Report on the Latest Developments on the Marikana Massacre
By Lybon Tiyani Mabasa, President, Socialist Party of Azania
The initial response of the government, COSATU, the SACP and the COSATU affiliated National Union of Mineworkers was first to launch a ruthless attack on the 28,000 mine workers who participated on the so-called wild-cat strike organised by the Association of Mining and Construction Union (AMCU) but most importantly on the massacred workers who they claimed had brought death to themselves because they were armed with knobkerries and machetes.
The commissioner of Police, Mrs Riah Phiyega appealed to the people of South Africa not to sympathise with those who have been killed and also not to feel sorry for them but the ‘poor policemen’ who died. These statements sounded much too familiar especially for the majority of our people who came from a repressive Apartheid past.
The insiders in the investigations of the shooting said post-mortem reports did not favour the police version of events – that they opened fire after being fired upon.
The completed post mortems seem to paint a different picture to the one given by the police, the star of Monday the 27 August 2012 gives this report according to insiders: “the post-mortem reports indicate that most people were fleeing from the police when they got killed. A lot of them were shot in the back and the bullets exited through their chests. Only a few were found to be shot from the front.”
All these have a diabolical ring of de’javu for the Black majority, in the minds of many the regime has crossed the threshold and it is openly repressive, just like some of us had correctly predicted.
The conflict according to the tripartite alliance was a direct result of populists and people who wanted to divide the union, NUM and the federation COSATU but when we talked to the workers some openly admitted to being members of NUM though they fully supported the labour action. They raised several issues of concern about their own leadership, the best example being that of their national president who earns an exorbitant yearly salary while he fails to support workers who want R12 500-00 and insists there are long drawn processes. These workers are presently earning between R3 000 and R4 000. The gap that exist between the union bureaucracy and the workers is completely unacceptable and the fact that they also seem to be paving their ways into government. This has prompted the AMCU president, Mr. Mathunjwa, to comment about the how some leadership of the union always have their eyes on occupying a political office.
While it is true that many ANC and leaders have particularly been drawn from the National Union of Mineworkers like Cyril Ramaphosa, Elijah Barayi, the first COSATU president, deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe and Zwelinzima Vavi, the present COSATU president Frans Baleni, the list is endless, but mineworkers continue to literally earn peanuts and live under despicable conditions and much worse for women mineworkers who often do not have separate facilities.
AMCU has experienced phenomenal growth in most mines particularly in Gauteng, Limpopo, North West and Mpumalanga. This has put a great pressure on the once most powerful COSATU union, NUM. This restlessness is not limited to the NUM only, while other unions have not as yet lost members but they have also expressed similar concerns with those of the NUM. At the heart of everything is the tripartite arrangement between the COSATU, the government and big business. The COSATU unions are more often than not being turned into gate keepers of the despicable system of oppression and repression by the bosses ably supported by the government. To this day, another of the powerful COSATU unions, SADTU, the teachers union, still smarts from the results of similar situation.
Despite the fact that the strike was not organised by COSATU, it would have put the federation in good stead, had it identified with the workers, some of whom belonged to NUM. In our view based on some of the discussions with the workers, it became quite evidently clear that COSATU’s actions seem to directly promote divisions amongst the workers especially after workers who some of their colleagues and friends mowed down by the police. A little sympathy and solidarity would have gone a long way.
Workers have made chilling observations about the sad day when their colleagues were killed. They observed that the so-called ‘Tactical Response Squad’ had come to them with no shields, no sneeze machines or any teargas, no face protection helmets or masks but had machine guns which at the slightest provocation they did not hesitate to use. They were first, according to the workers, fired upon by a helicopter gunship and fired at from one flank by the police who herded them into the killing fields captured by the electronic media. Those who went to the mortuaries found so many people who were shot at the back, meaning they were running away, not fighting or attacking like it is alleged.
We believe that the government has actually concealed the real number of the people who died that day largely because there are so many miners who are unaccounted for. They are neither in jail nor in the morgues, though in some cases identity documents were found littered where others were killed, also South African mines often attract huge numbers of people from neighbouring countries, namely, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana and of those who died, the official 44, we are told that only 5 were foreign nationals. Anyone who watched the mowing down of these people will find it hard to believe the government’s line and also that only 78 were injured. There are 275 who are held in so many different police stations. We have been able to secure the lists of those who are arrested. We have also established that the police are taking the detainees at night and assaulting them, forcing them to do self incriminating statements.
On Wednesday we met with some of the leaders of the ANCYL and we talked about the kind of intervention that needs to be urgently done in Marikana. Of priority was to try and secure the release of those arrested at whatever cost and to work for the unity of the Marikana workers. On the first day we went to Marikana Julius Malema had addressed the workers who had warmly received him. He once more raised the issue of nationalisation and the fact that the platinum mine, Lonmin, was a foreign entity that had given some shares to some ANC leaders like Cyril Ramaphosa. He rightly condemned capitalist greed as the direct cause for the massacre and the role of imperialism as represented by the Lonmin.
We as SOPA have tried to find lawyers who can assist the workers but also to defend the workers particularly against their employer Lonmin, which continues to show no compassion whatsoever to the plight of the workers let alone those who have died.
We believe that the government must withdraw the Lonmin operating licence, they must immediately nationalise the mine and protect all the workers. Lonmin has been reaping great profits annually to up R92billion but refuses to accede to the workers demands.
Despite our continued support for COSATU which is unflinching, we do not endorse the crimes that are being committed to the workers, we do not identify with the self enrichment of the leadership and we cannot see ourselves deserting the striking workers nor turning the victims into villains. It is going to be a long drawn struggle which even with no existing resources except our own availability, we are prepared to be engaged in.
SOCIALIST PARTY OF AZANIA (SOPA)
Head office: Unit 8, Renaissance Center
Gandhi Square, Johannesburg, 2001
P.O. Box 11039
Johannesburg, South Africa 2000
Tel. (011) 838-4823