Wednesday, August 22, 2012

On the Deaths of South African Mineworkers

On the Deaths of South African Mineworkers

(Two Takes)

Police Open Fire on Protesting Mine Workers in South Africa

By Brian Finnegan


August 17, 2012

An on-going industrial conflict escalated into
tragedy yesterday as police opened fire on a group of
protesting workers at the Marikana Mine and
surrounding area in Rustenburg, South Africa,
about 50 miles from Johannesburg. The platinum
mine is owned by U.K.-based Lonmin. The violence
has taken 38 lives and injured more than 75 people.

The AFL-CIO extends deep condolences to the
families and friends of all those who have lost their
lives in this latest violence. The AFL-CIO also joins
global unions International Trade Union

Confederation (ITUC), IndustriALL and South
Africa's National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in
calling for calm to return to the platinum mine and
demanding a full and thorough investigation from
law enforcement. Lonmin needs to ensure calm and
safety is restored so that miners can return to work.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, a former mine

worker himself, was appalled by yesterday's events

at the Marikana Mine:

Once again, mineworkers who produce so much

wealth under often dangerous daily working

conditions have paid the highest price-their lives- in

a completely avoidable industrial conflict. We send

our deepest condolences to the families of these

workers and call on the South African government

to take immediate action to address the brutality.

The Central Executive Committee of the Congress of

South African Trade Unions (COSATU) will convene

an urgent meeting of the unions' leadership to

discuss a coordinated strategy among its affiliates to

strengthen their response to this tragedy and

challenge to workers' unity and strength.]


Miners' Wives Rage at South African Police Brutality after 'Massacre'

By David Smith

Guardian (UK)

August 17, 2012

Nosisieko Jali's husband is missing. She has heard

a rumour that a bullet hit him in the head, yet he

survived. One witness said all his clothes were torn.

"I don't know where he is," said Jali, numb with

anxiety. "The hospital wouldn't let me come inside. I

am hurting."

Jali is among scores of wives at the Lonmin

platinum mine in Marikana still waiting to discover

if their husband is in a jail, hospital or mortuary

after one of the bloodiest days in South Africa since apartheid.

Thirty-four people were killed and 78 injured on

Thursday when police with automatic rifles, pistols

and shotguns opened fire on the strikers, many of

whom were armed with spears, machetes and clubs

as they demonstrated for higher wages. The

shocking images, beamed to TV viewers around the

world, provoked comparisons with massacres by the

white minority regime of the country's past.

On Friday, next to the killing field, wives took the

place of their dead and wounded husbands to stage

an angry, emotionally charged demonstration. The

women raged against police brutality, mine

exploitation and a lack of official information that

has left them agonisingly in the dark.

"How can we know whether people are dead or

missing?" demanded Nowelcime Bosanathi, 35. "My

husband went to the protest with a stick. I worried

he might be dead. Then he called last night to say

he's in a police van and he doesn't know where he's

going. Now his phone is on voicemail."

Waving sticks, whistling and ululating, the women

performed the apartheid-era toyi-toyi dance up and

down a dirt road. They sang songs, some mournful,

some defiant, warning: "When you strike a woman,

you strike a rock" and invoking the memory of

heroes of the anti-apartheid struggle such as Oliver

Tambo. They joined hands in a circle for a soulful

rendition of Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika, the national

anthem and originally a hymn. They kneeled before

police armed with shotguns and sang "What have

we done?" in the Xhosa language.

The group of about 100 women also brandished

homemade cardboard placards with handwritten

slogans condemning the police. "Police stop

shooting our husbands and sons," one said.

Another, referring to the new national police

commissioner, Riah Phiyega, read: "Piega you

celebrating your position by blood of our families."

Primrose South, 51, was still waiting for news about

Mishack Mzilikazi, 35, who lives on her property

and is considered part of the family. "I last saw him

at 8am on Thursday. He was going to work with his

phone but now it's off. He also had a stick and he

was quiet.

"I don't know where he is now. He could be in

prison or he could be dead. I don't know."

She added: "We are feeling bad because the children

now are crying, are hungry, are afraid even to sleep

at night. The wives have no husbands now. Their

husbands are lying dead in the forest."

Whatever did happen here there is no shortage of

blame - and competing accounts. The women point

at the police and the Lonmin mine management.

South, who works as a mine store manager, said:

"The management sent the police to kill our

husbands, brothers and sons. But we will fight for

our rights like them."

Many of these women followed their husbands from

Eastern Cape province or neighbouring countries

such as Lesotho, Swaziland or Zimbabwe. They live

in the nearby Nkanini settlement in cramped shacks

with pit toilets and an intermittent water supply.

Above one of one of the world's richest platinum

deposits, goats wander in adjacent scrubland strewn

with discarded plastic bags and rubbish.

They denied that the workers had opened fire first

and said a turf war between rival unions was a

sideshow to the dispute over pay.

The unions are scrapping for members. The National

Union of Mineworkers, a supporter of the ANC, had

signed up to a pay deal with Lonmin. But the

militant Association of Mineworkers and

Construction Union (AMCU) rejected this and

pushed for wages to be trebled. This comes amid a

wider debate on whether the governing African

National Congress (ANC) should curb mine owners' power.

The youth league of the ANC argues that

nationalisation of the country's mines and farms is

the only way to redress the injustices of the past.

The youth league said: "South Africa's exploitative

mining regime, capitalist greed and the poverty of

our people is the cause."

For its part, Lonmin announced that it would

provide support to all the families that have suffered

loss this week. Simon Scott, its chief financial

officer, said: "We have established a help desk at

Lonmin's Andrew Saffy Hospital, which will help

families with the identification of bodies, assist with

all the burial arrangements and offer bereavement counselling.

"Lonmin commits to provide funding for the

education of all the children of employees who lost

their lives. This funding will cover education costs

from primary school to university."

The company's London-listed share price slumped

9% early yesterday, though it ended 1.3% down at

639.5p. It plunged to a nine-year low on the

Johannesburg exchange, where it is also listed.

The South African Institute of Race Relations called

for the immediate suspension of all police officers

involved in the shootings.

It said: "There is clear evidence that policemen

randomly shot into the crowd with rifles and

handguns. There is also evidence of their continuing

to shoot after a number of bodies can be seen

dropping and others turning to run.

"This is reminiscent of the Sharpeville massacre in

1960," it said.

The police, though, insisted they acted in self-

defence, arguing that the mine workers even

possessed a pistol taken from a police officer they

are alleged to have beaten to death on Monday.

At least 10 other people were killed during the week-

old strike at the mine,80 miles north-west of

Johannesburg, including two police officers said to

have been battered to death by strikers and two

mine security guards.

It was into this highly charged atmosphere that

President Jacob Zuma stepped, having cut short a

visit to a regional summit. He announced that a

commission of inquiry would be held into the

tragedy. "This inquiry will enable us to get to the real

cause of the incident and derive the real lessons

too," he said during a visit to Marikana.

"We've all been saddened and dismayed by the

events of the past few days and hours around the

Marikana mine. The loss of life among workers and

members of the police service is tragic and


"These events are not what we want to see or want

to become accustomed to in a democracy that is

bound by the rule of law and where we are creating

a better life for all our people.

"Today our thoughts are primarily with the families

of those who have lost their lives. As a government

and as fellow citizens, we offer our sincere

condolences to families who have lost their loved

ones. Our thoughts are also with those who are


He continued: "The events of the past few days have

unfortunately been visited upon a nation that is

hard at work addressing the persistent challenges of

poverty, unemployment and inequality.

"We undertake this work in conditions of peace and

stability, working with all sectors in our country.

"We assure the South African people in particular

that we remain fully committed to ensuring that this

country remains a peaceful, stable, productive and

thriving nation, that is focused on improving the

quality of life of all, especially the poor and working


"It is against this background that we have to

uncover the truth about what happened here."

He went on: "Today challenges us to restore calm
and share the pain of the affected families and

"This is not a day to apportion blame. It is a day for
us to come together as a nation. It is also a day to
start rebuilding and healing."


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