Dashiki Dialogues: Miners’ blood feeds the tree of our freedom

2014-05-25 15:00

Once again, the mine workers have delivered a revolutionary opportunity for the country. The protracted strike in the platinum belt has the potential to liberate more than the mine workers if it succeeds.

It is my view that the striking miners are battling a historic attitude and bad ethics that have been entrenched by capital across industry.

It’s an attitude of bosses that generally sees higher wages for workers as a threat to the continued triumph of their business models, which abhorrently reward senior executives while condemning workers to poverty.

They sustain an evil regime that miners must keep fighting to undo.

How else could we define the fact that, in 2012, the year of the massacre that saw 34 miners gunned down by police, Lonmin’s outgoing CEO earned about R1.2?million a month while a rock driller earned an average of R10?500 in a cost-to-company monthly package.

This state of affairs was made possible, in part, by the fall of the Soviet Union and the paucity of socialist thought in the 1990s. This was the decade in which much of our current social structure was negotiated and designed.

But the triumph of neoliberal capitalism was not assured in the 1980s, when it was put in the spotlight by mining labour.

In 1984, mine workers undertook their first legal strike, a bloody affair. Out of that blood and sweat our democracy was made possible.

In this spirit, I contend that the blood that flowed in Marikana will nourish the tree that will bear the fruits of freedom. These must unequivocally include better wages for miners and workers in general.

It is increasingly becoming fashionable to talk about the price being paid without seeing the bigger picture. The current hunger, as miners go without pay, and the strain on the broader economy are submitted as reasons to suspend the mass action.

We accept with little question the bosses’ claim that the miners’ demands are unaffordable. Some are even casting aspersions on Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union leader Joseph Mathunjwa in a bid to shift the conversation to the strikers’ current hardships.

But no hardship can be worse than what the miners have already gone through. They have died and starved to get this far. To cave in without a significant wage gain retards the meaning and sacrifice of those who died.

Their dashikis were committed to the loins of the earth, the earth into which they ploughed their labour for a dialogue with freedom.

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