Written by Wilson H. da Silva and Luiz Carlos Prates
Wednesday, 03 September 2014 12:18
On August 16, 2012, a miners’ strike in the city of Marikana, South Africa, was harshly repressed, resulting in 34 deaths (along with eight others, in the earlier days), around 70 injured and over 200 arrested.
After two years, those responsible by the repression remain unpunished, but the wound opened in Marikana is far from stanching. Last August 16, many demonstrations swept across the country remembering the massacre. More deeply, this episode was a “turning point” in the country’s recent history, triggering a deep process of political and trade union reorganization.
Behind the criminal shots, as ever, it lies the employers’ hands – in this case, Lonmin, one of the largest mining companies in the world. However the government of the African National Congress (ANC), Nelson Mandela’s party, has also enormous responsibility in this event. The ANC has been in power for 20 years – through the Tripartite Alliance, formed with the Communist Party and the South African Congress of Trade Unions (Cosatu).
There is in South Africa, a growing dissatisfaction with the country’s direction. The ANC government plunged the country in neoliberalism, with the known consequences: rising unemployment, increase in the job’s casualization, increase in the wage squeeze, increased privatization, etc. The shots in Marikana showed that the ANC is willing to severely repress all those who defy their plans.
The ongoing political and trade union reorganization is actually quite profound. One example was the “the Symposium of the Organizations of the Left and of a Movement toward Socialism”, held between 6 and13 of August. Such Symposium was organized by the most important trade union in the country, the NUMSA (National Trade Union of Metalworkers) with 350 thousand members, which is breaking with the South African Congress of Trade Unions (Cosatu) as well as with the ANC. It is something similar to a hypothetical rupture of the ABC Metalworkers’ Union with the CUT, the PT and with Dilma’s government.
The CSP-Conlutas, invited to attend the meeting was represented by myself (Wilson H. da Silva) on behalf of the Quilombo Race and Class, and Luis Carlos Prates (the “Mancha”), on behalf of the National Coordination of CSP-Conlutas. The trip included a heartwarming visit to the widows of Marikana, which allowed us to see, up close, the reasons why this Massacre is, unfortunately, a synthesis of South Africa post-apartheid.
A massacre at the service of the capital
The prime mover of the Massacre was the current relationship between the members of the Tripartite Alliance and the capital. As the lawyer of the victims, Dali Mpotu , said to Cyril Ramaphosa in the Special Committee appointed to inquire into the murders: “you sold yourself to the white capital”.
Cyril Ramaphosa is the ANC Vice-President and a leading figure behind the massacre.
This is a fact, a conclusion that had already been made in the NUMSA Extraordinary Congress in December 2013, whose resolution states: “Marikana was a well planned and orchestrated strategy by the State to defend the profits of the mining sector bosses”.
In September last year, at a seminar held by the International Labour Research and Information Group (ILRIG, Group for Research and International Information on Labour), in which the CSP-Conlutas also attended, a member of the General Trade Union of Workers of South Africa Industry (GIWUSA) was also emphatic: “The ANC, the PC and the Cosatu have turned into anti-worker organizations.”
An opinion ratified by Gavin Coops, a mining expert: “The massacre has behind it the fact that the miners are breaking with the NUM and challenging the CNA (…). The tripartite Alliance in order to ensure the bankers and employers’ interests, has been currently committing murders for money”.
Marikana: the “Sharpeville of the ANC”
Precisely for this reason the Marikana Massacre is known among South Africans as the “Sharpeville of the ANC”. This is a reference to one of the most traumatic episodes of the struggle against apartheid: on March 21, 1960, police fired on more than 20 thousand people who were protesting against the law of displacement (which restricted the areas where black people could go through, could travel on).
In 1960, the criminal cowardliness of the racist police claimed the lives of 69 people and seriously injured another 180 citizens. Such massacre resulted in the International Day Against Racism, a symbol of the internationalization of the struggle against apartheid. The pictures of Sharpeville have huge resemblance to the images seen in the Marikana killing. Now there were also executions in cold blood to shoot the strike leaders: one of them was murdered with no less than 14 gunshots.
The ANC leaders and the government responsibility in the unfortunate episode, as well as the complicity with Lonmin are obvious. Besides Ramaphosa, there is also overwhelming evidences of the direct participation of Susan Shabangu (then Minister of Mineral Resources), and of Nathi Mthethwa (Minister of Police Forces).
Ramaphosa: the Capital’s fox
Cyril Ramaphosa actively participated in the struggle against apartheid, being one of the key figures in the formation of Cosatu in 1985, and founder of the mighty strong NUM, the Mineworkers National Trade Union. Ramaphosa was Mandela’s right hand during the entire process of “negotiated transition”, in other words, the negotiations with the white bourgeoisie.
Since then, he has become a kind of symbol of the fistful of wealthy black men and women who have benefited from the “Black Economic Empowerment” program, launched by Mandela. These black people have become agents of the old white bourgeoisie or, directly, bosses and exploiters.
Today, Ramaphosa is Executive Chairman of Shanduka Group, a company which operates in the sectors of natural resources, energy, real estate, security and communication; Chairman of Bidvest, the largest company for food distribution and stationery in South Africa (which has about 100,000 employees spread across the continent and works almost exclusively with outsourced jobs) and member of the international advisory committee of Coca-Cola and Unilever.
Besides all that he is the CEO of Lonmin, the company behind the massacre. A position which caused Ramaphosa to be officially chosen by the company’s shareholders to coordinate the “actions against the criminal protests”. This came to light in the Special Committee appointed to inquire into the massacre through a scandalous email that Ramaphosa exchanged with Lonmin Commercial Director, giving a free hand to the murders: “The terrible events that have been taking place cannot be described as labor disputes. They are clearly vile and criminal and must be characterized this way, hence the need for appropriate actions to solve this situation”. Today Cyril Ramaphosa, ANC Vice-President, is one of the names championed to substitute Jacob Zuma, the country current president.
The criminalization of poverty and of the movement
As part of the Symposium program, we visited Marikana, where the Quilombo Race and Class had the opportunity to make a greeting. It was a remarkable experience in every sense, but especially considering the strong determination of those workers, especially female workers.
After the meeting, we walked through the streets of Marikana. Tiny shacks without running water or electricity power. “Bathrooms” dug into the ground. Men, women and children bravely resist. Two years after the death of their husbands, fathers, brothers and comrades, they are still fighting for justice.
The crime of the government in Marikana was not an isolated incident. Right at the opening of the NUMSA Symposium, a piece of news showed it ruthlessly: it had been murdered three of its leaders – Njabulo Ndebele, Sibonelo “John-John” Ntuli and Ntobeko Maphumulo – on their way to the meeting.
Shots backfired ricocheting in all directions
The government diving the economy into the neoliberalism and the crackdown against all forms of opposition are at the roots of the political and trade union reorganization underway in the country. NUMSA’s Congress in December 2013, decided to start the rupture with the ANC and COSATU. The seminar of the International Labor Research and Information Group, last September pointed out in the same direction, with the participation of about 30 entities as the Housing Assembly (Assembly for Housing), the “De Doorns Farmworkers” (an organization of the countryside), “Bokoni Labour Forum “(a movement of miners) and” Sikhalasonke Wonderkop “(an organization of women of Marikana).
The Trade Union and the Association of Miners and Construction Workers (AMCU), supported and stood beside the Marikana miners. The tragedy of Marikana produced an unexpected effect by the ANC government. As noted by the journalist Terry Bell in an interview published in the two-year anniversary of the Massacre – under the title “Marikana: the catalyst for a change” – Marikana led many organizations to pursue “to form a new socialist movement, as an alternative to the African National Congress (ANC).
In search of a socialist solution
The result is indeed unpredictable. It is possible to state that this fight is just beginning and that the reorganization process is only going to intensify. In Marikana, the response to the pain brought about for the assassination of the 34 miners and for the daily misery that led them to fight is still bleeding. But it also turned into an open wound in the Tripartite Alliance, a wound that, apparently, the South Africans are not willing to simply “remediate”. They want to weed it out at once, as a toyi-toyi reminds (fantastic struggle chants of South Africans) with which we were received by the miners’ widows: “Oh! Women do not cry! Oh! Women do not cry! We are women, we are fighting!”
A fight for which the resolutions of NUMSA‘s seminar have already pointed the way: the construction of a socialist project. A certainty that the Symposium delegates also celebrated all the time through the toyi-toyis: “This Revolution is very old. It started with our ancestors. So do not cry, Fight”. “We do not want capitalism, we want socialism”.