By MANDLENKOSI ka PHANGWA
August 16, 2017, marks the 5th anniversary of the broad-daylight slaying of mine workers at the Lonmin mines in Marikana. As a country, we witnessed the successful collaboration between industry, the labor movement officialdom, and the State machinery against the workers. This collaboration was to safeguard the profits in the mining industry and imperialist interests.
As we mark the 5th year after this “heresy,” workers in the mining sector and Marikana, in particular, continue to fight for a minimum monthly wage of R12,500 (or US$1,000). Mine workers like Mgcineni “Mambush” Noki (man is green blanket) died in cold blood to attain this justifiable demand.
It is regrettable, however, that five years later, the same perpetrator of this crime against the workers, Cyril Ramaphosa, is mooted as the preferred candidate for presidency of this country, despite damning evidence of his key role leading to a fascist mode of worker repression, post-Apartheid, in Azania.
The role played by both Ramaphosa and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM,) leading to the mining massacre cannot be forgotten as the country continues to mourn this brutality.
NUM had demanded a deployment of the army in Marikana long before the fateful day of August 16, 2012. The divisions among the workers were exacerbated by the leaderships of both NUM and the Lonmin corporation; it was later discovered that the kickbacks that Lonmin was giving not only to the union leaders but also to shop-stewards were instrumental in provoking the fights between workers and the rival union: AMCU.
The division escalated to workers killing workers the day prior to the brutal slaying that claimed scores of AMCU members at the hands of the Apartheid-inherited State machinery. Later the same workers were charged under an Apartheid statute of “common purpose” with the allegation that the surviving workers were also responsible for the brutal slaying of their fellow mine workers.
Role of CODESA
These divisions cannot only be confined to the labor movement but reflect the unfavorable negotiated settlement (CODESA) in which the working class lost its battle through the agreement of the “Lockout Clause” in the Labour Relations Act. This meant that now employers could lock out the workers from the work place and be able to employ scab labor and undermine workers’ strikes and protest while increasing production and profits.
This was not all. The Lockout Clause in Marikana became a pivotal instrument for the collaboration of the State machinery and the imperialist Lonmin corporation since it provided the grounds for the police to shoot down workers outside the mine’s premises in order to protect scab labor and not affect production. Such a clause made it much easier to divide the employed workers and the unemployed workers, as we witnessed victims on both sides creating a “dog-eat-dog “ situation in Marikana.
Five years after the massacre, the Black working-class majority continues to be subjected to betrayal by the same collaboration between the labor movement, imperialist powers, and the State through the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC). The same collaborators at Marikana are leading a reactionary plot to keep the Black working-class majority poor through an insulting “living wage” of R3,500 (or US$320) a month.
This insulting living wage is led by one and the same Marikana butcher Cyril Ramaphosa, who is backed by three major federations in the country — namely COSATU, NACTU and a white-controlled FEDUSA. Fortunately NUMSA and the recently launched SAFTU took the side of the people and rejected this insult against the Black working-class majority. This has led to SAFTU being refused admittance to NEDLAC as a worker’s federa- tion in the country.
Such developments are not surprising, given that the labor federations are endorsing reactionary measures against the workers simply because the same federations (COSATU and FEDUSA) have publicly support the proposal of Cyril Ramaphosa to become president of the country after the ANC elective congress in Johannesburg in December 2017. COSATU, which condemned the workers in Marikana, has once again pronounced its unconditional support for Ramaphosa’s bid for both the country and ANC presidency.
AMCU and NUMSA Reject Ramaphosa
Five years later, post the Lonmin massacre, as workers we can see even somersaults from those who claim to fight on the side of the workers and who now support Cyril Ramaphosa’s ambitious campaign. False fusions and unity have become a program by the very same benefactors of post-Apartheid dispensation.
But workers continue to reject these pseudo-revolutionary leaderships. They rejected the NUM in the mining industry; in fact, NUM has lost a majority of its membership to AMCU, which has shown consistency in its fight against the imperialist-run mining industry. AMCU, together with the Lonmin massacre widows, demand justice, which must see those who collaborated during the killing of the workers facing their crimes against humanity.
The R12,500 demand by the mine workers has not been realized, though the cost of living increases on daily basis in Azania. Workers continue to be subjected to extreme conditions worsened by extreme poverty. This has led to many divisions within the Black working-class majority, thus making the demand for a Black Republic more relevant than ever, where we shall see the nationalization of the means of production and the rightful majority rule.
(Mandlenkosi ka Phangwa is the national organizer of OCRFI-Azanian Section.)