Marikana aftermath – What went wrong?

2012-08-25 12:21

The bloodiest security operation since the end of apartheid has left us shocked and asking what went wrong. Jay Naidoo tries to decode the event that rocked our nation

When I think of Marikana, I am reminded of Frantz Fanon in The Wretched of the Earth: “Come, then, comrades, it would be as well to decide at once to change our ways.

"We must shake off the heavy darkness in which we were plunged and leave it behind. The new day, which is already at hand, must find us firm, prudent and resolute.”

As a union organiser in the 1980s, I knew that taking workers out on strike for a legitimate wage demand was not an uphill battle.

Taking workers back to work after a failed strike is the ultimate test for any union leader.

Now is the time for calm heads to prevail.

The judicial commission of inquiry appointed by President Jacob Zuma will hopefully present all the facts.

It is the right decision, but it will take painstaking commitment on all sides to rebuild the trust that has been shattered.

And that involves us all as citizens.

There is not going to be a simple solution.

This is a complex dispute that is at its very essence a microcosm of South African society.


The critical question is how could this have happened in 2012, 18 years into our democracy and on the centenary commemoration of the ANC’s struggle for social justice and human dignity?

The answer simply is that there has been a massive failure of leadership on all sides.

The critical question is why we did not act earlier on this festering dispute that the nation mourns today.

The people living in our townships, rural areas and squatter camps are bitter that democracy has not delivered the fruits that they see a tiny elite enjoying.

Our leaders across the spectrum are not talking to our people, they are not working with them systematically to solve their problems in providing the hope that one day, even in their children’s lives, things will be better.

A narrow law-and-order approach will not work.

There is genuine anger out there that needs a political solution.

I am aghast at the rapid rate at which our government had militarised the security forces, as well as the creeping stranglehold of securocrats within the state.

I wonder why our police intelligence failed so miserably to avert the disaster.

Are they so occupied with searching for imaginary enemies and with passing secrecy laws that they missed one of the biggest crises to face our democracy?

What are our priorities?

What is the root of conflict in our society?

These may be tough questions, but they are unavoidable.

Interunion rivalry is part of the problem.

Lonmin’s management has recognised the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, which claims between 20% and 30% of the workforce, for dealing with shop floor issues affecting their membership, but they have fanned the rivalry by only giving recognition to the dominant unions – the National Union of Mineworkers and Solidarity – in official wage bargaining structures.

When you recognise a union but exclude it from the collective bargaining negotiations around the core issue of wages, you have a recipe for disaster.

Collective bargaining is the cornerstone of our democracy.

I believe it was the prototype of the political negotiations that laid the basis of our democracy.

Putting this collective bargaining machinery at risk will be a severe blow. We cannot afford a free-for-all in such a fragile stage of our democracy.

North West is ruled by the ANC, which also controls the bulk of the seats in the Rustenburg Municipality.

Platinum miners are the bedrock of ANC support in the region.

The broken promises and the brazen corruption there affect them directly.

Criminal tenderpreneurs are flourishing in their midst. Most local authorities are dysfunctional. People feel robbed of their voices.

In the absence of strong, legitimate political organisation in communities, they see violence as the only language their leaders will listen to.

My hope is that the president will take us into his confidence.

My desire is that the road to Mangaung should be shaped by the lessons of the road from Marikana.

Our people, Mr President, are exhausted by the excuses given by our leaders.

» This is an edited version of an original article that appeared on the Daily Maverick
» Naidoo was the founding general-secretary of Cosatu and is an activist


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