We need action in Marikana

2014-05-18 15:00

The tragedy unfolding in Marikana can hardly be blamed on one cause. It is partly a result of years of a vicious mining system that relied on a migrant labour system that underpaid and exploited black mine workers.

The events just before 2012, when platinum companies sought to undermine trade unions by negotiating directly with rock drillers, also contributed to the crisis that resulted in the Marikana massacre.

Since then, Amcu has eclipsed the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) as the majority union on the platinum belt. The NUM, with strong links to Cosatu and the ANC, claimed that its members were forced to join Amcu.

ANC, Cosatu and SA Communist Party leaders have called Amcu an illegitimate group of vigilantes. They have refused to support any worker campaigns organised by it.

Amcu has also prevented any of the tripartite alliance leaders from addressing its members. It refused to be part of the mining framework discussions headed up by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe that led to a “peace pact”.

So when the current wage dispute between Amcu and the platinum mines ended in deadlock, it was a process insulated from the normal interventions by government.

The stalemate has resulted in production grinding to a halt for four months as workers and their families starve and mine losses run to more than R15?billion.

Probably out of desperation, mining companies tried to communicate directly with workers to return to work and with those eager to start earning a living again.

This was done at the risk of miners losing their lives, most likely at the hands of striking mine workers. The Marikana Commission of Inquiry is not the answer to the worsening situation.

Government should be intervening by calling Amcu leaders and the mines to an emergency meeting. Motlanthe’s process has failed.

While it is necessary, it is not enough to deploy police and to blame Amcu for its “naivety”.

It seems government is quietly waiting for the strike to explode in Amcu’s face. A reactive law enforcement process will not break the impasse.

We cannot look the other way and plan lavish presidential inauguration ceremonies while a community is under siege. The longer this dispute drags on, the more damage it is going to cause.

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