South Africa: Miners strike back

Some 4,000 striking Marikana platinum miners confronted heavily armed police and strike spread to other mines.

They chanted “The white men are shaking!” and “The police who shot us are shaking!” in the face off at the mine. The strike remains solid despite an agreement reached between management and the official miners’ union the NUM. The striking miners are members of the rival union AMCU, which has been marginalised in the talks. Police shot and killed 34 striking miners there on 16 August. Workers’ rep Tholakele Dlanga told journalists, “The protest continues. We will not go back to work until the mine bosses give us more money.”
Meanwhile mining unrest has spread across South Africa. At the end of August 12,000 gold miners at KDC East mine walked out—partly in anger that the NUM was not representing their interests.
Management settled that dispute last week, only to be faced with a new strike as 15,000 miners walked out of the KDC West mine last Sunday. And more than 15,000 miners at the Implats platinum mine have put in a demand for a 10 percent pay rise, though they are yet to strike.
Cyril Ramaphosa, a former radical leader of the NUM, wrote last week that the Marikana massacre was “probably the lowest moment in the short history of a democratic South Africa”.

He is now a millionaire on the board of Marikana mine owners Lonmin, but is still a leading figure in the governing ANC. The strike and the massacre are creating a growing crisis for the ANC government.
Increasingly ordinary people are turning away and vowing never to vote for them again. One striker, Samkele Mpampani, told journalists, “I won’t vote ANC. They have killed our workers. I don’t recognise the ANC any more. Jacob Zuma must step down. It’s over now. It’s over.”
Another striker, Paseka Ramosebetsi said of the ANC, “They just want the money, and are building beautiful houses with beautiful cars and we are suffering. They don’t care for us.”
The miners showed their defiance last Wednesday when 3,000 marched back to the mine to confront management. They carried clubs and pictures of colleagues killed by the police last month.
Local residents came out on the streets and cheered as they passed. The march was shadowed by police in armoured cars.
A recent report in the South African press by Pulitzer prizewinning journalist Greg Marinovich has confirmed that most miners were shot as they fled or hid—as Socialist Worker was first to report.
One miner, Lungisile Lutshetu, told Marinovich, “We ran back up the koppie [hillock], and there I found a hiding place between large rocks, but then police were already all over the place. Those in front of me were shot at close range and fell over me, and that’s how my life was spared.”

Reprinted from Socialist Worker (UK). Published 11th of September by Ken Olende