Mine unrest hits at political power nexus

2012-08-18 18:59

Marikana - The bloody protest by miners that ended in a hail of police gunfire and 34 deaths this week could also wound the ruling ANC and its main labour ally, laying bare workers' anger over enduring inequalities in Africa's biggest economy.

Thursday's shooting, bringing back memories of apartheid-era violence, underlined that after 18 years in power the ANC and its union partner have not been able to heal the fissures of income disparity, poverty and joblessness scarring the country.

The deadliest security incident since the end of apartheid has exposed grass roots discontent among the rank and file of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the country's biggest union that has been a training ground for ANC leadership and a staunch supporter of President Jacob Zuma.

"The NUM is all about politics. They have forgotten about the man in the mine shaft," said Lazarus Letsoele, one of the striking miners at the Lonmin Marikana mine, about 100km northwest of Johannesburg.

He escaped on Thursday when police opened fire on the strikers in what has been dubbed "the Marikana Massacre", prompting a government inquiry and a wave of soul-searching in post-apartheid South Africa.

Despite billions of rands of spending by the ANC on poverty reduction and union friendly laws to protect workers exploited by the past white-minority regime, the gap between haves and have-nots is still one of the highest in the world.

'Strike against the haves'

Per capita GDP is over about R67 000 a year but nearly 40% of the population lives on less than R25 a day.

At the Lonmin mine producing the precious metal platinum used in vehicle catalytic converters and jewellery, stray dogs pick over litter-strewn, wind-swept fields of dust near the clustered corrugated tin homes that are mining settlements.

"We want more money and we want someone who can get it for us," said a mineworker who asked to be called by his first name Paulo and lives in a shanty facing the field where the miners were gunned down.

Platinum sells for about R12 000 an ounce but a worker drilling underground at tonnes of rock face to extract it makes less than R4 100 a month.

"This is a strike against the state and the haves, not just a union matter," political analyst Justice Malala wrote in the British daily Guardian in reference to people like Letsoele, who live in the mine's shantytowns.

Thursday's shooting, in which a rank of police fired automatic weapons against advancing strikers, has been likened to the 1960 Sharpeville township massacre near Johannesburg under apartheid, when white-led police fired on a crowd of black protesters, killing more than 50.

Social instabilities

The country's police, now predominantly black, said they fired in self-defence at Marikana to protect themselves against men armed with spears, machetes and pistols.

Peter Major, mining consultant at Cadiz Corporate Solutions in Cape Town, said the Lonmin unrest was an ugly reminder of the social instabilities that still persist, but are often hidden by the ANC's electoral dominance.

"These people aren't just going on strike for better wages. There are power plays and rogue elements involved as well. And remember: These mines are surrounded by townships of thousands of unemployed people, tens of thousands often, of volatile, unemployed, uneducated people," he said.

The ANC has enjoyed virtual one-party rule since taking over in 1994, with its nearest opponent more than 40% behind in the last 2011 elections. Its base of support is among poor blacks, who are loath to vote for the main opposition Democratic Alliance, seen as the party of white privilege.

Labour federation Cosatu, with more than 2 million members has been a vote-gathering machine powering the ANC to victories.

Critics see what they call an "iron triangle" of power among the ANC, traditional unions and industry that enriches the politically connected and protects Cosatu's dominance, but shuts out masses of poor looking for jobs.

Entwined interests

At Lonmin, many striking workers said they saw NUM as out of touch and too cosy with tight-fisted management.

"Workers have become increasingly disaffected by the traditional entrenched unions affiliated to Cosatu - seeing cadre deployment of union management, increasingly remote and politically involved management not close to the concerns of workers on the ground," said Peter Attard Montalto, an emerging market economist at Nomura International.

ANC heavyweight Cyril Ramaphosa is an example of how the interests of the former liberation movement are entwined with unionism, but also with the fortunes of industry.

Anti-apartheid activist Ramaphosa helped forge the NUM in the 1980s to fight mine owners, staging several deadly strikes.

He moved into the ANC's senior leadership, using his political connections to become one of the wealthiest businessmen in South Africa. He sits on the Lonmin board as a non-executive director.

NUM has said its feud with the militant and upstart AMCU union, seen as behind the Lonmin strike, could spread, threatening a setback for labour relations in the country.

Reassuring investors

This could in turn feed into lower levels of investment, possibly lower growth, and a deteriorating fiscal balance.

Zuma tried to reassure investors their money would be safe, saying at a tour of the bloodied Marikana mine on Friday: "We remain committed to ensuring that this country remains a peaceful, stable, productive and thriving nation."

But the knives are out for Zuma, who is seeking re-election as the ANC's leader at a major conference in December. If he wins the party vote, he is almost assured of another term as the country's president, which would last until 2019.

Zuma is close to the NUM: His right hand man ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe is a former NUM leader. Any damage NUM suffers could hurt Zuma, especially with some other unions in the Cosatu group indicating they want him gone.

  • andre.rabie3 - 2012-08-18 19:13

    This could mean that Zum Zum loses a lot of suport, YIPEE!!!!!!

      christelle.james.7 - 2012-08-18 19:16

      But not the ANC. Who will be next? Somebody more radical??

      christelle.james.7 - 2012-08-18 19:39

      And causing riots in CT making the DA look bad.......all in a good day's planning Leonard

      squeegee.pilot - 2012-08-18 19:47

      andre, please tell me who should replace Zipper - realistically speaking...

  • christelle.james.7 - 2012-08-18 19:15

    This could have grave implications for the people of South Africa. ANC to blame for ongoing differences between the 'haves' and 'have-nots'. And I agree - they have done nothing to uplift as they are simply too busy enriching themselves and their comrades. But what will be the solution - the people will carry on voting for them.

  • eben.wentzel - 2012-08-18 19:16

    All the blood is on the hands of the unions! Why would you tell your members to take spears and panga's to wage negotiant! On the other hand the police were not trained in riot control! Pitty!!

      stephen.paine.77 - 2012-08-18 20:34

      people need to respect the police

      bkingon - 2012-08-18 23:11

      as far as I know, it was the riot police who were deployed... now how extensive their training is, I do not know ... but also from what I have gathered, they did everything they could, and should have, before using deadly force when they were charged by armed(machetes, spears, guns) men, who believed they were immune to gun fire, due to protection from rituals they did. Or so the news reports said...

      louise.cook.127 - 2012-08-19 04:12

      The blame also lies with Lonmin - what a disgraceful wage in the first place!

      mantsho.tlali - 2012-08-19 14:02

      I dont understand why some people dont get it here that this wage is seriously small, the food are expesive in South Africa if you all dont know, That money is very small.

  • wesleywt - 2012-08-18 19:19

    The massacre is not reminiscent of Sharpville. That is completely different. This massacre is reminiscent of the 60 white miners massacred in 1920. The aftermath led to increased rights and wages for white miners. Black people are fighting a fight today that white people in all Western countries fought a 100 years ago.

      Heibrin - 2012-08-19 11:32

      @wesleywt: which begs the question: how much higher in wages could they go before mining companies here start following their overseas counterparts and mechanize at the cost of jobs. I don't disagree re the low wages, however at some point the community as a whole is going to be better off settling for a lower wage (and having more people employed), instead of less individuals getting more money.

      nigel.vanysendyk - 2012-08-19 14:36

      Ok so the mines offer higher wages, do you really think that they will be satisfied, no, why, because Malema has promised them utopia, what they dont realise is that soon 150 000 miners will be unemployed, just like the ones at Lonmine who will no doubt fail to return to work & will be by default fired. This plan that Mr Malema has cut & past from witch Winnie Mandela will result in everybody losing, i.e. destruction.

  • charles.gregory.7906 - 2012-08-18 19:20

    What's the issue her they stormed the police clear as day for all to see its their own fault don't try and blame poverty or police they can strike its there right to kill other people is that acceptable? no!

      gail.hayesbean - 2012-08-19 16:44

      lsfreak: This theory is entirely possible, however the question is how will this affect our future history? Do we really have to spill more blood in order to supposedly set things right? There is no question that these miners earnings are totally out of order although there are people who live on less than this somehow. The Union leaders and the political leaders of our majority party have stolen billions of Rands in ntaxes for parties and capitalist lifestyles which would have gone a long way towards helping thse workers however the workers need to appreciate that the % of those enriching themselves is miniscule in comparison to those workers at the rockface. I don't know how many there are in terms of Executive and non executive CEO's such as Cyril Ramaphosa and also those below him who feel that they are entitled to live and spend the most ridiculous amounts of money. Why do they need to earn such obscene amounts and own luxurious cars and fly abroad and stay in the most luxurious hotels etc? I agree that their salaries should be capped and that when the global economy is in recession they should lead by example by reducing their sense of entitlement to increases and perks in order to ensure that those who labour receive enough to live on, however, when one actually does the maths and takes the number of coalface workers divided by the Execs it does not account for or allow for such an enormous increase. Running a safe and profitable mine costs money for overheads too.

  • freddie.jones.58367 - 2012-08-18 19:21

    'Despite billions of rands of spending by the ANC' It wasn't ANC money, it was taxpayers money!

      christelle.james.7 - 2012-08-18 19:26

      Even the billions. What was it really spent on Freddie - books which never got to the pupils, jobs - given to their buddies? What they have done to empower their people - NOTHING!

      Jennifer - 2012-08-18 20:04

      and how did Ciril become the 8th richest man in africa I wonder?

  • eugene.vanes - 2012-08-18 19:26

    The past was the whites.Now the apartheid still gets the blame.Who is in charge of the country now.The Blacks.Still the there faults they cant fix now is the whites problem.Why??????Because they are the problem as they rule,steal,murder,rape,kill,no honesty,trustworthyness.They are lawless criminals.who opened fire now...The black policemen not the white!!!Now Zuma fix the court must get you murderers to confess for people dying due to you leadership.Fixed because you promised then they will go to heaven.

      gail.hayesbean - 2012-08-19 17:03

      You know Freddie this is not about who is in charge of the country, blacks or whites. It is about survival and sadly mankind imagines they can control who survives and who doesn't and who qualifies due to some imagined superiority to survive better than others. It is deeply sad because we equate intelligence and knowledge and worldly possessions above the need to eat and drink and have shelter and peace. I read in the Sunday Times today that Curil R has just paid R18 million for a zebra, correct me if I'm wrong (I was outside and freezing). That is obscene money but we are all guilty of this if we are able to operate PC's. We excuse our wants by saying things like we earned it or we studied for 10 years before we actually entered the job market and had to repay study loans. We imagine we are sacrificing things which are wants not needs when these people do not have enough to meet needs. Yes Malema and the ANC have made promises based on wants for their people which simply can't be met because they do not understand the consequences of raising expectations in those with no understanding of how things work in todays world. My ancestors came to this country 200 years ago because those who had the purse strings promised them an unspoilt uninhabited place where they could make their fortune. Worldwide overpopulation means there is really nowhere for people to go and if the poor have no hope then they will not care about anyones life. There are no easy answers and few choices.

  • des.cider - 2012-08-18 19:28

    There is a very profound sadness in our land today. There is mass consideration of what we have achieved in the past 20 years and a realisation, I think, that polarisation is no longer black-white, but rich – poor. We all have a major responsibility now (upon which our ultimate survival will depend) to come together and create a country in which we gain from our diversity and in which we grow toward sanity together. It was never achieved under a white government and will not be achieved under a black or nothing government!

      Thanduxolo Galada - 2012-08-18 20:52

      This is the plot lost. Those living in squalor vs. those in opulence, extreme luxury. It can never be right what Ramaphosa, Sexwale, Wiese or Basson do! They rape our people everyday! Private companies do the same. BEE benefits a few while companies parade fake BEE to benefit from government sales.

      gail.hayesbean - 2012-08-19 17:12

      Best post so far!What shall we call this movement and when and where shall we start it? The MAP party. Moderates against Poverty Party. We need to take the best from all cultures in our country and mould that into a blueprint for our beautiful land. The majority have much to contribute because they have learned how to survive on next to nothing as do the skilled who may have experience and finance which will lead us out of this awful and sad place we are ALL in.

  • Bantsijang - 2012-08-18 19:43

    Smell a rat!!!!

  • matthew.patrick.925 - 2012-08-18 19:46

    1st warning sign of political instability. That, along with our vast untapped mineral wealth, our sophisticated banking sector and stable securities exchange are the only draw cards for foreign investors. The global decline in mineral resource prices and a hint of political instability are all it takes to scare off foreign investors. A decline in foreign investment means a decline in jobs. Then the unions will serve no purpose as the masses will work on whatever conditions for whatever slave wages they get.

      gail.hayesbean - 2012-08-19 17:14

      As in China. Perhaps this is what is needed?

  • lacrimose.wolf - 2012-08-18 19:48

    Again asking where the numbers come from and how the 214% increase was arrived at. Too many rumours and allegations floating about right now to form a rational opinion. I've researched RDO salaries in the USA - and the expected duties and qualifications. So we need to understand how all of it measures up world-wide - or are people being 'motivated' by the int'l norm but beyond the capabilites/qualifications? And before too many thumbs down please note Oil and Gas Industry pays WAY over the odds on terrestrial mining, no matter what hat you wear

  • mike.clery - 2012-08-18 20:08

    These analysts seem to unaware of the fact that South Africans across the spectrum are tired of the anarchy that's taken root. Trains are late? Burn the trains. Unhappy with service delivery? Burn down the municipal facilities. Unhappy with teachers or headmaster? Burn down the school. Unhappy with competition from "foreigners"? Burn and loot their shops. Unhappy that police aren't controlling crime. Stone and beat suspected criminals to death. The list is long.

      gail.hayesbean - 2012-08-19 17:15

      So what are we doing to change it?

      mike.clery - 2012-08-19 21:03

      The comment was aimed at analysts' assumption that the police action will weaken support for the existing government. What are we doing about it? The only thing that will change it is the gradual realization that violence and destruction don't get you what you want. That'll take some time, and a commitment to *not* rewarding lawlessness. People are afraid to speak out against the lawless minority because they risk being targeted themselves, not necessarily because they condone the destruction and violence. So the way I see it is that there'll be less and less support for the lawlessness, and *more* support for strong police action.

  • Stephen Radebe - 2012-08-18 20:25

    The past was the whites. Now the apartheid still gets the blame. Who is in charge of the country now? The blacks. Still there faults they cant fix now is the whites problem Why???? because they are the problem as they rule, steal,murder,rape,kill, no honesty,........

  • flysouth - 2012-08-18 20:33

    Zuma is done for after this - and rightly so since he, and his predecessors have done little to rectify the ills of SA's social situation when they could have done much through carefully crafted programmes and adult skills (not to mention decent primary) education. Only in this way lies the upliftment that can help people to get ahead in life - there is nothing else available in the universe. Instead they have enriched themselves and their families and friends to the greatest extent possible all the while ignoring the plight of the poor and uneducated. What have they been thinking in their miniscule intellects all these 18 years? Black people in particular must now properly analyse the political situation and vote accordingly. The ANC and it's paid militia, the SAPS have made such analysis very easy - they are in truth absolutely no different to the Nats at Sharpeville. One can wonder of course at the lack of outcry in the global press which made some very loud condemnatory noises after Sharpeville about the government of the day. Such hypocrisy abroad in the world, when we hear no condemnation of the ANC whatever.

      gail.hayesbean - 2012-08-19 17:19

      The silence in the rest of the world is because they are having to deal with problems of their own. One has to ensure one's own survival in order to assist others to survive law of the jungle as it were.

  • douglas.reid.921 - 2012-08-18 20:41

    Cops obey julius? He calls for sums to resign etc. Amazing the following and clout he has even being an expelled ANC member. Zuma must be worried. ANC has major decisions to make. What to do with juju and Zuma. My money is on Zuma.

  • johan.jacobs.5680 - 2012-08-18 21:09

    stephen.paine/77: Respect, breeds respect.

  • Zahir - 2012-08-18 21:40

    Anc under Zuma have created a paralysed state zuma is scared to make any big decision that would affect his second term and hope he gets to stay in charge of whatever country is left

  • Zahir - 2012-08-18 21:41

    Anc under Zuma have created a paralysed state zuma is scared to make any big decision that would affect his second term in meantime. The country is sinking

  • dona.debarreyra - 2012-08-18 21:55

    Malema is behind all this! that is my opinion!

  • Gerald Jordaan - 2012-08-18 23:17

    The dumb f*ck ANC cant do anything without blaming or mentioning the past white minority and / or apartheid !! It just goes to show how insular and un original the dumb sh*ts are !! stand up and flash your papers you pricks !!

      Rhulani Coleman Mkhwanazi - 2012-08-19 11:01

      Ladies and gentlemen, please lets put comments that are educated here than using strong language as if we are out of powers and control.

      nomalungelo.lungi.7 - 2012-08-24 06:39

      There is no denying that apartheid was there and brutally murdered our ppl, but I didn't hear a single comment that said this happened bcoz of white gorv. That ruled back then if these white ppl payed the miners accordingly in the first place non of this wud have happened am not justifying what police did it's horrible I'm against it but don't put racist comments let's look @ what happened.

  • joseph.maluleka.18 - 2012-08-19 02:39

    The fact of the matter is that the ruling elite is only concerned about themselves; no one else. Slaying so many people who were protesting against the exploitation by the mine bosses means that ANC does not care about the well being of the people who voted them into power. Is there a reason for them to be voted into power again? Absolutely no because they fail to address social problems. So many fully armed police officers shows without a doubt an intention to kill the protesters and the mission was well accomplished.

      louise.cook.127 - 2012-08-19 04:23

      Ruling elite (NUM) and mine bosses are concerned only with self-enrichment.

  • tw2066 - 2012-08-19 05:26

    Nah - the average ANC supporter is too thick to see the truth. They are sheep that will blindly vote ANC again - and for the record these voters are SAA CADET material, unlike the oppressed white minority . As for JZ, let me remind you, we are NOT a democracy, we DO NOT choose the president, a few mwmbers of the ruling party do that.

  • johann.schalkwyk - 2012-08-19 07:50

    WHY is there no mention of the (at least) 10 people that were killed by the strikers BEFORE the police intervened to curb their violence? Mentioning ONLY thje 34 miners that was killed presents a very distorted picture. Can you reporters and analysts please get a grip on honesty.

  • Adil Smit - 2012-08-19 08:52

    Is LONMIN a South African Company?

  • keithpatkell - 2012-08-19 14:25

    This horrifying, unfortunate incident and certain "political" responses which it generated sounds to me to be a bit "Bobby Mugaby-ish"....and so it begins...blatant RACIST policies... state police killing their own citizens because they protest...the dismissal of criminal charges against "politically connected" senior, ruling party cadres...the decaying infrastructure...the deterioration of the education system....the decline of public health facilities...the rise of the Political Elite… the growing void between that elite class, the taxpaying working middle class and the increasing poor masses, the indoctrination, manipulation and holding to “political” ransom of the poor, undereducated masses for votes… the false, empty promises of a “better life for all”…rife criminality....youth league mob what does that remind me of....ummm, just can't put my finger on it....OH YES, I REMEMBER NOW!!!............. Zim-BOB-we!

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