Marikana, South Africa–Aug. 18: It’s now two days after the brutal, heartless and merciless cold bloodbath of 45 Marikana mine workers by the South African Police Services. This was a massacre!
Mining has been central to the history of repression in South Africa. Mining made 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.
Julius Malema, former leader of the youth wing of the African National Congress and a corrupt and authoritarian demagogue who represents a faction of the Black Economic Empowerment elite, has been demanding nationalization. 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 bailout for his friends who own unprofitable mines. What we stand for is socialization, 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.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is rapidly losing all credibility. The betrayal of the workers by Frank Baleni, the General Secretary of NUM, has made him a very 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 Marikana Mine is the richest platinum mine in the world, and yet its workers live in shacks and earn only R4,000 ($475) a month. Through their blood and sweat in the mines they do not only produce wealth that is alienated from them, they also produce the fat cats, who wine and dine on naked bodies and call that sushi.
We celebrate every Rand that the workers have taken back from the capitalists and fully support their demand of a salary of R12,500 ($1,488) a month.
If the strikers were protesting under the banner of the tripartite alliance (ANC, South African Communist Party and COSATU) 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 would 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. This demonstrates 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.
The ANC government has killed workers for demanding a salary increment from a notoriously exploitative and very, very rich company. The ANC president and cabinet ministers earn not less that R2 million ($238,047) per year. On top of that there is corruption everywhere. Our politicians are part of the global elite. The president of the ANC recently built a mansion that cost taxpayers not less than R200 million ($24 million).
It is the ANC government that shoots and kills protesters when they are fighting for the assertion of their humanity. They recently killed community activist and journalist Andries Tatane. They have killed at least 25 others in 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 the contrary increases with the number of workers and unemployed who starve. They are criminalizing our struggles and militarizing their police. It is clear that anyone who organizes outside of the ANC, in communities or in the workplace, will face serious and violent repression from the party and the police.
The NUM and the SACP have made it very clear which side they are on by supporting the massacre and calling for further repression against the workers. 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.
War has been declared on the poor and on anyone organizing outside of the control of the ANC. We are our own liberators. We must organize 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.
Abahlali baseMjondolo shackdwellers movement