Striking miners killed by security forces in South Africa

Striking miners killed by security forces in South Africa

Earlier today at least seven striking miners have been gunned down and killed by security forces at South African platinum mine. The killings are the latest in a long line of deaths during a strike that is complicated by a bitter and violent inter-union dispute over membership numbers.

Yesterday, South African police ordered thousands of striking miners to leave the vicinity of the Lonmin Marikana platinum mine or face being forcibly removed. Up to 3,000 police officers, an elite paramilitary unit, supported by horses and helicopters, confronted the miners and delivered their ultimatum.

Just before the police attacked the strikers, a spokesman said that:

“Today is unfortunately D-day. It is an illegal gathering. We’ve tried to negotiate and we’ll try again but if that fails, we’ll obviously have to go to a tactical phase”.

The president of AMCU responded by saying:

“There will be bloodshed if the police move in. We are going nowhere. If need be, we are prepared to die here”

Within the last week, ten people, including two policemen, have been killed in a violent turf war, (which is running alongside the strike), between two ‘rival’ trade unions.

The dispute is over membership, and is between the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Workers (AMCU) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and has been on-going for around eight months.

The NUM is viewed as ‘moderate’ and no longer looking after its member’s needs, whereas AMCU are supposedly more militant and ready to confront the bosses. AMCU are alleged to be using ‘strong arm’ tactics in order to get members to change affiliation.

Apart from the temporary inconvenience of lost production, the bosses must be absolutely delighted that working people prefer to fight each other rather than the real enemy.

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Posted By

working class s...
Aug 16 2012 16:04


Attached files


Aug 30 2012 22:51

I would encourage people to read the article above. Strongly.

Aug 31 2012 12:13

BBC: Marikana murder charges: South Africa minister wants explanation

South Africa's justice minister has demanded an explanation after 270 miners were charged with the murder of their colleagues who were shot by police.

The decision had "induced a sense of shock, panic and confusion" among South Africans, Jeff Radebe said.

State prosecutors charged the miners under the apartheid-era "common purpose" doctrine.

The decision has already been condemned by constitutional lawyers.

In a statement, Mr Radebe said that under the constitution, the justice minister "must exercise final responsibility over the prosecuting authority".

He said he had therefore asked the head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) "to furnish me with a report explaining the rationale behind such a decision".

The sound of gears slamming into reverse?

Sep 1 2012 03:04

Perhaps, but i think the PR damage has already been done.

Sep 1 2012 09:45

About 14,000 miners, a quarter of the workforce, from Gold Fields, join the strike. A wildcat apparantly.

Sep 7 2012 20:08
Sep 11 2012 00:16
...Given that a significant proportion of the world’s biggest mining companies are listed in London, the Government has a prime opportunity to ensure that no more Lonmin or G4S type scandals are allowed to further damage the reputation of British business around the world.

Lisa Nandy, Labour MP for Wigan: London’s shameful links to Lonmin mining tragedy

Working-class party, honest guv!

Sep 12 2012 16:29

From Tahir Wood on the AUT-OP-SY list [I'm assuming he wouldn't mind it being circulated further, the list is publically archived after all]:

This is a reply that I made to someone on another list, but I thought I'd send it here [AUT-OP-SY] too. It was written pretty much off the cuff, so if anyone has better info than me or an alternative view, I'd like to hear it.

I'm glad someone raised the Marikana mineworkers, an issue which has shaken the whole of South Africa. It arguably represents the first time in our history that naked class war has erupted.

This statement might come as a surprise given the history of struggle in SA and the frequency of labour unrest in the country generally, which is high. But when I say "naked" here I mean something quite specific. This is the first time that I have ever noticed the workers (a) telling the ruling political alliance (the African National Congress, the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the SA Communist Party) effectively to go to hell and to embark on an illegal wildcat strike and (b) they have showed themselves willing to fight to the death against the police. This is truly remarkable and shows how far the post-1994-settlement politics have unravelled.

The workers ridiculed the National Union of Mineworkers (COSATU affiliate) spokespersons and also the ANC honchos that came to talk to them. They ridiculed the President.

One of the debates going on currently is why the mineworkers in particular are so hyper-militant compared to other sectors where the workers are relatively docile and still supportive of the ANC and COSATU. Part of the answer I think revolves around the migrant labour system that was a cornerstone of apartheid and has never really been dismantled. A large number of the miners at Marikana are from the Eastern Cape and other areas to the south. They live under very poor hostel conditions or in rented hovels without electricity or water and have to send part of their wages back to the areas where their dependents are. There are virtually no social benefits for the miners and their health tends to be poor, the work is incredibly heavy, the mines are amongst the deepest in the world and the fatality rate is high. The miners who are from the surrounding area live in impoverished communities where unemployment is very high. In fact it has been claimed that many people involved in the strike action were not actually miners themselves. The actual monetary wage is not that low compared to other workers in other sectors but the social wage is effectively nil and the living conditions appalling. Also the miners are aware that there are mining CEOs who earn in one day more than ten times what they earn in a month. So inequality, which is huge in South Africa generally, reaches astronomical proportions in the mining sector. These are all preliminary observations and there will be much more analysis to come.

Also there will be more information once the police action has been thoroughly analysed. But what some of us fear is that this is just the beginning of the fascism that has been threatening to come into the open for a long time. The issue of police brutality has been a growing concern, but now you must remember that this is the first time that such a massacre has occurred since the end of apartheid. It is being compared to the Sharpeville massacre in the early 1960s. There are now reports that some miners were shot in the back, others were apparently shot at point blank range (rather than being arrested) and there are also reports that arrested miners were tortured afterwards and assaulted in various ways by the police. Obviously the question arises of why the police confronted the miners in such a military style with only live rounds.

What is truly remarkable is the determination and resolve of the miners, even after some of their number had been shot. In fact it is noteworthy that there were two quite separate days of shootings. The killing of 34 miners on 16th August was preceded by the killing of a smaller number a few days earlier. This did not deter them and still has not deterred what seems to be the larger number, even though NUM has signed an agreement with the mine bosses. So they are clearly prepared to fight to the death. A few policemen have in fact been killed too.

At the same time one must not imagine that all these actions are coordinated with any developments in the political sphere. In fact the miners do not appear to have any clear notions of political alternatives, and they have hailed anyone who supports them. For example the thoroughly opportunist expelled leader of the ANC Youth League, Julius Malema, who arrives to address the miners in his Mercedes Benz SUV is given something of a hero's welcome. It has been pointed out just what a political windfall this whole thing has been for him.

So this is a remarkable series of events, unprecedented in South African history in some ways, but it is not clear what it portends for the country, which is becoming an increasingly dangerous place. Later this year the ANC will elect its leadership and the period leading up to that event could turn into violent civil strife, particularly between the supporters of Jacob Zuma and his opponents. The stakes are high for the nationalist movement - its leaders live lives of conspicuous consumption off their positions within the state structure and therefore a change of ruling factions can mean many of them losing their jobs. On the other hand the social movements that occasionally offer some opposition to the ANC are politically very weak and their actions seem to slide off the government's politics like water off a duck's back. There is no organised party to the left of the ANC. There are only spontaneous outbursts of 'service delivery protests', which are basically about the absence of necessary life support systems such as water and electricity and housing. Sometimes these turn violent too.

So yeah, a new stage for SA, but what it means for us and the world over the coming years is hard to say. I would be keen to hear how this whole thing is playing in countries abroad, whether there is awareness of it, etc.


Caiman del Barrio
Sep 12 2012 17:39

Anglo American shuts mine in Rustunberg to 'protect employee safety':

Sep 14 2012 22:54

Trotskyist influence on the strike movement?


At a football stadium in the heart of the platinum belt, thousands of workers heard a call from one protest leader for a national strike to "bring the mining companies to their knees".

"On Sunday, we are starting with a general strike here in Rustenburg," Mametlwe Sebei, from a fringe Marxist political party, told the workers near the town which lies 100 km (60 miles) northwest of Johannesburg.

He drew mild applause from the crowd, armed with sticks and machetes, and it was unclear if the strike call would be heeded.


The organisation and strategy of the strikers has also seen big steps forward in the recent past. Members of Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI in South Africa), have been central to the initiatives taken to unite democratic representatives of the striking miners in co-ordinating committees, to discuss the further spreading of the struggle and the next steps for its escalation. As we speak, preparations for a general strike of the mining areas, one of the necessary steps emphasised by DSM, are being made.

Yesterday alone, even the capitalist press in South Africa and internationally saw fit to comment on the role of DSM in the struggle, most notably that of Mametlwe Sebei, a trade union leader and leading member of DSM. Organs such as the French Le Monde, British BBC, and US Wall Street Journal all making explicit references to the DSM. As an example, the South African Times paper reported:


In North West, mineworkers rejecting the formal unions have formed a Rustenburg Workers and Communities Forum under the leadership of the Democratic Socialist Movement, affiliate of the Committee for Workers’ International.

Executive member Mametlwe Sebei yesterday tried to persuade miners that a general strike should start in Rustenburg and be followed by a national strike and march to the Union Buildings.

"This battle can be won only if we are united," Sebei urged at a mass meeting at Amplats.

Sep 17 2012 11:11
Sep 19 2012 23:05

Striking workers at South Africa's Lonmin platinum mine say they will return to work on Thursday after accepting a pay rise of 22 per cent…


South African police have fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters near a mine run by the world's biggest platinum producer Anglo American Platinum, as unrest spreads after strikers at rival Lonmin won big pay rises.

Within hours of Lonmin agreeing pay rises  of up to 22 per cent, workers at nearby mines called for similar pay increases on Wednesday, spelling more trouble after six weeks of industrial action that claimed more than 40 lives and rocked South Africa's economy.

Police clashed with a crowd of men carrying traditional weapons such as spears and machetes in a township at a nearby Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) mine outside the city of Rustenburg…

Oct 1 2012 11:44

South African miners on an illegal strike against the world's top platinum producer have defied management threats of dismissal, throwing down the gauntlet as another wildcat stoppage hit the country's restive mining sector.

Four of Amplats' Rustenburg mines, accounting for a quarter of group output, have been idle for more than two weeks...

Miners from Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) mine, who are currently on an illegal strike, can avoid dismissal if they return to work by 4pm on Monday, management said.
A representative for the striking miners, Thebe Meswabl, said mine management is welcome to pack their bags and leave for America, if they are not willing to give them their demands...

Oct 8 2012 19:51
Nov 10 2014 18:51

It looks like a split is developing in COSATU with NUMSA expelled and other unions supporting them: