South Africa: Latest ANC/police attack on militant miners condemned

SACP's Blade Nzimande leads COSATU members prior to clashes with striking Anglo Platinum miners. October 27, 2012, Rustenburg, North West. Photo by Greg Marinovich, Daily Maverick.

Statement by the Democratic Left Front (South Africa)

October 29, 2012 -- The Democratic Left Front condemns the police for shooting workers in Rustenburg on October 27. Two workers who work at Amplats were hit by live ammunition, and one, hit in the chest, is in a critical condition in hospital. Eleven other mineworkers were injured by rubber bullets. The DLF also condemns Blade Nzimande, SACP general secretary and minister for higher education, for condoning this shooting by the police. This so-called “Communist” defends the shooting of workers in the interests of the capitalist bosses.

The rally of the Tripartite Alliance of the African National Congress, South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions was called by COSATU leaders supposedly to “reclaim Rustenburg” from the mineworkers who have been on strike against mining bosses since September with a demand for at least a 12,500 rand living wage. While the workers are opposed to anyone speaking on their behalf, COSATU leaders aimed to try to reinstate the [pro-ANC] National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) as the mineworkers’ union in the town. This was an extremely provocative action.

It was well known to the COSATU leadership that the mineworkers had rejected the NUM because of its failure to represent their interests. Through its actions, including shooting workers in Marikana in August and identifying strike leaders to police, the NUM leadership has in fact revealed itself as a union that sides with the bosses against the workers and its own members. The rank and file members of NUM must rescue the union and lead it back to its fighting and anti-capitalist traditions. Otherwise it will be increasingly be seen amongst mineworkers and the broader working class as a bosses’ yellow union. Already at other mines COSATU general secretary Vavi had failed when addressing workers to get them to allow an NUM representative to speak.

Contrary to Nzimande’s lying claims, the mineworkers did not try to disrupt the rally. Some 5000 Amplats workers got to the stadium before COSATU arrived because they wanted to hear Vavi speak, who most still regard as a leader with integrity. They expressed their anger at the government by burning some of the ANC and COSATU banners and posters. When the police asked them to leave the stadium, they complied and waited by an entrance. This was not an “occupation” as reported in the media. Some 600-1000 COSATU members then arrived in a march.

As they entered the stadium through another entrance some broke away and attacked the thousands of mineworkers, who were waiting to return to the stadium to hear Vavi speak. The COSATU members ripped off T-shirts, which had the demand for a R12,500 living wage on them. In the course of this attack one DLF member had his T-shirt and trousers removed by NUM members and was arrested by police. Strikers went to aid those attacked.

It was clear by this time that the attempt by COSATU to “reclaim Rustenburg” had failed dismally. At this point the police attacked the strikers with live ammunition, rubber bullets, birdshot, tear gas, stun grenades, horses and water cannon, but left the COSATU attackers unmolested. In the course of this 13 mineworkers were injured, one critically, hit by a live bullet.

The ANC government and its police once again, as in Marikana on August 16, 2012,  has defended the interests of the bosses by shooting workers. Unfortunately COSATU and SACP leaders echo the government. The Tripartite Alliance, as mineworkers say, are all “mealies of the same bag”. Workers say that they are done with the alliance, because “they are no longer singing the same song as us”.

The actions of the police on October 27 go along with a police campaign of harassment of the Marikana community, including the intimidation and arrest of worker witnesses to the commission of enquiry into the events of August 16. All this indicates that another massacre like that in Marikana cannot be ruled out. Only the most massive popular mobilisation can prevent this.

The DLF calls on all members of COSATU to unite with the striking mineworkers to condemn the provocation of the rally and the actions of the police. It is time also for all union members to win back their unions from a labour bureaucracy that stands in alliance with the bosses and the state. What is needed is unity against the bosses and the government to struggle for R12,500 minimum living wage, and against the mass dismissal of workers by the bosses, through the calling of a two or three-day general strike.