This should not have happened

2012-08-23 12:55

The Lonmin debacle has brought an uncomfortable attention to the plethora of issues at the intersection of: political and leadership issues, socio-economic issues, psychological and policing issues. Theses issues have shown themselves to be incapable of combating changed circumstances and have lacked the capacity to substantially change the structural ills of South African society.

The socio-economic dimension illustrates a microcosm of urban settlements in South Africa, which are not of a liveable standard. These settlements, rife with poverty, have substandard services and display the harsh reality of persistent income inequality in South Africa. This is more than income inequality in its crude form, as measured by the Gini coefficient, but is really about unequal chances to live a truly human and valued existence. This was clearly shown in how the worker has been used to fight political battles and has been seen as a tool of political expediency. The lack of accountability and explanation given to workers about why demands were not met and union leaders scapegoating each other which bleeds into a larger leadership vacuum within South Africa.

The lack of direction and inconsistent signals given at the union level and the larger national level as well as the postponed reaction from the mine itself are signals of leadership decay. Further, and more crucially, the crisis had not been abated before it escalated to violent heights. Where is the political foresight to understand the inter-related dynamics of South African society and the ability to deal with events before they reach breaking point? Surely the creation of a commission of inquiry after every national quagmire can not be sustainable?

The historical disposition to take up arms has shown itself to be a mainstay in South Africa’s psyche. The notion that creating chaos will bring about change or meet demands was an apartheid era struggle strategy whose remaining legacy was shown in Rustenburg.

The frequency and intensity of protests in South Africa have been said to be increasing over the years. With such an outlook, how can police not be equipped in techniques of crowd dispersal without using the lethal weapons used at Marikana? Non-lethal weapons include: the release of light rays, generating electro-magnetic signals and sound waves, among others.

Taken together, these effects have shown the inability of responses to crisis to understand and prepare for change. The socio-economic situation, psychological state and rigid policing are all the debris of a bygone era inadequately matched to a changed post-apartheid context.

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