Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

South Africa Mine Massacre: Workers Remain Resolute

South Africa Mine Massacre: Workers Remain Resolute

For International Solidarity with the Miners

By Peluola Adewale

On the very day, August 20, 2012, the one week of national mourning declared by President Jacob Zuma for the massacred 34 miners was to begin, Lonmim ordered the surviving miners to return to work or face dismissal. The workers rightly called the bluff of the company who only care about the profit that has been hampered by the strike of the workers. The company does not give a hoot about the massacre of the miners. Like typical capitalist vampires, to the management of Lonmin profit is much thicker than blood. It was the protection of profit that triggered the unleashing of state terror on the striking miners in the first instance. This was easy as the ANC government of Jacob Zuma is in cahoots with Lonmin like other multinational mine owners.

The ultimatum to workers to resume was extended by a week after President Zuma had ostensibly appealed to the company. But this was mere face-saving for the company, as well over two-thirds of the workforce had defied the directive to return to work. The workers should remain resolute until their demands are met. This must now include the immediate and unconditional release of about 250 miners arrested and incarcerated by the police.

Lonmin, the world’s third largest producer of platinum, has capacity to pay the workers the new wage being demanded; an increase from $484 to $1512. The global capitalist crisis which has brought than the price of platinum cannot be an excuse. It has not affected the jumbo pay of the executives and directors. Ian Farmer, Chief Executive of the company was paid staggering $1.8million last year. The executives and directors earn up to 250 times as much a rock drilling operator.

President Zuma, apparently under the pressure of widespread outrage against the carnage his government has committed, has asserted that the mining sector can afford to increase wages and improve housing standards of workers. This should be authoritative; some prominent acolytes of Zuma in the ANC are major shareholders in the mining sector. The workers who drilled the rock underground to create the wealth of the company are resident in squalid housing in Marikana without running water and sanitation system while the executives live in opulence in one of the most expensive suburbs of South Africa.

President Zuma has set up a panel of inquiry on the massacre. The workers must demand that their elected representatives must sit on the panel. It is only such arrangement that can guarantee justice for the miners. The panel is attempt of President Zuma government to distance itself from the massacre. It has indeed left no stone unturned in this respect. Since our last statement on the massacre, we have been receiving on a regular basis the e-mailed statements from President Zuma office highlighting the steps the government has taken in addressing the Lonmin massacre.

The Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), the international socialist organization, we of the DSM belong, has called for solidarity within and outside South Africa. Already a number of CWI sections across the world have organized solidarity protests at the embassies of South Africa in their countries. Our sister section in South Africa, also with the name DSM, has been helping organize the miners and popularize the demands. They have called for solidarity actions at all the mines and a general strike in defence of workers and their demands for pay rise and democratic rights.

We call on trade unions and pro-working people organizations in Nigeria to join in the condemnation of the carnage, which is a throwback to apartheid era, and organize various solidarity actions in support of the miners including a protest at the South African High Commission in Nigeria. This should be linked with struggle of electricity workers which face repression from armed soldiers deployed at the PHCN facilities across the country by the Goodluck Jonathan government which is desperate to privatize the public electricity company even at gun point.

Mining largely accounts for why South Africa is the biggest economy in Africa. But there is sharp mismatch between the huge mineral wealth of the country and socio-economic conditions of the poor and working people. South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world, according to the World Bank. Among the poorest sections of the working people are the miners. This has further underscored the need for nationalization of the mines under democratic control of the mining workers and communities in order to use the wealth of the country for the benefit of the working people. It would be utopian to expect such nationalization program to be carried out by deeply pro-capitalist ANC led government. This means that there is need for a new mass working people party on socialist program that will break the stronghold of multinationals and run the economy and governance in the interest of the poor and working people.