South Africa: as the miners’ strike spreads
South Africa army put on 'high alert' over Malema talk
JOHANNESBURG: *Military bases in South Africa have been placed on high
alert for the first time since the advent of democracy in 1994, defence
officials have confirmed. *
The move comes as firebrandpolitician, Julius Malema prepares to address disgruntled soldiers near
The defence minister accused him of trying to "mobilise against the
state".Malema has addressed several rallies in recent weeks, demanding
President, Jacob Zuma's removal from power after police shot dead striking
Defence department spokesman Sonwabo Mbananga told the BBC that all bases
were on high alert to "keep vigilance over the movement of our armed
forces". It is an extraordinary move, all because Malema is due to address
some soldiers, the BBC's Andrew Harding reports from Johannesburg.
*Malema's spokesman, Floyd Shivambu said Malema planned to meet soldiers
near a military base in the Johannesburg area. "The meeting is as a result
of the pleas and requests the armed forces, soldiers of the SANDF [South
African National Defence Force], sent to Malema to come listen to and voice
the military and soldiers' cries and demands," Shivambu said.*
link to www.marxist.com
South Africa: as the miners' strike spreads, the foundations of
post-apartheid capitalist democracy are
Written by Jorge Martin Friday, 14 September 2012
It is over a month since Lonmin platinum miners in Marikana, South Africa,
walked out in a wildcat strike. They have been attacked and vilified;
watching as 34 of their number were killed by police on August 16, a
majority of them in cold blood, and 270 arrested, charged and often
tortured while in custody. The leaders of the NUM, the bosses and the state
have signed a "peace accord" behind the backs of the miners and they have
been repeatedly given ultimatums by the company. Yet still the strike is
ongoing and the miners are continuing to demand a wage increase to R12,500.
They are an example of worker militancy and resilience and one which is
spreading to other sections of South Africa's mining proletariat.
[image: miners]< http://www.marxist.com/images/stories/south_africa/miners.jpg>South
Africa's 'Miners Revolution' gains new groundOn September 12, there was a
march by 5,000 Marikana miners and their supporters who went through the
different mine shafts to make sure there was no one working. According to
the company only about 1.8% of their employees had reported for work.
Incredibly the miners have been presented as "violent" by the media.
"Violence doesn't solve anything. It is not in anyone's interest" said
Lonmin mine manager Jan Thirio, while Minister of the Presidency Collins
Chabane said "the government has a responsibility to maintain law and order
and, therefore, will not tolerate any irresponsible and unwarranted
provocation from any quarters of our society."
This is stinking hypocrisy after 34 miners were killed by the police, and
another 78 injured. About 90 of the arrested miners have filed complaints
against the police for
As part of their march the strikers went to the local hospital to protest
against the fact that the hospital authorities were reporting the release
details of injured miners to police who then went on to arrest them on
hospital premises. That is the real violence of this story, the violence
exercised by the state on behalf of the mine owners and shareholders. When
the capitalists and the state, use violence against the oppressed (using
live ammunition, armoured cars, helicopters and horses) it is classed as
"self-defence" or maintaining "law and order", but when the oppressed dare
to fight back (brandishing knobkerries, pangas and knives) they are classed
as criminals and thugs.
The strikers correctly refused the so-called "peace accord", which would
have meant going back to work without having achieved anything, on the
basis of a vague promise of negotiations, after 34 of their comrades had
been killed. Xolani Nzuza, member of the strike committee, said: "We don't
want to hear anything about a peace accord. We want R12,500 and the closing
down of (the Karee K3) shaft." To their credit the leaders of AMCU also
refused to put their name to the scandalous
document< link to www.politicsweb.co.za.
Another of the strikers' leaders, Anele Nogwanya said: "We have now buried
all our fallen colleagues. Now is the time to honour our promise to them of
getting the R12 500, if we go back to work without getting R12 500, our
deceased colleagues will turn against us."
On Thursday, September 13, finally Lonmin bosses made an offer to the
workers, but in reality it can only be described as a provocation. What
they are offering is an increase of the basic rate of pay from R4,600 to
R5,500! The striking workers have already rejected this "offer," today,
explaining that, the proposal is part of an already agreed 3-year wage
increase due to come into effect in October.
One of the worker representatives, Molisi Phele, told the AFP about the
reaction of the workers: "They just said 'No go' and tell those guys to put
12.5 on the table, (... ) What they (the workers) say is that their offer is
an insult, what you put on the table is an insult," he stressed. Very
significantly he added: "If they are unable to do that, thank you, let
Lonmin take their bags and go back to London." Clearly, in the minds of
many of the workers involved, nationalization is not some abstract debate,
but a concrete issue related to the satisfaction of their basic demands.
The workers have elected their own committee and they have set up a "war
committee" through which they are attempting to build links with other
groups of miners who have also come out on strike .
Strike spreads to other mines
There have also been two separate strikes at the Gold Fields KDC gold mine.
The first one at the KDC East mine started on August 29 involving 12,000
miners, who walked out protesting against a unilateral decision by the NUM
local leadership to apply funeral scheme deductions from their wages.
The main issue in that strike seemed to be a build up of resentment against
the local NUM branch leaders who were accused of being out of touch and
acting against the interests of the workers. They were even accused of
having private interests in the company which provides the catering
contract for the workers. The strike ended on September 5 after the workers
were satisfied that their demands had been met, the funeral scheme
deduction reversed, all monies refunded and the NUM branch leadership
suspended pending investigation.
Having seen the quick victory of their comrades, on September 9, another
15,000 miners at the KDC West mine also walked out. By the end of the day
they had submitted a list of demands including the resignation of the whole
of the NUM branch leadership, equalisation of pay across job categories in
all mines and a minimum wage of R12,500 for all miners. Workers at a third
Gold Fields mine, Beatrix, were also discussing going on strike. NUM
leaders attempted to address the workers from one of the mine's armoured
security vehicles but were chased away by the strikers.
Meanwhile, the world's largest platinum producer Anglo American Platinum
(Amplats) was forced, on September 11, to close down its operations in
Rustenberg as a result of another wildcat walkout by thousands of miners.
The workers rejected allegations that the protestors were not employees of
Amplats by showing their worker IDs. "All of us, we're going to close all
the operations, starting from Rustenburg. We'll go even to the gold mines
to stop the operations" one of the leaders of the Amplats strikers Evans
Ramokga told Reuters. He added that on 13 September, they would have a
joint meeting with Lonmin strikers to join forces: "We are going to combine
efforts with the striking comrades at Lonmin mines. We want to assure you
that by Monday next week there will be no mining operation in and around
Around 5,000 Amplats workers gathered in a stadium outside Bleskop mine to
discuss their demands. Sphamandla Makhanya, a winch operator quoted in a Daily
Maverick< link to dailymaverick.co.za,
gave a breakdown of the wage package the workers demanded:
[image: minerstrikenationalisation]< link to www.marxist.com
or pack your bags and leave the country !VIVA GOLD VIVA!"a basic salary of
R12,000, a R500 meal allowance, R500 for working underground, R60 a day for
transport and other benefits, which added to R16,070 per month. (... ) "If the
company cannot do that we want a minimum of R12,500 a month. *If they fail
this demand then Anglo must go back to America and the government must take
over this mine*,[our emphasis - JM]"
"They can't say they don't have money. Look how much profit the
stakeholders get and the whites at the mine are earning well," said Lucas
Rapai, a winch driver, to the Mail and Guardian. Sfana Chauke, an
underground supervisor added: "They may as well close this mine if they
don't want to give us our money. I have too many who depend on me. I
*need*R12500. I don't just want it."
Workers at the world's second largest producer Impala Platinum (who already
went through a bitter labour
dispute< link to www.marxist.com
January and February this year in which thousands of workers were
and later readmitted) have also submitted a demand for a fresh wage
increase and are threatening to strike.
Interestingly the claim was submitted not through the official union
structures but rather by an ad-hoc workers' committee involving members of
both the NUM and AMCU. The mine workers involved in this movement are going
back to the early militant traditions on which the NUM and other COSATU
affiliates were founded: mass meetings, elected representatives and
militant action to achieve their demands.
[image: malema-speak to
miners]< link to www.marxist.com
Malema speaks to a mass meeting of minersExpelled ANC Youth League leader
Julius Malema has consistently visited the miners at the different sites
and offered support and encouragement. He has correctly criticised the NUM
leaders for being out of touch with the living conditions of ordinary mine
workers, but has gone even further than that, pointing out that many ANC
leaders have shares in the mining companies the strikers are fighting
against and that for this reason they are unable and unwilling to represent
the interests of the workers. Expelled ANC YL spokesperson Floyd Shivambu
explained the situation by pointing out that "turkeys cannot vote for
*Julius Malema video:*
* link to www.youtube.com
Julius Malema speaking to Aurora mine workersMalema has called for a
"mining revolution" and for a national strike of mine workers to demand the
resignation of the whole of the NUM leadership. "How can Frans Baleni know
your problems if he doesn't address you, and hears about your issues on
TV?" he asked a mass rally of Gold Fields KDC West strikers. "There must be
a national strike around the country, demanding Frans Baleni and all NUM
leadership immediately be replaced ... The problem is not with the NUM,
it's with your leaders that take money from the mlungu [whites]," he said
and added "our leaders have sold out South Africa! Our leaders are sleeping
with capital!" As Malema has correctly pointed out when
workers at the liquidated
Aurora < http://www.marxist.com/aurora-mine-scandal.htm> mine, Cyril
Ramaphosa himself (former NUM general secretary and ANC national executive
member), holds amongst his many business interests, shares in Lonmin, the
company that the Marikana strikers are fighting against.
Divisions open up within the NUM
The role of the NUM leaders throughout this conflict has been despicable.
Their main worry after the Marikana massacre was not to demand justice for
the workers and the fulfilment of their demands, but to express concern
about how the actions of the miners (in demanding higher wages) could scare
off foreign investors! (See
the press conference). NUM general secretary Frans Baleni has become
focus of a lot of the miners' hatred. He is paid an annual salary of R1.4
million, after being awarded a 40% wage rise this year, which means that he
makes more money in a month than a rock drill operator takes home in a
year! On top of this he sits on the board of the Development Bank of
Southern Africa, which according to
Businessweek< link to investing.businessweek.com
an additional $285,000 a year.
Political analyst William Gumede was quoted in an article in the Mail and
Guardian describing the situation in this way: "The NUM leadership is now
in top management. Its leaders occupy senior leadership positions in the
ANC, business and government. After 1994, The NUM repositioned itself. It
started as an investment arm [the Mineworkers Investment Company that is
now valued at R2.8-billion], a bank and its members sit on the boards of
blue-chip companies." The same article quoted a former leader of the NUM
explaining how "members look at the luxury life of their leaders. We
discussed the implications of our salary increases before. We represent the
sector that is the lowest paid and skilled. But you have leaders who go
home with a staggering R1.4-million salary [a package equivalent to the
deputy president's salary]. When they [workers] see this, members ask if
the leaders pay themselves with our own money. They [union leaders] are
beginning to compete with the capitalists."
The situation is such that the movement is inevitably starting to have an
impact within the NUM itself. Many of those involved in the strikes are
card carrying members of the union and the slogan for the resignation of
the NUM leadership encapsulates the feelings of many. A meeting has already
been called in the Highveld region of the NUM in Mpumalanga. The meeting
will look into the "challenges facing mine workers" and the question of the
NUM leadership "which has since neglected mineworkers and workers in the
energy and construction sector's interests and only obsessed with ANC
factional politics and business deals."
The leaflet refers to illegal suspension of members and leaders and warns
that: "mineworkers, workers in the energy and construction sector and their
genuine leaders will never sit back and watch when they are being
misrepresented by Career Unionists who sit in air conditioned offices
whilst workers are exposed to dangerous and difficult working conditions."
Any serious program for dealing with the question of the bureaucratisation
of the NUM leadership needs to include demands like the right to elect and
immediately recall leaders, officials and representatives at all levels of
the union. And above all the demand that no NUM official be on a wage
higher than that of the workers they represent. Such a demand would be met
with enthusiastic support throughout the industry.
ANC leaders terrified
The right wing leadership of the ANC, the NUM and the SACP are all up in
arms blaming Malema for the developing movement of the mineworkers. There
has been censorship< http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/SABC-censors-Malema-staffer-20120913>in
the state-owned media on any reference to or interview with Malema.
the Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers Union (Bemawu) has
now confirmed< link to www.iol.co.za
instructions exist, adding that "The instruction went as far as to
say that even if he is assassinated, or he dies in any other manner, it
should not be reported until top management has instructed otherwise."
Some of the tortured Marikana strikers declared that they had been
interrogated as to whether Malema had played a role in their strike, and
when Malema announced that he was going to meet a group of soldiers with
grievances, the Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa- Nqakula (who ironically
was in the United States
receiving< http://www.defense.gov/today/?showdate=09/12/2012>an "honor
cordon" from the US State Department) denounced him as being
involved in "counter-revolutionary activities" and put all military basis
in the country in high alert!
The soldiers Malema addressed on September 12 were dismissed for
participating in a strike over wages in 2009 which was organised by their
union, SANDU - a union which is not recognised by the South African
National Defence Force. Despite having won their case in 2009, these
soldiers have not yet been readmitted. As one of the organisers of the
meeting, former SANDU official Private Sipho Swelinkomo, expressed it very
clearly: "We didn't fight for liberation to continue suffering." (See
of the meeting.)
The representatives of capital are rightly worried as they can see how the
ideas advanced by Malema are finding a ready audience. "People who believe
that Malema does not present a danger to South Africa have missed the
point," said Richard Farber, a fixed income trader at Johannesburg
brokerage Worldwide Capital, to Reuters "it is his ideology that presents
the danger and that is gathering momentum." He added. President Zuma is
already preparing to use further repression, in order to prevent the
spreading strikes and defend the interests of capitalist mine owners. South
African daily The Times reports that "a high-level security clampdown in
the platinum belt of Rustenburg will be announced, including the possible
arrests of high-profile instigators." The report also mentions "a special
police task force, backed by the army, (... ) expected to be announced and
will move into the area as soon as this weekend." In reply to this "outside
agitators" conspiracy theory, Floyd Shivambu said: "Jacob Zuma and those
around him should begin to appreciate that mineworkers are human beings and
can think and act on their own without any form of agitation. If there is
any action to be taken, it must be against Mines bosses who disregard the
provisions of the Mining charter and underpay mineworkers."
Justice Minister, Jeff Radebe, issued a strong warning that, the state
would, again, use repression to deal with the mineworkers. "This is not a
state of emergency," Radebe told reporters in Pretoria. However, those
gathering illegally will be "dealt with" (... ) We want to bring back public
order in those areas so that the economy can continue to run normally.
"They are going to be dealt with very swiftly, without any further delay,"
said Radebe. "Our government will not tolerate these acts any further."
However, the government is playing with fire. Any attempt to repress the
movement with violence will only cause a bigger explosion of anger.
Limits of capitalist democracy exposed
Despite all the hysteria, Malema is only voicing legitimate concerns of the
mine workers themselves. The miners work in the most difficult and
dangerous conditions in an industry which gives its bosses massive profits.
Meanwhile the workers themselves earn very low wages, in many cases live in
shacks or very poor hostel accommodation with outside toilets, no
electricity, and often they are the sole breadwinners in large families
back home in the regions or countries of origin (see for instance this CNN
report< link to edition.cnn.com).
Added to this is the fact that many are not even directly employed by the
mining companies but through labour brokerage companies (some of them
linked to the Zuma family and business associates and other prominent ANC
leaders). At the same time they can see how the leaders of the union, and
the leaders of their own movement who are now in government, live luxurious
lifestyles, some of them having joined the capitalist class while their own
conditions have remained more or less the same since the victory over
apartheid which was itself the result of a revolutionary struggle in which
mineworkers played a crucial role.
However, a similar story can be told for every single section of the
workers, the youth and the poor which compose the mass constituency of the
ANC, COSATU and the SACP. The last 18 years since 1994 has been a catalogue
of failed expectations, broken promises and dissipated illusions. There
have been many general strikes, bitter labour conflicts, splits and
internal strife within the SACP, the YCL, the ANC YL and the ANC itself, as
well as repeated spates of angry and militant protests by local communities
over the lack of service delivery. Time and again the working masses have
tried to achieve basic rights to housing, education, access to water and
electricity, decent wages and trade union rights. In the process they have
attempted to push their own organisations to the left. The limits of
capitalist democracy have been exposed and with them the limits of the
negotiated settlement of 1994. This movement which has been growing and
gathering force for the last 18 years has now reached the key section of
the South African proletariat and the one which has the potential to make
the whole set up break down.
The struggle of the miners therefore goes to the core of the class and
racial contradictions of post-apartheid South Africa and the character of
the negotiated settlement through which the apartheid regime came to an
end. The mainly white ruling class conceded formal democratic rights to the
mainly African majority as a result of fear of the revolutionary struggle
of the workers and of having trust and confidence in the ability of the
pro-capitalist ANC leaders to contain the movement within the safe limits
of bourgeois democracy. This trust and confidence was sealed in the
so-called "sunset clauses" which inserted in the constitution a strong
safeguard of private property against the idea of nationalisation which was
contained in the Freedom Charter.
The revolutionary struggle against apartheid in South Africa combined
democratic and national elements with a social content which went beyond
the limits of capitalism. The pro-capitalist leadership of the ANC, with
the help and collaboration of the former Stalinist leaders of the SACP (who
abandoned the "first democracy, then socialism" Stalinist stageism for the
reformist gradualism of a "strong developmental state"), managed to contain
the movement within the limits of capitalist democracy. Democratic rights
were won for the majority while economic and political power remained
firmly in the hands of the capitalist class (which remained basically
unchanged, apart from the addition of a few token Africans, preferably with
connections to the former liberation movement). But for the majority of the
workers who fought in that struggle nothing fundamental has changed, their
living conditions, if anything, have worsened.
The only way forward is to adopt a genuine socialist program starting with
the nationalisation of mining, banking and all the key sectors of the South
African economy under workers' control in order to allow for the democratic
planning of the economy so that the people as a whole can share in the
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