesburg.

Powered by Drupal - Design by Artinet