Cape Town - Two of labour’s greatest modern tragedies provided a media focus over the past week or so, says Terry Bell in his latest Labour Wrap: Aurora and Marikana.
And the latest episodes in these sagas brought to mind two popular expressions: “The buck stops here” and “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
He notes that the expression, the buck stops here was popularised by former United States president Harry Truman who kept a sign on his desk making this statement. It made the point that responsibility for decisions of the executive and the state ultimately rested with him.
Bell maintains that it is a good principle, but not often observed when it comes to decisions and actions that reflect badly on decision makers. And this applies to people in power whether they be in politics, business, trade unions or sport.
The appropriate phrase for all too many of these people, says Bell is “Pass the buck”. In other words claim that responsibility - blame - should be passed on to someone else with the result that nothing, fundamentally, changes.
"There has been a fair bit of this buck passing in both the Aurora and Marikana cases. With the result that, for all the court decisions and commission findings that supposedly ring in changes, everything at base remains very much the same."
In the case of Aurora, the miners remain in penury while the directors continue to be accused of flaunting their wealth while they contemplate an appeal against a court ruling that said the buck stopped with them.
Marikana, says Bell, was rightly seen as a wake-up call to all role players to deal with the underlying causes of incidents such as the bloody tragedy at the Lonmin mine. However, while buck passing continues, the squalid and desperate conditions in the slums surrounding mines around the country continue.
Responsibility for this state of affairs, says Bell, rests at the highest levels. And, until the buck stops there, little hope exists of any real change.