South Africa: (Updated) Marikana Lonmin workers win 22% wage rise, but the struggle for justice goes on


Amandla! editorial

September 20, 2012 -- Amandla! -- A heroic struggle has tasted its first victory. The reported wage settlement with the mineworkers at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine -- site of the terrible August 16 massacre of workers by police -- of R11, 000 is a massive victory, nothing less than the murder and sacrifice of so many workers dictated.

With an unholy alliance of Lonmin bosses, the bosses of the entire platinum sector, the army, police, government and even the leadership of the South African Communist Party and the pro-government National Union of Mineworkers rangeed against them, Lonmin workers can turn from their wage struggle to the struggle for justice with enormous pride and their dignity restored. This struggle has already rewritten the history of the international labour movement. In the eyes of the world, Marikana is not a place but an expression that workers' struggle -- class struggle -- is not yesterday's language and ideology, but lives in the struggles of the exploited and oppressed from below who continue to fight the good fight.

Lonmin workers faced an unholy alliance because their struggle simultaneously struck, like a pick through ice, at the elite social contract constructed around monopoly capital, parasitic BEE ["black economic empowerment"] deals and bureaucratised labour elites -- a social contract that has seen South Africa become the most unequal country in the world.

This massive victory for a living wage must not be paid for by more use of subcontracting or reduction of the labour force. It should be paid for by a reduction in the grotesque remuneration of top management and by lowering the dividends to shareholders.

Let this victory mark the first step to stop the ruthless super exploitation of South African workers.

One blow will not unfreeze the stunted politics of elite-pacting. Others now have to pick up the batons of the Marikana Lonmin workers even as their struggle for justice and accountability continues. Solidarity must be mobilised so that all those complicit in the post-apartheid brutal massacre are brought to justice.

A new path for South Africa will only result from the combined efforts of many grassroots militant struggles. The Marikana Lonmin workers have shown what is possible. Many community struggles are equally heroic if not as dramatic as the Marikana struggle. They need to flow together in an unstoppable torrent that can wash away the muck of inequality and injustice that still prevails almost two decades after the end of apartheid!

Long live the Marikana Lonmin workers – long live!

An injury to one is an injury to all!

Democratic Left Front: 'Defend the right to strike!'

September 17, 2012 -- In the view of the Democratic Left Front (DLF), the crackdown by soldiers and police in Marikana represents a serious escalation of authoritarian repression against the working class by the African National Congress (ANC) government. It has declared a de facto state of emergency in the mining sector.

Statements by South Africa's [ANC] president Jacob Zuma on September 13 and since by other ministers and ANC leaders threaten to stop “illegal gatherings, incitement and threats of violence”. ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe speaks of the existence of “anarchy”. We are told that the “full might of the law” will be used to curb further unrest. The further use of live ammunition has not been ruled out by police spokespeople. There is talk of “illegal strikes” when no strikes are illegal in South Africa. They are simply protected or unprotected. The talk further delegitimises unprotected strikes.

The ANC government is now talking like the hated apartheid regime. It is openly declaring itself anti-working class. It wants instead to protect the interests of foreign mining bosses like those of Lonmin in the brutal exploitation of cheap labour-brokered labour. It is the same protection for foreign investors that is behind the decision for prospecting for [coal-seam gas] fracking in the Karoo to go ahead, without any adequate scientific justification.

The ANC government, put into power by the votes of working people, is threatening the right to strike, an absolute right won by the workers in our struggle for democracy and a decent life for all. The talk of “illegal gatherings” is a threat to freedom of assembly. The police are wrongly interpreting the powers given them in Section 9 of Act 205 of 1995, which are not meant to prohibit gatherings but to prevent serious harm once a gathering has taken place.

Under this government, officials of the national, provincial and local state are filthy with corruption. But the ANC government has not set the police to root this out. Instead it tolerates corruption, and demands that the police attack the working class.

Zuma attacks people who “instigate miners to operate in a particular way”. This hardly veiled attack on Julius Malema is a convenient way of threatening anyone who supports the demands of the mineworkers on strike at Marikana and elsewhere.

The ANC crackdown undermines collective bargaining. It cuts across the beginnings of progress made on the negotiation front, where Lonmin has begun making offers of wage increases (pitiful as yet) to the striking workers. Will workers be allowed to meet to decide whether to accept offers made to them by the mining companies?

It is incumbent on the working class and all democrats to defend the right to strike! The ANC government wants to drive mineworkers back to work without winning their demands. But they will not succeed! The strength of the working class will triumph over the authoritarian ANC government!

As the DLF, we demand:

• Call the military back to barracks! Withdraw police from the platinum belt!
• Arrest all police involved in the murder of Marikana workers!
• Release and drop all charges against arrested mineworkers!
• R12,500 wage for mineworkers!
• An end to state intimidation and harassment of the Marikana workers, their families and communities;
• Delivery of housing and public services to the Marikana communities and all mining communities in South Africa;
• Compensation to the workers for violence endured at the hands of the police. 

Marikana — and South Africa’s frayed social fabric

By Terry Bell

September 22, 2012 -- Terry Bell Writes -- The mayhem at Marikana cast the spotlight on the platinum sector and on mining in general.  And while the concentration was on wages, a myriad other issues emerged, some all too briefly — and not the least of them the living conditions endured by many miners, 18 years after the transition from apartheid.

The utilitarian single sex hostels of that era still exist and shack “farms” comprising single room hovels without any amenities and rented out at between R500 and R800 a month have mushroomed around mine properties.  These are issues that are as much at the root of the recent troubles as inadequate wages.

So too is the fact that traditional authorities among the Bafokeng actively resist the provision of amenities such as potable water and sanitation, fearing that this will encourage permanent settlements for miners, mainly from the Eastern Cape.  And many of the migrant workers living in these abysmal conditions are also unemployed, some laid off as recently as last year.  They remain, increasingly desperate, hoping, almost against hope, that they will eventually find work.

It is against this background that the 22 per cent pay rise agreement struck at Lonmin seems to have been met with an almost unanimous sigh of relief, along with the expressed belief that the solution had been found;  that a particularly tragic episode was now behind us. This view was evident as the media focus moved to the knock-on effect the Marikana settlement has had — and may still have — especially throughout the mining sector.

It is a focus that concentrates on wages and the possible and probable effects these may have on the national economy.  The consensus among mainstream economists seems to be that such interim double-digit wage deals are bad because they are inflationary.

This may be so, but need not be. There is also the positive aspect that, with more money in their hands, miners and their families will be able to buy more, so increasing the demand for products.  Unfortunately, this often means imported products, so raising another issue that is seldom adequately addressed.

In any event, better pay, even at the level of R11,000 for rock drill operators, will not solve the lack of amenities, the usurious demands of the shack farm loan sharks, the mashonisas, or the fact that perhaps more than a third of miners are employed through outsourced companies who may pay considerably less.

For example, and despite the comment by National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) general secretary Frans Baleni, the 1200 mineworkers retrenched last week from a Lonmin development shaft, were not employed by Lonmin:  they worked for construction company, Murray and Roberts.  No details are yet available in this case, but construction company employees generally earn less than their mining company counterparts.

It is also accepted that at least 30 per cent of mineworkers are employed via outsourced labour brokers. Yet throughout all the argument about Marikana and the subsequent eruptions this issue was not dealt with in any depth and rumour abounded.  Contrary to one widespread item of gossip, businessman Cyril Ramaphosa, an ANC executive member, Lonmin director and former general secretary of NUM, does not own a labour broking company.

However, the ANC investment arm, Chancellor House, has mining interests and one of the fiercest critics of the mining industry, the South African Communist Party (SACP), has a connection with a controversial new platinum mine. Matlotlo Trading 115 is a wholly owned subsidiary of Masincazelane Trust, the “social investment arm” of the SACP.  It owns 10 per cent of Toboti Platinum at Kalkfontein.

Matlotlo is in partnership in Kalkfontein with major industry player, Impala Platinum. Implats has a 20 per cent stake in Toboti.

So while there clearly needs to be a thorough investigation into the role played by mining companies, there is also a need for considerable introspection on the part of shareholding entities and their beneficiaries.  But until and unless all the issues raised by the Marikana moment — and which apply to the country as a whole — are comprehensively addressed, the social fabric of South Africa will continue to become dangerously frayed.


ANC flag

Independent Newspapers

Photo: Phill Magakoe.


One can bet one’s bottom rand that the massacre of 34 workers at Marikana last month would not have happened if they had been allied to Cosatu.

With the focus falling on trade union matters probably more than ever before in our country’s history, the fissures in the tripartite alliance are beginning to show. Suddenly we have Cyril Ramaphosa, a former National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) general secretary, sounding like the late Harry Oppenheimer as he referred on radio yesterday to “the incident” of Marikana. Somehow a massacre turns into something unfortunate rather than the tragedy that it was. President Jacob Zuma himself referred in Parliament to an “illegal” strike at Marikana.

Then this week Frans Baleni, the NUM general secretary, was asked by talk radio what car he drove. He said “an E300”, which, as any waBenzi would know, is a pretty expensive German luxury vehicle.

Singing in unison Ramaphosa, Gwede Mantashe, the ANC secretary general, and Zwelinzima Vavi, the re-elected Cosatu general secretary, echoed the latest mantra: their extraordinary collective view was that the Lonmin’s agreement to wage hikes up to 22 percent would break down the collective bargaining process.

Mantashe apparently believes that the wage settlement will put South Africa on a dangerous path. As reported from Cosatu’s 11th national congress, the NUM argued that it could possibly lead to more unrest in the mining sector. Workers in other sectors would have the audacity to demand above-inflation increases, which was unsustainable.

Funny how these arguments don’t arise when the Cosatu unions are holding the government to ransom when the collective bargaining processes take place over state sector salaries.

Only recently annual increases over a three-year period of 7 percent – outside the inflation targeting band of 3 percent to 6 percent – were announced, and this followed double-digit increases for years.

One newspaper reported NUM president Senzeni Zokwana complaining that Lonmin had earlier refused to give workers a 15 percent raise when negotiating with NUM but caved in under pressure from the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

Collective bargaining in the mining sector means a union with 51 percent of the workforce in the bag gets to do all the negotiation with management. Cosatu unions tend to have this stranglehold, at least at present.

The growth of rival trade unions, including Amcu, has begun to upset this cosy arrangement. Owing to the fact that the politically non-aligned unions cannot use the official channels, they are forced to use atypical tactics.

The ANC-aligned trade union movement is at sea. Their leaders’ lavish lifestyles, their flashy cars and obsession with the upcoming ANC elective conference has begun to isolate them from the ordinary workers, many of whom are now choosing to achieve their ends through other mechanisms. It is glaringly obvious that increasingly the government won’t have a tame workplace environment in future.

It is no wonder that Roseberry Sonto, an ANC MP, doesn’t think it is a good idea that the National Assembly minerals resources portfolio committee should go to Marikana.

Sonto muttered something – which he said was reported out of context – about it being suicidal. He may have got something right that all the other top ANC alliance leaders have misread.


Rich still in pound seats

By Jana Marais, September 16 2012,

THE wealth of South Africa's 20 richest people, worth R134bn altogether, rose a mere 8% over the past year as the sluggish global economy weighed heavily on steel and mining share prices.

Patrice Motsepe, heading the Rich List for the second year running, steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, ranking third, and mining heir Nicky Oppenheimer in fourth place were the big losers in the top 20.

The exception in the top four was second-ranked retail mogul Christo Wiese, who got a lot richer.

Motsepe, worth R20.07bn, had to contend with his fortune shrinking 13%. Mittal's R13bn stake in ArcelorMittal was 38% lower than last year. Oppenheimer's 2.3% stake in Anglo American, worth R9bn, was 19% lower.

Despite their investments on the JSE taking a hammering, these three were still worth more than a third of the combined wealth of the top 20.

Each of the top 20 is worth more than R2bn. The top 30 are all worth more than R1bn, based on disclosed investments in JSE-listed companies at the end of March.

They are all probably a lot richer as valuations do not include unlisted investments, property or cash.

Oppenheimer, who sold the family's 40% stake in De Beers to Anglo late last year, is estimated by Forbes to be worth $6.8bn (R57.7bn), making him the 139th-richest person in the world and the richest South African.

Forbes puts Motsepe's wealth at $2.7bn, ranking him fourth in South Africa behind Oppenheimer, Johann Rupert and family, whose wealth is estimated at $3.1bn, and Wiese, who is worth an estimated $3.1bn.

India-born Mittal, who lives in London, has a global steel empire worth an estimated $20.7bn, ranking him 21st on Forbes's list of billionaires.

The Sunday Times Rich List shows most of South Africa's richest people are self-made men. Sixteen of the top 20 are entrepreneurs who built their empires after spotting a gap in the market.

Jannie Mouton, known as the "Boere Buffett" after US investment guru Warren Buffett, started financial services group PSG after he was fired from his stockbroking job at the age of 48.

Mouton is now worth R2.5bn, putting him in 19th position. His son Piet features in 120th place with investments worth R208m.

A handful of billionaires - the Ruperts, Oppenheimers and manganese heir Des Sacco, who has a stake in Assore - inherited family empires.

For others, notably Motsepe and Cyril Ramaphosa, black economic empowerment legislation opened a few doors.

The Royal Bafokeng Consortium, with stakes in companies like Vodacom and Rand Merchant Bank Holdings, ranked fifth, with assets valued at nearly R8.2bn, built on the foundations of its platinum-rich land in the North West.

While fortunes of some billionaires dwindled over the past year, many more of them have reason to pop some vintage Dom Perignon.

Media magnate Koos Bekker, CEO of Naspers, saw his fortune jump 117% to R3.7bn, placing him in 14th position.

Laurie Dippenaar, GT Ferreira and Paul Harris, who founded FirstRand banking group, all ranked in the top 20, and saw their investments grow 39%, 58% and 41% respectively. Dippenaar leads the trio with investments of R7.2bn, mainly in FirstRand-related entities.

Wiese, who holds stakes in Shoprite, Brait, PSG, Invicta Holdings and Tradehold, enjoyed 42% growth in his listed investments to R15bn.

The taxman should be pleased. Wiese, who was found carrying £674920 in cash at London City Airport in 2009, allegedly faces an outstanding tax bill from the South African Revenue Service of R2bn.

Ninth-ranked Stephen Saad's fortune from Aspen Pharmacare grew 51% to R6.4bn. His colleague Gus Attridge ranked 21st and is worth nearly R2.2bn. The duo started Aspen in 1997, building a multibillion-dollar business in just 15 years.

Ramaphosa also had a profitable year - his worth jumped 39% to R3.1bn. This includes his investments in Assore, Bidvest, Mondi, MTN, SABMiller and Standard Bank, which totalled R3.1bn, but excludes the value of unlisted investments held through Shanduka, such as McDonald's and a coal-mining partnership with international trading house Glencore.

Exxaro's Sipho Nkosi, worth nearly R2bn, was ranked 22nd, and his colleague Zweli Mntambo, worth R1.1bn, is ranked 30th.

Saki Macozoma ranks 39th with investments worth R634m. Lazarus Zim is 68th with investments worth R419.6m in Sanlam and Northam Platinum.

Robert Gumede ranks 82nd with his Gijima stake worth R334.4m.

Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale is not included in this year's ranking as his listed investments were moved to blind trusts when he was appointed to the cabinet in 2009. His worth was put at R1.95-bn on the 2010 Rich List, which would have placed him 23rd on this year's list.

The only new entrant to this year's top 20 is UK businessman John Whittaker, whose 20% stake in Capital Shopping Centres Group (CSC), formerly known as Liberty International, is worth R6.9bn. Whittaker gained the stake in CSC after selling The Trafford Centre, one of the UK's biggest shopping malls, to CSC in 2011.

Whittaker replaced electronics entrepreneur Bill Venter, who ranked 25th this year with a stake worth R1.57bn.

* This article was first published in Sunday Times: Business Times