6:59 AM (3 hours ago)
The odds were against it, but a series of improbable alliances between unlikely partners this week finally produced a wage deal at Lonmin's Marikana mine. Here is what happened behind closed doors.
If you are looking for a hero in the fraught talks that resulted in Lonmin workers returning to their shafts this week, there are many to pick from: the worker delegates who convinced their comrades to step down from a demand they had vowed to die for, the company that accepted a deal it may not be able to afford, the mediators who kept the wheels turning, the clergy who broke through the deep mistrust of workers, the traditional leaders who wielded their authority, the unions that helped those who threatened their authority, the government that stepped aside instead of asserting its authority.
Some of those groups will even claim a piece of the glory for themselves.
But as with so much that has happened near Marikana over the past month, the truth is as complex as the situation was unique, as those who may try to recreate it in search of better pay will likely discover to their peril.
So unusual were the negotiations that even the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) – which does nothing but deal with disputes – was caught by surprise more than once. Such as when one of its mediators was threatened with forceable circumcision, or when the workers reduced their demand by 0.008%.
"We didn't know what we were walking into," said CCMA director Nerine Kahn, who was intimately involved in the process. "I like to say that it was like people who are invited to a party and some come in black tie and some come in rags. They come to a different party expecting different results."
Workers were demanding the now-famous R12 500 a month, but were unclear (and even disputed among themselves) whether that meant in net pay or total salary package before deductions.
Lonmin, at least at first, focused solely on restarting production and was unwilling to make concessions until that happened. Although it initially agreed to speak on the record, the company did not make its negotiators available for this article.
Established, recognised unions were keen to keep the process within the bounds of labour laws and regulations and to ensure the safety of their members. And the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) was, according to several other participants, primarily interested in not taking responsibility for the violence that had preceded the talks. Then there was the elephant in the room: the social circumstances of the miners, especially those who choose not to live in company hostels so as to claim the extra cash in their pockets from a living-out allowance.
"When I came down from the mountain [at Marikana], I realised that this was a not a labour dispute. It was manifesting as a labour dispute, but it was all about frustration with living conditions, inequality, poverty,'" said Afzul Soobedaar, who acted as the CCMA's mediator for most of the negotiations.
"I wondered, how are we ever going to resolve this? At that point in time, it was clear in my mind that they wouldn't come down for anything less than R12 500 because the employee delegation wouldn't dare to go back there to propose anything less than R12 500."
His single trip up the mountain (as those involved often refer to the koppie near Marikana where striking workers routinely gathered) shook him profoundly, Soobedaar said, not only because of the accusations that he was a government stooge or the threats of violence. And his fears seemed justified when worker representatives finally agreed to lower their R12 500 demand – to R12 499. That, they said, was as low as they would go, because anything else would be an insult to the spirits of those who had died, deadlocking the negotiations in irrationality.
Soobedaar argued that the blood spilt at Marikana demanded respect from the workers, but so too did the blood spilt in pursuit of democracy, so a lawful process had to be followed.
The South African Council of Churches (SACC), at various times player and referee in the talks, took a slightly different approach.
"We said to them they cannot hold on to the past, that those people were dead, but they had families and the living have families and must be mindful of their own needs," said SACC president Bishop Joe Seoka.
Those arguments seemed to fail, just as the arguments for disarming the striking group had failed.
"We said to them: 'It is normal for a man in a village to carry a stick, because of dogs or whatever, but if you are not fighting anyone it is not necessary to carry a spear or a machete'," said chief Phathekile Holomisa, the leader of the Congress of Traditional Leaders (Controlesa), who was also involved in the talks. "Emotions were too high for them to understand that."
In fact, no amount of agreement between the CCMA, the SACC and Controlesa on peace or process, or the need for achievable demands, or the real threat of Lonmin going under and all the workers losing their jobs seemed to succeed. Some participants blamed the inexperience of those representing the workers, others believed they were simply afraid of being killed by those they represented if they were seen to have failed. Things looked grim.
Then, improbably, those representing the workers who refused to be represented by unions turned to those very unions for help and the unions agreed. In a caucus that excluded Amcu, the established unions tried to explain how easily those involved in an unprotected strike could be dismissed, how badly Lonmin was faring, how a higher settlement would mean job losses and how salary structures worked. That, it seems, was the crucial breakthrough and one that came at a substantial cost for the unions, setting a precedent for workers to break ranks with their official representatives to seek extraordinary increases.
Some participants disagree, saying the breakthrough came thanks to an alliance between workers and the SACC, or because Lonmin and its employees found a common purpose in survival, or because the fear of being fired finally trumped the fear of those waiting on the koppie. What they do agree on, however, is that impossible negotiations suddenly turned into simple wage talks and a resolution was easily found.
Which left only the problem of selling the deal to the thousands of striking workers, a problem overcome by perhaps the most unlikely alliance of all: a tacit agreement between all involved to allow the workers to believe that a minimum gross entry wage of R12 500 would be implemented within two years.
Is that dishonest? "I'd rather call it sleight of hand," said one participant. "Sometimes you have to think of the greater good."
Pay rise will not change much
By Bongani Fuzile on September 25, 2012 in Uncategorized · 0 Comments
Nkaneng informal settlement, Marikana. Picture: SINO MAJANGAZA
LIFE for Lonmin’s Marikana miners is not easy, with many forced to leave allocated mine hostels to save money so they can feed their families.
They instead build shacks near the mine shafts where workers say they save R1850 – an allowance paid out to most of those who do not live in the hostels.
Workers, many from the Eastern Cape, have built these shacks despite resistance from mine authorities. The small community they have created is called Nkaneng, a Sotho word which loosely translated means “by force”.
Miner Andile Nose from Port St Johns said many of the workers from the Eastern Cape found it difficult to save money to send home to their families.
“We had to make plans to save that extra money to add to our salaries. It is not nice to stay in a leaking shack though you have a salary of over R4000, we are living in squalor.”
Tshepiso Mabandla, also from the Eastern Cape, has been living in the squatter camp for the past three years.
“We are living in squalor as if we are not working in a company that is making millions [of rands] and we do not even have electricity in these shacks,” he said, adding that some used electricity stolen from the mainlines.
Mabandla said many of the elderly men who still worked in the mines had also opted for shacks. They were unable to invite relatives from the Eastern Cape to join them due to the living conditions.
Lonmin mine’s Nick Roodman, when asked about the living conditions of workers, said they would respond to questions this week.
The Daily Dispatch drove around the filthy informal settlement during a recent visit to Marikana. Thousands of shacks have mushroomed around mine shafts.
Driving through the community, one has to dodge deep trenches dug between shacks which workers say were done to stop police driving through following violence which claimed the lives of 46 people.
Each street has two or more open dumpsites where children play and dogs and livestock wander.
The area’s ward councillor, Sivuyile Mpongwana, said there were more than 7000 mineworkers staying in the Nkaneng informal settlement.
“Some mineworkers are scattered in other similar informal settlements. They do not have a choice but to stay here because of these salaries,” said Mpongwana.
Residents of the informal community welcomed the Daily Dispatch into their homes, but would not allow pictures to be taken inside or of their weapons, which they carried during the protest.
“These are weapons that are carried when times are tough. When we force our way, we use these weapons. Unfortunately some of us had to die, but please don’t bother taking pictures of them, we are targets of the police,” said a man who only introduced himself as Tshwene.
For rock drill operators Andile Nose and Sithembele Sohadi, the new salary increase will make little difference to their lives.
“There will be just a little difference with the money that I am earning, compared with what I will be earning. One needs to be careful when using what he is going to get. Maybe that little difference can help in other families,” said Nose.
Sohadi said the R12 500 they were demanding was better. “The money we will get won’t change our situation.”
Both were being paid R9063, including a housing allowance of R1850. With the new salaries they will be getting R11 078 – an increase of R2015.
“The extra money we wanted was going to assist us in many ways,” said Sohadi. — email@example.com
Strike was ‘fuelled by empty stomachs’
By Bongani Fuzile on September 25, 2012 in Uncategorized · 0 Comments
HARSH CONDITIONS: Sithembele Sohadi and his wife Nomathongo live in a shack in Marikana’s Nkaneng informal settlement with their five children. Sohadi, a rock drill operator at Lonmin mine brought his family from the Eastern Cape to live with him as he could not afford to send money home. Picture: SINO MAJANGAZA
POVERTY is what miners at Lonmin’s Marikana mine say led to the fatal strike which resulted in the death s of 46 people and shocked the nation.
Thousands of mineworkers – and job seekers – took to the streets last month to demand better salaries and better housing conditions as many of them live in squalid corrugated iron shacks.
Some miners said they often went to work on empty stomachs while others, many from the Eastern Cape, had been forced to survive on what they earned.
Many of these workers are breadwinners with large families to support.
Sithembele Sohadi from Mtwaku village in Flagstaff is married and a father of eight. He has family to support in the Eastern Cape and North West.
He works as a rock drill operator at Lonmin, and before the negotiated deal accepted by workers last week, Sohadi took home R4200. With this money, he supports 17 people.
“I am always left with R200 in my pocket each month. This is the life of a miner in Marikana.
“Back home [Eastern Cape] there is no work. We come here to work and coming from rural villages, we have large families to support. This money is just not enough to survive,” he said.
Due to financial circumstances, Sohadi decided to move his wife and five of their eight children to the North West to care for them. Three children remain in the Eastern Cape – still under his care – as well as siblings and other relatives.
The Daily Dispatch spent time with the Sohadi family in their two-roomed shack last week. Inside the shacks of the miners, it is common to find a single bed, with one corner cupboard, a paraffin stove and a few pots.
The workers’ work clothes are hung above their beds and some of the shacks are shared by two or three miners.
There is normally one toilet shared by 10 to 15 people.
Sohadi used to stay in a mine hostel but built a shack to save money.
“I had to stay out of hostel luxury. I couldn’t afford that while my family starves in the Eastern Cape. I had to bring them here and we eat in one bowl. To be honest, the strike was influenced by empty stomachs more than anything.”
He said for years there had been unhappiness about the salaries but they had never voiced it.
“But when we looked at this, with sky rocketing food prices, we decided that was enough. We are staying in shacks, trying to save money, but we cannot even see the money we were saving. ”
His unemployed wife, Nomathongo, said she appreciated everything her husband has done.
“He was brave to take us up here so that we can see the struggle they are going through. Some men would not do that. Life is tough here.
“We are staying in leaking shacks, still cooking outside, using firewood, it is hard. It is better though than staying in the Eastern Cape, now we are eating what he is eating,” she said.
Nomathongo said she was concerned about their children’s health in the shacks.
Sohadi said with the recent wage deal, his revised salary will be R11 078 – just over R2000 up from his previous earnings of R9063 before deductions.
After last week’s wage agreement, things will change a little for Sohadi.
“I am expecting of getting at least R1000. Is that enough money? No.” — firstname.lastname@example.org
Those killed were ‘tired of earning peanuts’
By Bongani Fuzile on September 25, 2012 in Uncategorized · 0 Comments
Thembinkosi Mtsha, 49, from Lady Frere has been working at Lonmin for the past 27 years but says he’s got nothing to show of his service within the company. He is still staying in a shack, lighting candles at night and at times uses firewood to cook. Picture: SINO MAJANGAZA
THEMBINKOSI Mtsha left for the mines in the 1980s and after almost three decades of employment, has little to show for it.
Mtsha, now 49, has been working for Lonmin in Marikana for 27 years. His salary goes towards supporting his family and parents.
The married father of five from Lady Frere in the Eastern Cape told the Daily Dispatch team he still uses candles for light and firewood to cook.
“Can you say this is the life of an employed person? A father of five, who has to clothe, feed and take them to school?” asked Mtsha.
“I am a husband who has to provide for his wife and I only give her R1500 a month. This is more like a social grant to her, but I do not have a choice, this is my life in a mine.”
Mtsha currently earns R7750, and after deductions takes home R4350.
Out of this money, he pays his daughter’s college fees and R1500 is to buy food and contribute towards a stokvel (savings club).
“Then I will be left with little less than R1000 for my shack. I cannot even afford buying myself new clothes.”
The R7750 already includes R1850, which is the housing allowance for those who do not stay in the mine hostel.
“That is what we earn. Those who died here were also tired of these peanuts. They wanted to provide for their children, they wanted recognition back in their villages in the Eastern Cape, but unfortunately they fell while fighting for their money,” he said.
Mtsha actively took part in the six- week long strike that claimed 46 lives, with the latest victim dying last Wednesday.
“We thought that the employer will value and listen to us but they would not bother, instead [they] called the police who shot and killed our people.
“It is sad to lose so many lives from my province, a province that supports mines with labour.”
Mtsha went to Marikana when the then Transkei government had an understanding with mining companies to send migrant workers to the mines.
Many people from areas like Centane, Mqanduli, Ngqeleni, Lusikisiki, Bizana, Lady Frere, Flagstaff and others could be found in Marikana.
Mtsha estimates there are over 12 000 workers from the Eastern Cape.
He said he was concerned that the strike was not really over, adding that a lot still needed to happen.
“People have died, there are promises from the mine, miners want to do away with their union. This is just a start.”
Mtsha’s salary will increase by little over R1000 before deductions. He has opted to stay in a shack and will continue sending his wife R1500.
“There is nothing to celebrate here. This 22% is nothing. My increase will be less than R1000. I will still use these candles to light my home and use firewood to cook. The R12 500 money we wanted was going to go a long way.” — email@example.com
South Africans are still trying to come to terms with what exactly happened in Marikana. And if the poetry and music on Marikana that has emerged so far is anything to go by, we are deeply conflicted in our understanding of the tragedy, its causes and its potential effects. By KHADIJA PATEL.
The strike is over. The dead, most of them, have been buried. It’s only the most recent victim of the strike at Lonmin’s mines in Marikana that awaits interment at the Phokeng Mortuary in Rustenburg. Even as the headlines mull the cost to the economy, sifting rumour from fact and shifting focus to the next big strike and quantifying the potential for greater unrest, Marikana will not recede from the public consciousness very easily. Even as a sense of calm and normalcy returns to the town, where goats steal spinach from street vendors, poetry and music, cultural expressions of Marikana, not as a place, but as a pivotal movement in South African history have begun to emerge.
A poem by Professor Ari Sitas, sociologist, poet and dramatist; lines by an unnamed police officer that have been shared on the Internet and published by Jacaranda FM on its website; a spoken word poem or rap song called “Blood Shed of the Innocent” by a group called Soundz of the South, or SOS; all these have captured some of the threads of thought currently running through South African society.
Poet Rustum Kozain believes that Marikana will not only be a turning point in South African politics and labour relations, but also in the thrust of South African cultural expression. “What happened was a tragedy, but I think there’s going to be a shift in South African culture,” Kozain says.
“I think we are going to see more and more overtly political culture and importantly, it will be more readily available as well. I know in poetry this has been going on since 1994. Poetry that we don’t see in the mainstream – they are published in little magazines, they are performed in [obscure places].”
Kozain agrees that poetry in South Africa has always maintained space for a radical critique of South African society. He adds, “There has been a kind of quietude in South African literature and culture in the past 15 years or so, but I think there’s been a kind of restlessness developing in South African literature.”
It is, of course, the ANC that is in the most influential position to shape South African arts and culture. As the ruling party, it is the ANC that has the power to determine the country’s educational and cultural policies. And of course, this is not unique to South Africa. In any country, the government influences art and literature by making laws and by subsidising schools, universities and the performing arts. And there certainly is an appreciation from government for poetry as a worthy cultural expression. The country’s poet laureate Keorapetse Kgositsile notably received R1 million in 2007, when his achievements were lauded by government. Former President Thabo Mbeki awarded the Silver Order of Ikhamanga posthumously to Ingrid Jonker, for her contribution to literature and human rights. So there certainly is an appreciation for poetry from government and it is manifest as well in recitations of poetry in official events.
Kozain referred us to an article in literary journal “Mediations” that argues that though poetry is appreciated by the powers that be and even encouraged through competitions on the national broadcaster, the tone of poetry in the public eye in recent years is apolitical.
“Generally speaking, nowadays a plethora of festivals and prizes has emerged aimed at rewarding the utterance of poets, and poetry is a presence on radio and television. The question one must ask of this is (as it always is) what kinds of utterances are rewarded. There is a discernible tendency by organs of the state and big business to turn to poetry in order to communicate marketing and political messages,” the writer, UCT professor Kelwyn Sole, says.
And on cue, “The system is killing us,” warns the concluding refrain in the SOS song.
“We thought we should add value to the voices out there at the moment and add our voices in support of the miners demanding better working conditions, better living conditions and better pay,” explains Anele Africa, a member of SOS.
“In some ways [recording the song] was a learning experience for us, but it was also an opportunity to raise awareness of the lives lost in Marikana,” Africa says.
He describes SOS as a “political arts collective” that combines activism with artistic expression.
“For us, we think music, poetry and arts in general is an important medium to educate and organise but more importantly to advocate for change and justice,” he says.
“I am quite amazed by the song,” Kozain comments.
A persisting criticism of media coverage of Marikana has been a perception of the lack of the police perspective. Jacaranda FM Newscast Editor, Dianne Broodryk, shared a poem sent to her from a member of the South African Police Services, detailing police dissatisfaction with the prevailing narrative on Marikana.
“[A police officer] sent me a poem, to express some emotion from the blue side of the battle. I share it with you, as it gives a voice to the side that cannot speak on their own behalf. Another vantage point, to the dust of confusion that saw policemen become soldiers and mineworkers become warriors,” Broodryk wrote.
Massacre they scream
Murder they cry
They don't even look at the facts
They don't ask why
They see the men run
They see police fire!
But before this -
What all did transpire?
They show only minutes
Of what lasted a week
They point fingers and blame
don't think before they speak
They don't know what it's like
to stand in the line
To feel tension and risk
all of the time
They don't see our planning
Our attempts to bring peace
They just see dead bodies
and point blame at the police
They don't stop to think
to think of our lives.
We're just normal people
with family lives
They call them victims
and visit their beds.
They ignore our dead colleagues and just shake their heads.
Though the flag of our nation won't fly at half-mast, to his name they won't add a gold star.
The suspect that killed him will stand up in court, with counsel demanding his rights.
While a young widowed mother must work for her kids and spend many long, lonely nights.
Yes, somebody killed a policeman today...
maybe in your town or mine,
While we slept in comfort behind our locked doors
A cop put his life on the line.
So I just shrug my shoulders
and keep dressing in blue.
I'm doing my job protecting people like you.
Sometimes it is hard,
the decisions we make -
to protect life and property
and all that's at stake
We have months' worth of training and more every day.
We learn tactics and planning
forget what THEY say
We serve with pride
and dignity to boot
and if they don't recognize this I don't give a hoot I know I serve proudly and think it all through all for the sake of protecting people like you.
And when the dust has all settled and the blame has been laid.
No flags fly half-masts for dead colleagues
I'll still be standing here that's just how I'm made
I stand tall and proud and take it each day
it's part of the job it's the policemen's way
I'm not black or white
I'm really just BLUE and proud of my job - protecting people like you
Kozain believes that the police perspective is particularly significant to our understanding of Marikana. “It is very, very interesting and very important that no matter how the police emerge from this incident, it is understood that the police [are part of] an institution – but that it [the institution] is also made up of individuals, of people who also have stressful work and who are low-paid,” he says.
“They do have guns, of course, which we can’t really equate with the striking miners, but it’s very important…this individual voice, this poem by a police officer, it doesn’t have the lyricism of the [SOS] song or the full literary flourishes of Ari Sitas’ poem, but it’s important to hear that voice just as well.”
The Sitas poem evoked the memory of an Ethiopian shopkeeper in Marikana describing miners as people living underground, in limbo between life and death. Or, as Sitas puts it, “The strike is over, [t]he dead must return to work.”
Sitas explains that the television footage of violence on August 16 moved him deeply. “The imagery haunted me,” he said. “It shook my inners.”
A poem on the unending hurt of Marikana, by Ari Sitas.
The digital images fold as the TV screen tires
The cops, rifles in cabinet, past their third beer are edging towards bed
The night is quiet as the smelter has been closed,
the only music is of the wind on razor wire
the ears are too shut to hear the ancestral thuds on goatskin
humanity has somehow died in Marikana
who said what to whom remains a detailed trifle
the fury of the day has to congeal, the blood has to congeal
I reverse the footage bringing the miners back to life
in vain, the footage surges back and the first bullet
reappears and the next and the next and the next
and I reverse the footage in vain, again and again in vain
The image of the man in the green shroud endures
Who wove the blanket and what was his name?
There are no subtitles under the clump of bodies, no names
stapled on their unformed skull
A mist of ignorance also endures, a winter fog
woven into the fabric of the kill
The loom endures too, the weaver is asleep
The land of the high winds will receive the man naked
The earth will eat the stitch back to a thread
What will remain is the image and I in vain
Reversing him back to life to lead the hill to song
In vain, the footage surges back
another Mpondo, another Nquza Hill, another Wonder Hill
the shooting quietens: another anthill
My love, did I not gift you a necklace with a wondrous bird
pure royal platinum to mark our bond?- was it not the work of the
most reckless angel of craft and ingenuity? Was it not pretty?
Didn’t the bird have an enticing beak of orange with green tint?
Throw it away quickly, tonight it will turn nasty and gouge
a shaft into your slender neck
And it will hurt because our metals are the hardest- gold, pig iron, manganese
Humanity has somehow died in Marikana
What is that uMzimu staring back at us tonight?
Darken the mirrors
Switch off the moon
Asphalt the lakes
At dawn, the driveway to the Master’s mansion
Is aflame with flower, so radiant from the superphosphates
of surplus oxygen and cash,
such flames, such a raw sun
such mourning by the shacks that squat in sulphur’s bracken
and I wait for the storm, the torrent, the lava of restitution
the avenger spirits that blunt the helicopter blades in vain
these also endure: the game and trout fishing of their elective chores
the auctions of diamond, art and share
the prized stallions of their dreams
their supple fingers fingering oriental skins and their silver crystals
counting the scalps of politicians in their vault
The meerkat paces through the scent of blood
I want it to pace through the scent of blood,
she is the mascot, the living totem
of the mine’s deep rock,
the one who guards the clans from the night’s devil
she is there as the restless ghosts of ancestors
by the rock-face
feeding her sinew and pap
goading her on:
the women who have loved the dead alive
the homesteads that have earned their sweat and glands
impassive nature that has heard their songs
the miners of our daily wealth that still defy
the harsh landscape of new furies
the meerkat endures-
torn certainties of class endure
the weaver also endures: there-
green blankets of our shrouded dreams
humanity has died in Marikana
The strike is over
The dead must return
*(after a tough two weeks and seeing Pitika Ntuli's miner sculpture with the green corrugated iron blanket)
Kozain remarks, “For me, as someone who has great faith in literature addressing the greater question of life, politics, religion and whatever else, it’s important to see the development of artistic expression about Marikana develop. But it is unfortunate that a tragedy like Marikana should have to spark something like this.” DM
The Marikana Massacre: What Would Steve Biko have Said and Done?
THE MARIKANA MASSACRE
WHAT WOULD STEVE BIKO HAVE SAID AND DONE?
- Aubrey Mokoape, St. Philip's Anglican Church, Fingo Village, Grahamstown, 19 September 2012
Comrade Programme Director, comrades from the Black Consciousness Party, various formations of the BCM, comrades from the Unemployed People’s Movement and other Social Movements, comrades from the Clergy and the entire religious community, comrades from community organizations and civic bodies, comrades from the academia and the entire academic community, citizens of Grahamstown and compatriots from near and far, all fellow fighters in the fight for a truly human egalitarian society I greet you all in the name of our great beloved leader, brother, revolutionary Steve Bantu Biko and that of our fallen victims of the Marikana Massacre. I greet you in the name of Steve Biko the visionary, the intellectual, the revolutionary socialist, the activist, the anti-racist. I greet you in the name of the Socialist Azanian Republic for which Steve Biko died.
LONG LIVE THE SPIRIT OF STEVEN BANTU BIKO LONG LIVE!!!! LONG LIVE THE MARIKANA MINERS AND ALL THE EXPLOITED WORKERS OF OUR LAND.
We meet here today as we do every year at the shrine of Steve Biko to commemorate him, to remember his inspirational leadership, his martyrdom on our behalf and draw solace and inspiration. This is always a day of mixed emotions. On one hand it evokes immense sadness when we contemplate our loss, especially now when our country is drafting rudderless in a sea of violence, avarice and ignorance. We are also deeply pained by the painful barbarity of his murder and we cannot and must not forget on the other hand, that this is a day of hope and optimism. That such a young man could have such hope and courage to shoulder the aspirations of a forlorn nation gives us hope. As he said “IT IS BETTER TO DIE FOR AN IDEA THAT WILL LIVE THAN LIVE FOR AN IDEA THAT WILL DIE.”
It is in that spirit that we come here: to imbibe, to nourish, to refresh and to recommit to that idea so that indeed it will be immortalised. The idea in his words, of “TOTAL LIBERATION”. Mark, total liberation, not merely the removal of apartheid. But if for a moment we had been lulled into slumber or beguiled into complacency by the sweet sounding words like new South Africa and miracle constitution or Rainbow Nation, it is just as well to be jolted back into reality by the guns of Marikana.
The Marikana Massacre is the most egregious illustration of what happens when the interests of the state clash with the interests of the people. The state took the side of Lonmin and the new black induna class and callously mowed down poor black workers who were merely asking for a living wage. But for the colour of the indunas, it is the same state that murdered black people at Sharpeville, Langa, Bisho and countless other places. It is a black government today that dispatched police to mercilessly massacre black workers who voted it into power. It sounds ridiculously ironic but maybe it isn’t.
That’s why we ask what would Steve Biko have said and done about the guns of Marikana? But before we ask Steve the question let’s find out who he was. A lot of things have been said and written about Biko, some right and others wrong. I had the privilege to live with him and to fight politically and ultimately collaborated with him in the evolution of the Black Consciousness philosophy. When he joined me in 1966 at medical school I was already in second year and older than him and was already a political veteran having been sentenced to three years for my involvement at Sharpeville in 1960. Steve was not awed by all of this and engaged me politically from the onset.
Steve was a consummate revolutionary. For a start he was a very easy and casual man, at ease with everyone. Even as he carved his place in history there was nothing messianic in his demeanour. He had an abiding love for people and this is what inspired him. He was a socialist but he expressed his socialist beliefs in simple everyman’s language. He was a humanist, a scientist and a philosopher. He was an activist who always listened and sought to persuade. Underlying all these many qualities was a steely determination and a sense of mission. He was a natural leader around whom people congregated easily. I personally found no difficulty in deferring to him although I was theoretically his senior.
The last time I saw him was during his testimony in our case in Pretoria. I tried very hard to persuade him to go into exile but he flatly refused. He said he could not abandon our people alone in their hour of need. Earlier he had already committed class suicide when he spurned the prospect of becoming a medical doctor and instead chose the struggle. In his own words “LEADERSHIP AND SECURITY ARE BASICALLY INCOMPATIBLE, A STRUGGLE WITHOUT CASUALTIES IS NO STRUGGLE”. The question before us is: what would Steve have said and done about the Marikana Massacre?
I believe the first thing he would say would be shocking and blood curdling as the Marikana massacre is, it has been predictable. If we had paid careful heed towards what’s been happening around us and media reports we would have seen a series of mini Marikanas happening all over the country. There have been dry runs for over ten years now with protests occurring with increased frequency and intensity and police pitted against the people with a variety of weapons. The most dramatic prelude to Marikana was the brutal murder of Andries Tatane by the police which was played out in front of all of us. If we had paid enough heed we would have noticed that the 1994 settlement had left the colonial racist capitalist socio-economic structure intact. The masses of black people were left without their land, their labour and their liberty. They were left poor, ignorant and powerless labouring on white men’s farms and mines. Steve would have told us that extending the vote to black people without restoring the land and transforming the socio-economic landscape in favour of the black majority was tantamount to legitimising apartheid.
I think he would paraphrase Aime Cesaire thus:
“When I turn on my TV and see landless poor blacks toiling in the white men’s mines and farms, I know apartheid is not dead.
When I turn on my TV and see little black children walking miles on end, crossing rivers to go to mud schools, I know apartheid is not dead.
When I see poor desperate black miners being callously mowed down with heavy machine guns for simply asking for a living wage, I know apartheid is not dead.
Apartheid is alive and well in the union buildings, in parliament, in homes, in school and everywhere.”
The only difference is that it is now being overseen by a black government and a black induna class instead of Afrikaners.
Apartheid is alive and well because the 1994 so called democracy was a monumental sell out. The people’s revolution was hijacked by imperialism and local capitalist conspiring with our current black government. The vast black masses were beguiled with an avalanche of propaganda about a miracle constitution, a rainbow nation and some such new speak. Of course the masses were given the vote to vote for an absentee government which spends its time on golf courses and banqueting halls. They were given freedom of movement with nowhere to go but to squatter camps. They were given the right to education but denied books. They were given the right to form trade unions but no employment. They were given freedom of speech but no-one to talk to. Marikana was actually woven into the fabric of the new South Africa. It was always coming.
What we are seeing is an escalation of state violence against the black masses. Since the government has chosen the side of the bosses who have money against the people the question is: when and where will the next Marikana occur?
It is quite clear that this government has run out of ideas. Key sectors of social delivery like education, health, justice, welfare are in crisis. Morale among the professional classes like teachers, nurses, doctors and police is at an all time low. The working classes and the unemployed have reached the end of their tether. They are seen everyday manning barricades and throwing stones in every township and village.
On the other hand the language from the government and its allies is ominous and chilling. It is reminiscent of the language of Jimmy Kruger and P W Botha. We now regularly hear of inciters, third force, law and order and phrases like “we shall not tolerate”. This is the language of a government that is losing legitimacy and barring its teeth.
Any government that fails to deliver on its mandate to its people and is focused on self-enrichment will face increasing levels of popular resistance such as at Marikana. History has shown that such a government increasingly resorts to repression.
I believe that Steve would have urged the Black Consciousness Party and all formations of the BCM to mobilise all progressive people, the black working class, peasants, students and women to overthrow the capitalist system that is strangulating our people and replace it with a just non-exploitative socialist society. He would have reminded us of the crucial role of the BCM in the 1960’s when the struggle of the people was facing extinction. He would have told us that this is again the time for the BCM to step up and resume its historic role. In tribute to Steve Biko and the miners who fell at Marikana we commit to these goals.
In conclusion we support the miners at Marikana and elsewhere in their quest for a living wage. We also extend our sincere condolences to their families. We condemn the government for siding with the capitalists against the people and for using high handed repressive methods instead of negotiating peacefully.
NUM – be humble, apologise
By Phathekile Holomisa on September 24, 2012
ALL South Africans should be united in the wish that the deaths of 46 people in Marikana had not occurred. They did die, however, and the reasons will be revealed by the inquiry conducted by the Farlam Commission.
Clearly, all of these role-players and beneficiaries of the mining sector were, to varying degrees, responsible for the Marikana tragedy. Complacency on the part of Lonmin and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), as well as lack of communication between themselves and the striking workers contributed.
Political and traditional leaders who do not concern themselves with the socio-economic conditions of the voters and their people, wherever they may be, must also share the blame. Equally, a police force which believes in the use of deadly force against civilians who pose no imminent danger , even if armed with bush- knives, pangas and sticks, needs to exam- ine its suitability for a democratic state.
As traditional leaders of the mine workers, the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa decided to acquaint itself with the “developments” at Marikana.
We found Lonmin was taken by surprise by the strike action, particularly its vehemence . They had never had occasion to speak directly to the workers, but had always relied on the Num to convey their grievances to them.
Even when they saw the workers holding unauthorised meetings on the soccer field, the first thing they thought of doing was to call on the police to disperse them. When this did not happen they sought a court interdict.
This was apparently what caused the workers to leave the company premises and gather on Rock Hill. There, 34 met their death at the hands of the police.
The first time Lonmin met and spoke to representatives of the striking workers was some days after the killings, at a meeting arranged by the South African Council of Churches (SACC) under the leadership of Bishop Joe Seoka.
That was when Lonmin learnt for the first time what the grievances were about.
NUM has a recognition agreement with the company on account of it enjoying the support of a requisite number of members whose subscription fees are deducted from the workers’ salaries by the company.
From what the workers’ representatives said, and also from the songs sung by the workers, the union no longer enjoyed their confidence.
They saw the union as, in their words, “sleeping in a single bed with the company”.
Apparently, in accordance with the law, the union and company had reached an agreement in terms of which wage increases would be effected in a particular manner, by October , and over a certain period thereafter. These increases would amount to a wage arrangement far below what the workers were striking for.
The union was, naturally, bound by the agreement. It was, therefore, not in a position to negotiate the R12500 basic wage demand on the workers’ behalf.
On the other hand, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), while seemingly enjoying the support of the striking workers (the majority of whom were NUM members), was not in a position to engage the company on their behalf. It apparently did not have the requisite number of members to qualify it to conclude a recognition agreement with the company.
Attempts on its part to seek an audience with the company came to nought.
Another possible conduit for the transmission of the workers’ grievances to the company could thus not be used.
Amcu met the company for the first time when the Contralesa delegation visited the company at its Marikana offices. From then on we insisted they all be present whenever talks over the dispute were to be held.
Government also, apparently for the same legalistic reason, had not met Amcu until we called the union to a briefing by the inter-ministerial task team led by Collins Chabane.
The striking workers had no alternative but to elect their own committee of delegates to represent them at all meetings.
Thus it came to be that when the actual negotiations on the R12500 demand finally took off, the delegates, Num, Solidarity and the United Association of South Africa were all involved. The company had correctly insisted that all parties be present when it responded.
It will be recalled that all along and until Thursday September 13, nobody knew what the company’s response was to the wage demand. The sensitivity on the company’s part was understandable because, among other things, there was a wage agreement in force, the departure from which required that all the parties who were loyal to it had full insight and understanding.
As it turned out, the agreement was reached in the presence of all concerned, with the workers’ delegates taking advantage of advice from all the unions and the bishop.
Without the bishop and his SACC, the negotiations would not have been concluded in the manner they were. These individuals reminded us of the preachers of old who did not require bodyguards or security personnel before they could intercede on behalf of the down-trodden in the days of apartheid.
As Contralesa, the SACC and all South Africans who put justice and peace before every other consideration, we rejoice with the Marikana workers in their victory.
We are aware of the concerns of those who fear this is setting a bad precedent for the wages regime in the mining industry. While we expected such concerns from business, we find it alarming and ironic that Cosatu and NUM are among those who condemn the outcome of the Lonmin strike.
Have they forgotten that the interests of the workers should come first, before the company and the union?
Surely, as democrats with a proven track record in the fight for workers’ rights, they are not fearful or jealous of the possibility that Amcu might “steal” their members ?
In a democracy, the comrades need to remember, there is the small matter of freedom of association, which applies to the work environment as well.
The advice we would like to give NUM is that its leadership must humble itself before the mine workers, apologise for the lapse in leadership, and commit to maintaining dynamic links between the leadership, shop stewards and the workers to ensure it obtains the necessary mandate from the workers before binding them to certain salary increases.
The union members, as beneficiaries of the investment arms of Num, must see evidence of the dividends being used for their benefit .
Lastly, unpalatable as the idea may be to NUM, they should cultivate working relations with Amcu, just as they seem to be doing with Solidarity.
Lonmin has to be lauded for its decision to set up a fund for the education, up to tertiary level, of the children of the Marikana victims. The R12500 wage demand was, after all, intended to enable the workers to give their children the kind of education that would ensure they do not have to be mine workers like their parents and those before them.
Contralesa will discuss other matters with the Chamber of Mines. These relate to the investments in the mining operations, dividends earned, allowances, benefits, perquisites and salaries paid to the share-holders, directors, managers, artisans, engineers, shop stewards and workers involved. Also the residential circumstances of the workers cannot continue to be ones of squalor and deprivation.
The question of the development of the labour-exporting communities, as well as the communities in whose lands the mining operations occur, will be another subject of our discussions.
Traditional leaders of mineral-endowed communal lands should desist from being the exclusive beneficiaries of the royalties accruing from the mines.
These, like the land, do not belong to them alone – they belong to them and the communities jointly. In Africa, traditional leaders are merely the custodians, while the people are joint owners.
Prospectors must understand this truth and stop misleading and corrupting traditional leaders with motor vehicles, palaces and money.
Let us all learn from Marikana and build a nation imbued with ubuntu – the African Bill of Human Rights!
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