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".
* * *
shocked at ‘shot-in-the-back’ allegations
August 29, 2012 -- The
Congress of South African Trade Unions is shocked at the report
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
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.
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
reiterates its condemnation of immediately resorting to firing
live ammunition and the SAPS’s serious lack of training and
planning on crowd control tactics.
federation is also alarmed at reports of ill treatment of the
260 workers arrested in Marikana. Defence lawyer, advocate
Lesego Mmusi, alleges that
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.
are even allegations that some of the accused are
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.
calls on government, through its minister, to ensure that the
human rights of all those arrested are not trampled upon.
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
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
The president hints that there is much that lies behind this
incident. Who knows what is implied? Sounds like the stuff of plots
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
claimsCongress 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
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.]
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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.]