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Aug
21

HOW COULD THE ANC ALLOW THIS NEW ‘SHARPEVILLE’ TO HAPPEN?

HOW COULD THE ANC ALLOW ANOTHER SHARPEVILLE TO HAPPEN?

By CAMERON DUODU

Reuters

 

 

 

It has joined the names of the other South African localities that make you shudder when you hear them; names like Sharpeville, Langa and Nyanga.

 

And the date won’t be forgotten, either – Marikana: 16th August 2012; just like Soweto: 16th June 1976.

 

Bloodshed in each case. Bloodshed by the South African police. The wanton killing of protesters by the police; protesters with legitimate concerns; protesters who were to join the ranks of the heroic victims of police brutality worldwide.

 

The question is, how could it be allowed to happen in the “new” South Africa?

 

And the answer is: quite easily. Modern societies are organised in such a way that protesters can become victims very quickly. Every modern police force in the world is equipped in a manner that gives it enormous firepower. Automatic weapons that can fire many rounds without needing to be reloaded. They do look awful, but few civilians are aware of their true deadliness.

 

One word, “Fire!” is all that is needed. Suddenly, a mob, no matter how disorderly or angry it looks, becomes a hapless mass of fallen figures, bleeding, twitching, rolling on the ground. There were 69 in Sharpeville; 34 at Marikana. They were the husbands of instantly-widowed wives; the fathers of newly-orphaned children, the colleagues of poor workers reduced into saying, for the rest of their lives, “There but for the grace of God lay I.” The ANC, knowing the background of the South African police, from the evil days of apartheid, should have used the past 18 years to retrain the police so that they would never be in a position to react like the apartheid police did at Sharpeville.

 

The recent massacre ocurred at a platinum mine owned by Lonmin, the company once known as “Lonrho”. Ghanaians are very much aware of the name of this company – it once ran Ashanti Goldfields at Obuasi. It didn’t have a very good name in Ghana, nor did it have one in Britain, where it was based. One British Prime Minister, Edward Heath, described it as “the ugly face of capitalism.” It has changed its name from Lonrho to Lonmin. But it has not changed the way it works – secure profit at all costs, and always make sure you have people in the government who are on your side, especially if you operate in an African country where this can be done without your people in government being made accountable for what they do for you.

 

Lonmin in South Africa has on its board, one of the most illustrious names in the struggle to achieve equality for the black population and therefore a powerful man in current politics – Cyril Ramaphosa, once General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM.) This Union was one of the most powerful within COSATU – the Confederation of South African Trade Unions. COSATU is an integral part of the African National Congress (ANC) which won freedom for South Africa and began to rule the country after winning the election of 1994. Three years before majority rule occurred in South Africa, Ramaphosa had left the NUM to become the Secretary-General of the ANC.

 

It had been expected that Cyril Ramaphosa – who, with ex-President Thabo Mbeki and others, negotiated the transfer of power from the National Party of white Afrikaners to the ANC — would become one of the leading members of the first black Cabinet formed by President Nelson Mandela. But Mr Ramaphosa chose to go into business instead. And he currently controls or sits on the boards of a number of very important enterprises, one of which happens to be Lonmin.

 

Mr Ramaphosa and a few other business-enthralled  leaders of the ANC are blamed for the inability of the ANC to remain true to its original objective of transforming South Africa from a country ruled by a white elite who live luxurious lives on the backs of a huge, poorly-paid work-force. Indeed, since obtaining power, the ANC has largely preserved the system of allowing a few people at the top to enjoy riches based on the low wages of the huge populace below them. They seem happy just because a few blacks have joined the rich people at the top. Above all, the ANC has failed dismally to provide adequate housing as well as amenities like pipe-borne water, electricity and toilets to the majority of the people. In other words, the ANC, once a socialist party with high ideals, has become just another ruling party in Africa, whose primary concerns are how to use state power to enrich its leaders and which ignores the needs of the populace. In the meantime, it pretends, like all of them, to care for the people — by unleashing a torrent of rhetoric, aimed at  promoting a ‘spin’ — in aid of the ‘betterment’ of life for all.  Just as the apartheid regime used to tell the world that life in the Bantustans wasn’t so bad for the blacks.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/8e498a8a-ef63-11e1-9580-00144feabdc0.html#axzz24gNOhs8K

Well, on 16th August 2012, ANC ‘spin’ ran into the reality of mine life; the horrible existence eked out by  thousands of workers in the mining compounds of South Africa. Lonmin’s workers at Marikana, Rustenburg, have been divided into two unions: because the NUM branch there has been perceived by some of its old members to have too cosy a relationship with the management. The new union, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) demanded that those of its its members who do the most bak-breaking work — those  operate as ‘rock drillers’ at the mine — should be paid a wage that is about three times the current wage being paid  to them. As could be expected, the NUM did not support such a huge increase in pay. The AMCU members embarked on a “illegal strike” to back their demands. The NUM members did not join in, of course.

 

Put that scenario on a mine compound where feelings always run high, and you have death waiting at the door. The police, in a desire to disperse angry strikers, put themselves in a position where, at one stage, they probably had a genuine fear they could be attacked.They opened fire. And 34 died, with nearly 80 injured. It was a terrible example of inefficient, panicky  policing. What exactly happened is still being debated by the |South African media, some of whose representatives have been accused of seeing the event from the skewed point of view of the police.

 

Indeed, against all common sense, and contrary to any modicum of political intelligence,  the police have charged many of the surviving miners with ‘murder’ — the ‘murder’ of their own comrades who were shot in cold blood before their very eyes  by the police!

http://constitutionallyspeaking.co.za/marikana-no-common-purpose-to-commit-suicide/

 

The journalists accused of seeing things from the point of view of the police did so because they were — as some have admitted —  “embedded” behind police lines. (See links below)

http://dailymaverick.co.za/article/2012-08-24-marikana-the-matter-of-embedded-journalism

http://dailymaverick.co.za/article/2012-08-30-the-murder-fields-of-marikana-the-cold-murder-fields-of-marikana

 

A reporter who went to the scene of the shooting described it thus:

Bloodied pieces of clothing litter the ground and surrounding bushes, and fresh yellow paint marked where dead bodies were strewn across the area, while blood stains can be seen on rocks and grass. An empty teargas canister could be seen close to one of the yellow paint markings and nearby a spent flare was being played with by a group of children from Marikana.

[One youth] said: Marikana residents were shocked by what they deemed a brutal crackdown by government on workers. ‘The government is under the ANC so it’s the ANC that killed those people,’ he added.

[A miner] said: ‘They don’t care about us. The Government is looking after the mine, that’s why the police are here. More people will die but nothing will happen'”.

 

Politicians opposed to President Zuma are using the massacre as a stick to beat him and also to beat Cyril Ramaphosa. Addressing the miners, Julius Malema, the former leader of the ANC Youth League, who has been expelled from the mother body ANC, called for the resignation of President Zuma and Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa.

 

“Lonmin had a high political connection that is why our people were killed. They were killed to protect the shares of Cyril Ramaphosa,” he said.

(See Cartoon depicting Malema’s “opportunism” below)

http://mg.co.za/cartoon/2012-08-21-malema/

 

 

 

Meanwhile, President Zuma has announced the appointment of an inter-ministerial committee to be led by Minister in the Presidency, Mr Collins Chabane, to investigate the trouble.

So predictable!

http://www.timeslive.co.z//thetimes/2012/08/30/arrest-marikana-killer-cops-miners-demand

We haven’t heard the last of this fracas, I tell you.

UPDATE:“POLICE HAD THE INTENTION OF OPENING FIRE AT MARIKANA”:

http://www.iol.co.za/business/business-news/police-had-the-intention-to-open-fire-1.1369747#.UDp70KObzz8

UPDATES: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-19388584

http://www.timeslive.co.za/thetimes/2012/08/27/zuma-loses-out-in-or-tambo-region

 

SOUTH AFRICA, A SOCIETY AT WAR WITH ITSELF read article from the Daily Maverick:

http://dailymaverick.co.za/article/2012-08-24-marikana-one-week-on-sas-war-with-itself-for-all-to-see

SOUTH AFRICAN MINES: Read a background article from the London Economist magazine:

http://www.economist.com/node/21560903

 MINERS WERE “SHOT IN THE BACK” (London Daily Telegraph):

Striking South African miners ‘were shot in the back’

Striking miners shot dead by police at South Africa’s Lonmin mine were reportedly hit in the back suggesting they were fleeing rather than attacking.

Striking miners continue to protest despite 34 miners being killed by police earlier in the month Photo: AP
Aislinn Laing

By , Johannesburg

4:55PM BST 27 Aug 2012

Post-mortem examinations revealed that most of the 34 victims of the police action on August 16 were shot in the back while a smaller number were shot while facing forward, Johannesburg’s Star newspaper reported citing sources close to the investigation.

If proved correct, the leaked results could contradict police claims that they only opened fire after being fired upon.

Those working to keep the peace in the northwestern town of Marikana, where the Lonmin platinum mine is situated, said they feared that the report could inflame tensions further in the still febrile atmosphere.

Over 150 complaints have been filed with the Independent Police Investigative Directorate over the alleged torture and assault in police custody of miners who were arrested following the violence.

On Monday, London-listed Lonmin said that just 13 per cent of its 28,000 workers arrived for their shifts, following intimidation of bus drivers and other workers by groups of men issuing threats of “repercussions” if they clocked in.

The company is now relying on a “peace accord” meeting planned for Wednesday with the unions, brokered by the Department of Labour. “Everyone must buy into the peace accord before any discussions on issues such as wages can take place,” said Sue Vey, a Lonmin spokesman.

Around 3,000 specialist rock-drillers are on strike, backed by the militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), pushing for a massive wage increase.

The strike began on August 10 and saw 10 killed – including two police officers and mine security staff – within days. On August 16, following fruitless attempts to control the crowd with tear gas, barbed wire and water canons, police hit back in a three-minute live fire barrage that constituted the deadliest force used since the end of apartheid in 1994.

In a press conference shortly after the incident, General Riah Phiyega, the national police commissioner, said she authorised the use of live ammunition because she was told police had come under attack from the striking workers.

“The militant group stormed towards the police firing shots and wielding dangerous weapons,” she said.

The government confirmed on Friday that post-mortems conducted by state pathologists and verified by independent private pathologists had been completed.

But it remains unclear who has seen the results of the examinations. Harold Maloka, a spokesman for the Inter-Ministerial Committee set up by government to handle the crisis, said they would be released as part of the public inquiry into what happened, which is due to report back in four months.

The Star newspaper claimed it had spoken to several sources close to the investigation and with knowledge of the results.

“The post-mortem reports indicate that most of the people were fleeing from the police when they got killed,” it quoted one unnamed source as saying.

“A lot of them were shot in the back and the bullets exited through their chests. Only a few people were found to be shot from the front.”

Zweli Mnisi, spokesman for Police Minister Nathi Mehethwa, condemned the report as “irresponsible”.

“Before the public know these results, the families must first know and not read about it in the newspapers,” he said. “We call on all parties to exercise cautions – these are people’s lives we are talking about.”

Kevin Dowling, the bishop of nearby Rustenburg who is among a large contingent of churchmen working in Marikana, called for clear leadership from the mine managers, unions, politicians and mediators to prevent further violence.

“Unless there is proactive action by all stakeholders to influence the situation positively and stabilise it, there could be more outbreaks of unrest when rumours go round and news like this gets out,” he said.

“There is still a lot of very deep emotion in operation here and this just may inflame emotions higher.”

 

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CONDITIONS IN A SOUTH AFRICAN MINE (from The Financial Times, London)

FT August 28, 2012  5:59 pm

S Africa miners brave dangers for work

By Andrew England in Carletonville

South Africa TauTona gold miners©CorbisConditions in South Africa’s mines have improved since the  end of apartheid but safety standards vary

Sitting on a rock, Langa, a veteran gold miner, whiles away the time chatting  to colleagues before his shift begins deep beneath the earth’s surface.

In a few hours he will pull on a pair of overalls, don a hard hat, with the  ubiquitous miner’s lamp on top, and strap a belt holding emergency breathing  equipment, as well as the lamp’s battery, around his waist. He will check he has  safety goggles and gloves, before clambering into metal cage-like lifts that  plunge rapidly down the mine’s shaft.

 ——————————————

There Langa, 53, will work through the night in hot, dusty conditions as a “loader driver” – loading locomotive wagons with ore blasted from the rock face. “We are working hard, working long (hours),” he says.

Langa is one of some 500,000 people employed in South Africa’s mining sector,  which boasts an abundance of mineral wealth but has a history of violence and  exploitation stretching back nearly 150 years. In the past two weeks, a strike  marred by violence  at the Marikana platinum mine complex operated by Lonmin, the London-listed  company, in which 44 people have been killed, has put the spotlight on the harsh  conditions mineworkers face.

Langa plies his trade far from Marikana in a gold mine at Blyvooruitzicht,  near Carletonville, which was taken over in June by Village Main Reef, a  Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed company. But the work done by platinum and  gold miners is similar.

Shafts tend to be deep – South Africa has the world’s deepest mines with one  gold shaft dropping 4km – and at the rock face drill operators pound holes into  the seams in dark, dirty and hot conditions. Others then place explosives in the  holes and the blasting begins. The ore is then ferried away by small locomotives  that chug through gloomily lit tunnels.

At Marikana, it was rock drill operators – who have the most dangerous and  physically challenging jobs – who downed tools to demand higher wages. The  industrial unrest has so far been contained to the platinum sector, where a  newish union, the  Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union is challenging the  dominance of the National Union of Mineworkers.

Gold companies mainly negotiate with unions through collective bargaining and  it is hoped that will reduce the risks of a similar dispute in the sector. But  Langa says: “People are talking now about Marikana . . . They are angry because  we need money.”

Langa says he takes home R3,500 ($416) a month, although miners’ wage  packages are complex, involving various benefits and bonuses that can lift basic  levels. The Chamber of Mines says the entry level basic monthly salary in gold  is R4,840, which rises to a basic of R5,700 for rock drill operators – excluding  benefits and bonuses – similar to the platinum sector. The striking rock drill  operators at Lonmin want a salary of R12,500 a month.

Miners’ living conditions have improved since apartheid ended but this varies  from mine to mine and most agree that much more needs to be done.

Away from the mine, Langa shares a room with seven others in a company-run  two-storey hostel. A living quarter shown to the Financial Times was a scruffy  single room semi-divided by a wall, each side of which hosted four steel bunk  beds. Village Main Reef said it was reviewing all human resources, policies and  procedures, including employee remuneration and accommodation.

The companies are supposed to provide a single room for miners using their  accommodation by 2014 under an industry charter. Larger companies, such as AngloGold Ashanti and Gold Fields, are spending hundreds of millions of rand  to improve facilities. But Village Main Reef said the Mining Charter targets  were not affordable for the Blyvoor operation, so it will “follow an alternative  route.”

And thousands of miners choose to take a “living out allowance” to supplement  their incomes. They live outside company housing in squatter camps of tin shacks  lacking water and sanitation, their families far away in their home areas. Many  miners in Marikana live in such shanties, with a rubbish-strewn informal  settlement, a stone’s throw from where police shot and killed 34 platinum  strikers on August 16.

“They [the mining companies] only care about our power, they don’t give a  damn about us,” said Xolile Dangala, a miner at Lonmin, who lives in the  squatter camp. “When it rains I have to wear [the] gumboots we wear  underground,” he said, referring to the squalid conditions at the  settlement.

While mining safety records have improved, it remains a dangerous trade, with  the risks greatest in gold and platinum. There were 123 fatalities in the  industry last year, while before 1994 there were “no less than 500” a year,  Susan Shabangu, the mining minister, has said. “When we are underground, we are  faced with death, injury and everything,” said Joseph Tonjeni, a rock drill  operator at Lonmin, who lives in an informal settlement near Marikana.

Still, in a country with rampant poverty and unemployment, where 40 per cent  of the population live below a poverty line of R418 a month, mining remains a  key source of jobs.

Like many miners before him, Mluleki, 23, Langa’s colleague, grew up in the  Eastern Cape, one of South Africa’s poorer provinces, and failed his end of high  school exam. He then followed in his father’s footsteps, heading to the mines  about two and a half years ago “because we are suffering in the Eastern Cape – there’s no jobs, no money.”

“When you are drilling you are shaking – all your body is shaking,” Mluleki  says. “I was scared before . . . what can I do because I need the  money.”

Copyright The  Financial Times Limited 2012.

—————–

August 23, 2012  6:52 pm

The Financial Times, London

Cry the beloved country no more

By Alec Russell

South African Miners Memorial©APMiners have reason to be angry

When I first went to South Africa as a callow correspondent in the last year  of white rule, veteran colleagues said that of the reams of agonised apartheid  literature there were just two books I needed to read: Alan Paton’s Cry, The  Beloved Country and Rian Malan’s My Traitor’s Heart. For the first  time in many years I have found myself thinking of both books as the stark  images from South  Africa’s Lonmin mine massacre have played on television screens around the  world.

My 1993 reading list spoke more to the preoccupations of western editors than  to the travails of the Rainbow Nation. The first encapsulates the dilemmas and  uncertainties of the white liberal. The second is a no-holds-barred, to be read  with several glasses of brandy and coke, evisceration of Afrikaner angst and the  country’s tortured racial politics. But both books have searing passages that  remind the reader how the tortured narrative of South Africa over the past 140  years is woven around the saga of the excavation of some of the more lucrative – and inaccessible – mining seams in the world: first diamond, then gold and now  increasingly platinum. The resilience of apartheid was founded on the gold  mined each year from the Witwatersrand. It was also, as Paton and Malan show in  very different ways, based on the labour of hundreds of thousands of migrant  workers. The former addresses the nightmarish world of these young men separated  from their families, living in fetid single-sex hostels. The latter recounts the  murder of two policemen by striking miners whipped up by witch doctors and the  frustrations of years.

If they read this far, old friends in the ANC will be clicking their teeth.  One of the lazier syndromes in the international media of recent years has been  the way that every political, social or economic drama of the post-apartheid  era, from the rise of the firebrand Julius Malema to the fluctuations of the  rand, has been presented abroad as an existential crisis. So, the sort of  conflict of interest that in, say, India or Brazil is seen as irksome but not  disastrous, is in the South African context routinely depicted as a step on the  road to Zimbabwe. How many reports in the British press of gruesome murders in  Johannesburg have had “Cry the beloved country” in the headline?

Investors wondering what to make of the Lonmin  tragedy should of course ignore the apocalyptic tone of some of the  commentary. While the mining industry is indeed in trouble there is no reason to  suppose that outside appetite for South African bonds will wane. Those looking  for context would do better, say, to read the obituaries in the past week of  Heidi Holland, an old friend and for many years a central figure in Joburg’s  rambunctious journalist circle. She had no truck with the blinkered pessimism it  is all too easy to succumb to when looking on from afar. Yet she was also no  patsy for ANC guff or misrule – and there is far too much of both.


If they read this far, old friends in the ANC will be clicking their teeth.  One of the lazier syndromes in the international media of recent years has been  the way that every political, social or economic drama of the post-apartheid  era, from the rise of the firebrand Julius Malema to the fluctuations of the  rand, has been presented abroad as an existential crisis. So, the sort of  conflict of interest that in, say, India or Brazil is seen as irksome but not  disastrous, is in the South African context routinely depicted as a step on the  road to Zimbabwe. How many reports in the British press of gruesome murders in  Johannesburg have had “Cry the beloved country” in the headline?

Investors wondering what to make of the Lonmin  tragedy should of course ignore the apocalyptic tone of some of the  commentary. While the mining industry is indeed in trouble there is no reason to  suppose that outside appetite for South African bonds will wane. Those looking  for context would do better, say, to read the obituaries in the past week of  Heidi Holland, an old friend and for many years a central figure in Joburg’s  rambunctious journalist circle. She had no truck with the blinkered pessimism it  is all too easy to succumb to when looking on from afar. Yet she was also no  patsy for ANC guff or misrule – and there is far too much of both.

Heidi would have understood that while many of the problems in the mines and  in South Africa as a whole are rooted in the past, there are clear lessons to  draw from this crisis that, if heeded, would lead to a more stable environment  for investors, mine owners and miners.

First, to return to a running theme in the pages of Paton and Malan, all  vestiges of the single-sex hostels should be ended. Some mines have moved in  this direction but many haven’t. This will be expensive but it will be a vital  conciliatory move. In return, the ANC has to accept that mining is not nearly as  profitable as it used to be. Output volumes are flat, costs are rising and  margins squeezed. If the proposed higher salaries were instituted, many more  jobs would be lost.

So, the government must move to stop the crisis  spreading and the planned  inquiry must be swift and trenchant, not least to wrong-foot the radicals.  The workers have reason to be angry: the ANC’s record in transforming public  services is parlous. If the unrest spreads to other mining sectors, investor  confidence would plunge.

To expect strong leadership from Jacob Zuma ahead of December’s party  leadership contest is optimistic. His ANC and indeed its old ally, the main  mining union, such a radical force in Malan’s pages, have become complacent in  power. This should be a wake-up call for the stalwarts in the ANC to speak out  at the cronyism and drift. I suspect they won’t and anticipate more apocalyptic  headlines in the months ahead. But it is the spirit of Heidi that should guide  our judgment.

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UPDATE ON THAT COURT CASE:

 

 

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