Like struggle activist Mahatma Gandhi, I vehemently object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary and the evil it does is permanent and, those who perpetuate violence in the mining industry should bear that in mind, writes Proffesor Ndawonde
Literally, threatening to make the mining industry or any quarter of the society “ungovernable” is socially and politically incorrect and it is totally imperious and unconstitutional in nature.
Those who make such inflammatory statements are, one way or the other, inciting violence and are out to destabilize the country. The only way to make the industry ungovernable one has to create an excruciating turmoil which will ultimately lead to public violence, destabilization of the country’s economy and eventually deepen poverty and unemployment.
Certainly patriotic South Africans would never allow such a situation and no enlightened leader in South Africa can recklessly make such demagogic statements unless he or she is a “third force” with narrow political schema.
Recently the country’s leading opportunists Julius Malema and African Peoples Convention leader Themba Godi threatened to make the mining industry ungovernable without thinking of the consequences of such assertions.
Malema and his marionettes should know that if they succumb to the temptation of using violence in the struggle, their chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos.
South Africans are cognizant of the fact that mine workers deserve decent salaries due to the nature of their job however the latter should also be very vigilant of avaricious opportunists who are out to use mine workers’ plight for their political gains.
This country has a globally-respected constitution and progressive labour laws that provide necessary platforms for workers to non-violently negotiate their wage demands using legal, evenhanded and constitutional channels.
People in South Africa have a constitutional right to protest although they do that legally, however demagogues are out to exploit plight of workers to revive their fading political lives or to advance their political interests.
Progressive leaders, as Malema and Godi claim to be, would never make such seditious statements, particularly after the depressing Marikana Tragedy where the country lost 44 people during the illegal and violent strike by mine workers.
Despite unions, religious leaders and government’s efforts to bring the situation to normal and bring about balanced agreements, the rabble-rousing Malema is busy exploiting the situation by creating confusion amongst the workers and perpetuating violence.
It should be clear to him and others who wish to emulate him that no amount of lawlessness will be tolerated and they must realize the gravity of their actions and must take responsibility should the violence erupt in the mines.
I concur with Minister in the Presidency, Collins Chabane who recently said the likes of Malema needed to be mindful that people have lost their lives and families were in grief therefore making such dangerous statement is both politically incorrect and socially precarious.
South Africa should commend President Jacob Zuma and his Inter-Ministerial Committee for their efforts to ensure that the situation stabilized, particularly in Marikana.
The committee should also be commended for their swift response to the tragedy and the social assistance it has provided to the relatives of the victims of the Marikana carnage.
The committee’s intervention has led to the signing of the peace accord between the Lonmin management and workers which is a positive indication that the solution to the stalemate is imminent. There’s no doubt that all parties involved will continue to work tirelessly to resolve the outstanding issues.
The Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant is currently in talks with the gold and platinum industry to reconsider central bargaining so that at the end of the day nobody refers to another mining company to say those workers are getting better salaries and these are not getting better salaries.
This actually shows that government is concerned with what is happening in the country’s mines and that it has not abandoned the workers as ANC-led government foes claim.
The mine companies should also put the ultimatums of the workers into consideration and salvage them from the atrocious conditions they are living in by reimbursing them decent salaries.
Government cannot just intrude in the employer and employee parleys. The Marikana scenario was different because the situation was volatile and people had been killed.
In addition, the country should afford the Judicial Commission of Inquiry a space to conduct its investigations. Undoubtedly, once President Zuma has a report of the Commission, he will be able to deliberate fully on the events that took place and decide on an appropriate course of action.
The terms of reference of the Commission are sufficiently broad so as to deal with all aspects of the Marikana tragedy and to make appropriate recommendations.
The Marikana Tragedy was a sign that as a country we should strive to find a common vision that will lay the basis for a social contract for the country’s labour relations and labour market that will contribute to achieving a more equitable and inclusive form of economic growth.
Last but not least workers, whether in mining or other sectors, should be careful of devious politicians who want to opportunistically exploit their plight to advance their political interests.
When these politicians have fulfilled their political agenda they will ditch you like used condoms and continue with their lavish lifestyle whilst you are still swaying in poverty.
Proffesor Ndawonde is a public servant and is writing in his personal capacity.