By Day Break Reporter
The August 16, 2012 Marikana massacre will always be a grim reminder of the lengths to which the mining monopolies are prepared to go to defend their profits and power, says the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU).
In a statement marking the sixth commemoration of the Marikana Massacre, SAFTU pointed out that the best way to honour the Marikana martyrs was through the creation of a socialist society.
“16 August 2012 is a day that South Africans must never forget. The SAPS massacre of 34 striking mine workers – 16 at the Marikana Koppie and a further 18 fleeing workers at another nearby small Koppie – will always be a grim reminder of the lengths to which the mining monopolies are prepared to go to defend their profits and power. The South African Federation of Trade Unions honours the memory of those Marikana martyrs who lost their lives, and sends a message of support to their families and to the survivors, and insists that they must all be fully compensated for the trauma and hardship which they have suffered,” the statement reads. “SAFTU also continues to demand that all those responsible for planning, ordering and carrying out the murderous attack be charged, tried and sentenced. This must include the board and top management of Lonmin in 2012 for their complicity in the massacre, including Board member President Ramaphosa who, before the massacre, sent messages to management calling for ‘concomitant action’ against the strikers.”
The Federation further stated that as well as being a personal and family tragedy for those directly involved, the event exposed the undercurrent of violence which has always existed in the South African mining industry, from the time of imperialist thieves like Cecil Rhodes and Barnato, through the racist apartheid years.
“1,248 workers were injured, at least nine killed during a national strike in 1946 though this is thought to be a big underestimate. Mine workers suffered a similar number of deaths and 400 injuries during another big strike in 1987. It was not only when they went on strike that mine workers’ lives were at risk. They lived in fear of sudden death in dangerous and unhealthy mines. Thousands died in accidents and hundreds of thousands from diseases contracted at work. They had to live in grimy single-sex hostels and worked for as much as two years before being allowed to go home to their families. Surrounding communities saw their land poisoned and polluted,” SAFTU recounted. “This regime of exploitation and oppression was the daily reality under racist colonial and apartheid regimes. They treated workers as cruelly as they did the whole of the black majority population. They also exported the bulk of the minerals they mined, in order to make a quick profit, rather than beneficiating them to help build manufacturing industry in South Africa. The 1994 breakthrough should have ushered in a totally different approach to the mining industry, an end to police repression and safeguarding to workers’ and communities’ constitutional right to peaceful protest action. Scandalously however, Marikana took place under the ANC government. It showed that when faced with a crisis it was on the side of the capitalist mining companies, not the workers. Not a single manager, police officer or politician has been prosecuted. Yet workers who were allegedly involved in violence have been arrested and charged.”
There has been, according to SAFTU, an increasing tendency for the state to respond to all protest with the same apartheid-style violence and repression, as was seen at Marikana.
“Capitalism is always based on the forcible exploitation of workers by employers using their greed to maximize the profits they extract from the unpaid labour of their workers. That is why they could not compromise on the demand by rock-drill workers for a wage of R12 500 a month, an extremely modest demand for such a skillful, unhealthy and dangerous job and just a fraction of what the average company CEO earns in a day,” they stated. “For them workers’ demands for higher pay, communities’ calls for money for houses, schools and hospitals, the country’s insistence on reduced pollution of the environment and the long-term future of the South African economy are all secondary when set against the need to make profits….Their argument about the need to shed jobs and cut wages in order to secure investment in the mines is shared, not surprisingly, by a government led by a mining tycoon billionaire…In our country – more than in any other part of the oppressed world – it is inconceivable for liberation to have meaning without a return of the wealth of the land to the people as a whole. It is therefore a fundamental feature of our strategy that victory must embrace more than formal political democracy. To allow the existing economic forces to retain their interests intact is to feed the root of racial supremacy and does not represent even the shadow of liberation…The best way to honour the memory of the Marikana martyrs is to build a socialist society in which their children and grandchildren can live in peace, prosperity and equality.”