More on Marikana: Put Your Conscience to the Test
By The Socialist Party of Azania
“First they came for the communists, I did not speak out — because I was not a communist; Then they came for the socialists, I did not speak out — because I was not a socialist; Then they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist; Then they came for the Jews, I did not speak out — because I was not Jew; Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
When we contended that the killing of Andries Tatane, a teacher and a protester in Ficksburg, was not an accident but a sign of a regime that is starting to believe in brutal force to enforce its rule, no one believed us. When some of the government ministers like Suzan Shabangu advocated for the use of lethal force, some people thought they had heard wrong. When general Bheki Cele, the disgraced former national police commissioner, implored the police to “shoot to kill”, still there were others willing to give the government the benefit of the doubt.
Now there is Marikana. It is only a fool who would not see where we are going and what all this means. By its own admission, the admission by the National Police Commissioner, General Riah Phiyega, the government instructed the tactical response squad, armed with R5 automatic machine guns, to use lethal force, out of which 34 people, according to them died.
All the murdered miners were someone else’s husband, father, son, brother — they all belonged. We cannot remain neutral or silent about this, especially since this government has done the most absurd thing by charging the survivors of mass murder and massacre for murder. Our people should refuse to accept this, the workers should not be cowed by this brutality.
The struggle continues
The provisional withdrawal of the “murder charges” brought against the striking miners of Marikana, under the catch-all “common purpose Apartheid doctrine” is no comfort at all.
The provisional withdrawal is precisely that, provisional — this in and of itself belies the need for the ANC government to re-institute these charges at some point in the near future, against the backdrop of the unrelenting persistence to not return to conditions of slavery on the part of the approximately 28,000 striking miners.
To claim that they are awaiting the final outcome of the judicial commission, which is neither independent nor sovereign, is laughable. Besides, how do we even begin to see that as magnanimity or benevolence on the part of the state when Lonmin has already declared that all the arrested workers are automatically retrenched?
We as workers and as the Black majority need to step up the pressure on the ruling self- enriching oligarchy by pursuing the following forms of action:
1. Embrace the weird principle of “COMMON PURPOSE” and accordingly hand ourselves into the nearest police-station as co-conspirators in “crimes” as yet undefined.
2. Present a compelling case that the Constitutional Court unjustifiably limits the striking miner’s rights to dignity, freedom and security including the right to be economically advantaged by their labour inputs into the profitability of the mining houses.
3. Call for the unity of all workers and urge them them to resist all efforts that seek to subordinate into the interest of the bosses and the disinterest shown to them by the state. The doctrine of Common Purpose is a common-law principle and accordingly, in keeping with our Constitution, which is not the result of a Constituent Assembly but of the CODESA compromise that legalised Black poverty — in particular Section 39(2), which makes it abundantly clear, that when a court embarks upon a course of developing the common law it is obliged to promote the spirit, purport and objects of the Constitution — neither of this has been fulfilled either in an economic sense with regard to the living wage situation for the miners of Marikana, nor has it found resonance in the absurd conditions of their arrest for the “murder” of their fellow strikers.
We should further explore this absurd law to find a means of applying it to charge Cyril Ramaphosa and all shareholders in these mining concessions — the capitalist bosses – for economic crimes and sabotage against our people.
The Socialist Party of Azania has no other choice but to identify with all the workers of Lonmin, the massacred, the wounded, the arrested and those unaccounted for. We believe the demands of the workers are justifiable especially in the mining sector that has always been the bedrock of our economy. There is no denying that while South African mines are some of the most lucrative producing great wealth for foreign capital, they remain comparatively the most exploitative in the world.
Unlike other countries, where the lives of miners are as just as important as that of other workers in other sectors, in South Africa the lives of mine workers have always counted for nothing, and not enough has been done to highlight their despicable plight. The history of South Africa and its development is such that there is no Black person who is not touched by mining one way or another. The discovery of gold and diamonds and the need for cheap labour drew many people to the mines especially after the introduction of poll tax where Black people were forced to pay tax only in one form and therefore forced into the cities to seek employment.
The Apartheid-era living conditions have not changed and they remain holding people in subhuman bondage with no respect for gender differences, subjecting women in particular to totally unacceptable living conditions where they have to share facilities with their male counterparts. While there is common talk about transformation, there has been very little of it that has filtered through to the mines, though members of the political leadership of the ruling party are often shareholders in these mines.
This is a call to all WORKERS and all those who claim to love democracy. Let’s defend the gains and advance our struggles! Power has never conceded anything without a demand!