The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, NUMSA is honoring the memory of the 34 striking miners who were killed on the 16th of August 2012. We also honour the memories of the 10 workers who were killed in the days leading up to the massacre on that fateful day. All those who were killed during that time were victims of the brutal capitalist system which values greed and rampant profiteering at the expense of people’s lives.
This system is designed to ensure justice only for the rich; it guarantees human rights only for the wealthy and it punishes the poor for their poverty. Although we all witnessed the brutal mass murder of workers on television at the hands of police officers, not one policeman has been charged for the crime of killing workers. Instead shortly after the mass murder, over 200 workers were arrested and charged with public violence. Furthermore, no one has been arrested for the murders of the 10 people who were killed days before the 16th of August, 2012. This is because the victims are largely poor and African, and that is why there is no political will to ensure that justice is served.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and the management of Lonmin mines played a critical role in the suffering of the workers which led to the unprotected strike. Miners at Marikana were killed for fighting for a living wage of just R12500 per month, which is only 938 U.S. dollars. At the time of the strike, the deputy president was a non-executive director at Lonmin mines. During his tenure there is no evidence that he did anything to end the suffering of workers there, despite being a former trade unionist. Furthermore, we heard evidence during the Farlam Commission of Enquiry about how Ramaphosa described the actions of the miners as ‘dastardly criminal acts’ which required ‘concomitant action’. The portrayal of workers as criminals may have been part of the the reason why police justified the use of deadly force on that day. As NUMSA we believe that Ramaphosa has yet to take full responsibility for the role he played in the mass murder of workers in Marikana and that is why we reject his apology.
Ultimately, it was Lonmin’s failure to treat workers as human beings which caused the strike. The majority of miners in Marikana live in tin hovels called shacks, which have no water or electricity. Lonmin claims it has provided better accommodation for workers, but it’s not cheap, forcing many workers to live in informal settlements. This practice of denying African workers decent accommodation started under Apartheid, but continues today in many mining companies. Back then mining bosses demonstrated their disdain for African labour by housing them in single sex hostels, where they packed men together like sardines in a can. Miners were forced to be separated from their families as migrant laborers for long periods of time. Twenty three years into democracy and this practice of tearing African families apart, and exposing workers to insufferable conditions continues in the majority of mining houses in South Africa.
Every year since 2013 at least 73 miners have been killed underground because of accidents, that’s an average of two Marikana massacres per year! This demonstrates that this industry does not value the lives of the working class at all. Mining bosses are only interested in exploiting workers and lining their pockets. It is frankly naïve of this government to expect business to implement any kind developmental agenda in the mining sector and expect mining communities to benefit, when the goal of capital is rampant accumulation and self-enrichment.
The governing party the ANC has failed the people of Marikana and the working class at large by implementing neo-liberal economic policies imposed by the IMF, and ratings agencies. These institutions promote cheap labour and bad working conditions. Furthermore neo liberal economic policies like GEAR and the NDP are directly responsible for austerity measures which have ensured that the working class and the poor languish in poverty, unemployment and inequality, whilst the rich continue to swim in wealth.
This government is busy begging for crumbs from the capitalist bosses by demanding that mining houses be 30% Black owned through the mining charter, when in fact, it should implement wholescale nationalization of the land, the minerals and the banking sector. There is no other solution to the socio-economic crisis facing the majority of the working class poor in South Africa. The Freedom charter is the road map to the kind of genuine social economic transformation which will transfer wealth and power into the hands of the Black and African working class majority. This is what the working class fought and died for under Apartheid. It was fighting for the creation of a truly Socialist South Africa.
Furthermore, NUMSA condemns the ANC, a former liberation movement which is supposed to be leading the detachment for the total emancipation of the black and African working class, for continuing to pursue exploitation on behalf of white monopoly capital. The ANC through leaders like Cyril Ramaphosa, wish to increase the suffering of workers by pursuing and driving the implementation of the fake national minimum wage of R3500 per month. The ANC is spitting on the graves of the Marikana martyrs who died demanding a living wage. They were fighting to end the Apartheid wage which continues in South Africa. This poverty wage can be traced back to our dreadful racist colonial past, which is based on the super exploitation of Black and African labor.
The roots of exploitation of labour are based on the laws and regulations which were implemented before and during Apartheid which resulted in the degradation of African workers, reducing them to the level of serfs and servants. The Dompas and Compound system resulted in African labour being treated like cattle for the express use of capital. The government of the day enacted special penal laws which made it a crime for black people to be absent from work and denied them civil and political rights. Today, two decades after Apartheid has ended, race based inequality continues. CEO’s earn on average 500 times more than ordinary workers, and a study by Oxfam found that the entire wealth of the country is owned by three white billionaires, therefore the legacy of an economy owned and controlled by white monopoly capital, continues.
As a Marxist-Leninist inspired trade union we honour the memories of the Marikana martyrs by fighting for the realization of that dream. We are inspired by the words of the great Cuban leader comrade Fidel Castro who said:
“There is often talk of human rights, but it is also necessary to talk of the rights of humanity. Why should some people walk barefoot, so that others can travel in luxurious cars? Why should some live for thirty-five years, so that others can live for seventy years? Why should some be miserably poor, so that others can be hugely rich? I speak on behalf of the children in the world who do not have a piece of bread. I speak on behalf of the sick who have no medicine, of those whose rights to life and human dignity have been denied.”
As NUMSA we will speak on behalf of those who do not have and those who continue to suffer under the burden of capitalist greed and exploitation. We will not betray the struggle of the workers who fought and died to end Apartheid. We will continue to champion Socialism as the most direct route to social justice and equality for our people.
The struggle continues!
Issued by Irvin Jim
NUMSA general Secretary