Lybon Mabasa, SOPA President, Speaks Out Against the Repression of the Strikers in the Mines of Marikana
By Lybon Mabasa
When evidence was given, during the last week of October, at the judicial commission investigating what happened at Marikana on August 16, an e-mail from Cyril Ramaphosa (1) to the authorities and the police was produced. In this e-mail, the former trade union head and still leader of ANC asked the police, the minister and the multinational mining company Lonmin itself to undertake “concomitant action” in order to restore order against the “criminal” acts of the strikers. It was then that the police showed up and shot and murdered about 40 striking miners.
Just after the murdering of the Marikana miners, Julius Malema (2) addressed the people and said, “It was Cyril Ramaphosa who ordered to have them killed.” When Malema said that, people said, “Since he is from the ANC, he must know what he is talking about.” But they still wondered where the information came from. Now this information has been confirmed by the evidence provided to the investigation commission mentioned above.
Cyril Ramaphosa is sort of a symbol of the process that has led the miners to lose confidence in what their traditional trade union, the NUM, had once been. They feel that this union has given up fighting and negotiating for the workers’ demands. Remember, the NUM officially stated that the demands of the Marikana miners, i.e., the demand for a monthly salary of 12,500 Rand (US$1590) was “too much,” and that they felt that people should be satisfied with the current salary, equivalent to $500 to $600.
The leaders of the NUM do not seem to have taken into account the fact that the Lonmin multinational, which owns the Marikana mines, made a profit of $12.2 billion last year. Any worker, even those without much education, know that a billion is a thousand million. And the union bosses have agreed that they will only talk to the workers if they are accompanied by the police, where they will only speak with the miners from behind police vans. A few weeks ago, for example, the workers said to the NUM president, “You are one of us, come and talk to us,” and the president refused and stayed behind the police vans.
Forty-four Black miners were killed at Marikana, by what is called a Black government. It is a Tripartite Alliance government which has been in power since 1994, made up of the ANC, the COSATU and the South African Communist Party (SACP). The miners were killed because they dared to speak their demands: better wages, better living conditions, running water and toilets. … And the only answer they were given was brutal repression.
After Marikana, the government immediately went into propaganda mode. They said that the workers had been shot because they were attacking the police. Now evidence has been given that 15 of them were shot from the back. For others, there is proof that they were shot while surrendering, with their hands in the air. In fact, they were killed because those who they believed to be their comrades called them criminals and said that the police should shoot to kill. It was careless murder.
In spite of that, the workers have been neither broken nor defeated. They have not been cowed down. And they have refused to go back into the mines to work for a pittance. They have set up committees to make their demands. We unconditionally support their demands. Julius Malema has also unconditionally supported the miners, and reiterated the call that we have always defended, for the nationalization of the mines, which are foreign-owned in South Africa.
Yet after the killing of the Marikana miners, it still took several weeks for the Lonmin multinational to finally agree on a 19 % increase in pay, i.e., about $600 less than what they were asking for. After Lonmin gave in to that increase, the “official” union again said: No, that increase is much too much, the company was wrong to have settled for so much. They told the strikers: You are disorganizing our bargaining arrangements.
And the government itself condemned the agreement, saying that agreements such as this must not be signed, because the mines will close and the companies will leave South Africa. To which the Socialist Party of South Africa says: If the mine-owners want to leave, then they must leave and the mines must be nationalized !
Following Marikana, the entire mining sector has now stood on its feet. At Amplats, which is the number one mining house in the world today, more than 15,000 workers have also gone on strike and they actually chased NUM away saying, we don’t want you to compromise us, we will represent ourselves!
AngloGold has also gone on strike; they have also refused the NUM because, they said, NUM wants to collude with the bosses. We want to represent ourselves. They have also set up committees.
It mustn’t be forgotten that after the shooting of the miners at Marikana, the government gave orders to arrest more than 78 miners and have charged them with murder — for murdering themselves.
They were finally released, because it did not make sense that they could have murdered themselves. And we want to thank you, comrades, for the sustained campaigns which you have led, because if it weren’t for the international campaign that the ILC launched, those comrades would probably still be in prison.
They are now arresting some of the members of the committees and charging them for various crimes, including murder. They are afraid that their union — their preferred union — is losing support. At the time of the COSATU congress just a few weeks ago, NUM said that it had numbers that were just under half a million. No one can deny that NUM once was a fighting union. But NUM has betrayed the workers.
The workers have left NUM to join the Association of Mine Workers (AMCU) and at the present moment, in reality, NUM doesn’t even have 50,000 workers. They are facing the same rejection TUCSA (3) faced in 1973. Because workers have the power and workers can determine the direction they want their struggle to go. And we say to NUM, if it wants to survive, it will have to become independent from the policies of the bosses, independent from the policies of government and independent from the policies of imperialism.
The president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, called a “social summit” where he invited members of business, members of the NUM, members of the SACP and members of AMCU, and he said: Enough is enough, let us solve this thing in a gentlemen’s manner. The workers rejected that social summit.
Last Saturday, October 27, COSATU said that they want to “go and reclaim lost ground.” They organized a rally at Olympic Stadium in the mining region of Rustenburg. That rally was going to be addressed by the secretary general of COSATU, Zwelinzima Vavi, the president of COSATU, and the secretary general of the South African Communist Party.
And when they came, they found more than a thousand workers wearing black tee shirts saying, “Remember Marikana. We want a living wage.” They said: We want the mines nationalized. The police removed them, in order to allow the rally. Finally — in an area where there are hundreds of thousands of workers — the rally was held, and they addressed only 500 to 600 people, who had been bussed in from Johannesburg.
The workers are determined to fight back, and they are determined to accept whatever assistance in their fight that they can get from all the people who see this fight as central to the entire political spectrum of our country.
By their own strength and commitment, they have begun the process of becoming the grave-diggers to imperialism. They need whatever support they can get.
The instruments of the regime and the NUM bosses are repression and terror. Thousands and thousands of miners have been locked-out of the mines that are on strike. Leaders of the committees are being arrested every day.
We call upon the mining bosses to reinstate all the workers who have been expelled.
We ask them to accede to all the demands of the workers.
We demand the unconditional release of all arrested miners.
We demand the unconditional withdrawal of all charges.
Above all, we say that South African mines must be nationalized immediately.
The struggle continues.
(1) Cyril Ramaphosa was one of the main founders of the mineworkers’ trade union, the NUM. Today he is a member of the ANC central committee, member of the board of directors of Lonmin (the group that the Marikana mine belongs to), in which he owns 15 % of the shares — thanks to which he has become a millionaire.
(2) Julius Malema is the former leader of the ANC Youth Organization, from which he was excluded two years ago, because he took a stand in favor of the nationalization of the mines.
(3) A “sweetheart,” company union created at the beginning of the 1970s by the racist apartheid regime as a trade union showcase for the international scene. It was widely rejected by Black workers starting with the dockers’ strike in Durban, in 1973.