Written by Leonard Gentle Monday, 12 November 2012 00:00Over the past weekend, the striking mineworkers of Amplats gathered at a mass rally in Rustenburg and howled their defiance of a series of ultimatums issued by the company. At De Doorns, farm workers are on a wildcat strike - the latest of a series that has become a feature of the South African landscape over the last three months, knocking Mangaung off the front pages. Something is stirring from below…and it is time we got beyond the fear and trepidation that have become the stock response in the media.
Written by Leonard Gentle Friday, 28 September 2012 17:15aIn the run up to the September COSATU Congress, the media began to float the story that Zwelenzima Vavi’s position as General Secretary was going to be challenged by NUM, NEHAWU and SADTU because of his perceived opposition to Jacob Zuma. A subtext to this was the idea of the congress as some kind of debating forum where workers would reflect seriously on critical issues facing the labour movement and where there would be the rough and tumble of debate and contestation.
Written by Shawn Hattingh Monday, 10 September 2012 13:35The sight of policemen brutally gunning down striking mineworkers at Marikana was truly galling. At the very least 300 rounds of live ammunition were fired at workers (and not only those seen on TV) by the police using automatic assault rifles in a military style operation: the infamous consequences being 34 workers killed and perhaps as many as 87 injured, with some workers still unaccounted for. Many of the workers were also reportedly shot in the back and some executed. To add insult to injury, and with what was clearly some relish, the police arrested 260 workers in the aftermath. This often even involved policemen literally sticking the boot into injured workers. Allegations have also subsequently emerged that 190 of these arrested workers were tortured, some for up to 3 days, whilst being held in surrounding police stations. One worker also claims that he was taken to a room on Lonmin’s property, who owns the mine at Marikana, and handcuffed to a chair and beaten with a rubber pipe by police in a bid to extract information about the ‘leaders’ of the wildcat strike. Not to be outdone in callousness, Lonmin issued an ultimatum that unless the rest of the striking workers returned to work by 7am on the 21st of August disciplinary actions would be taken against them. The strikers though have ignored Lonmin’s threats, and at the time of writing, most remained out on strike.
The story of Marikana has so far been painted shallowly as an inter-union spat. In the first few days after the fateful Thursday and the shock and horror of watching people being massacred on TV there have correctly been howls of anger and grief. Of course no one wants to take responsibility because to do so would be to acknowledge blame. Some pundits have even gone the way of warning at anyone “pointing figures” or “stoking anger”. That buffoon, Julius Malema, stepped forward as if scripted, and promptly lent credibility to those warnings. So Zuma’s setting up of an Inquiry and his call for a week of mourning for the deceased and their families could come across as “statesmanlike”.
But this is not just a story of hardship, violence and grief. To speak in those terms only would be to add the same insult to injury perpetrated by the police on the striking workers as many commentators have done - that of seeing the striking miners as mere victims and not as agents of their own future and, even more importantly, as a source of a new movement in the making.
Page 1 of 5