Solidarity with mine workers at Marikana Platinum

Families of those killed demonstrate against police

This statement from South African shack dwellers movement Abahlali baseMjondolo on the massacre at Marikana Platinum has just come out on their newswire. The death toll is now over 40.

17 August 2012
Abahlali baseMjondolo Press statement

Solidarity with Mine Workers at Marikana Platinum

Abahlali baseMjondolo are deeply shocked by the murderous cruelty of the South African police, and those that give the police their orders, at the Marikana Platinum Mine in the North West. The killing of more than 40 mine workers yesterday by the SAPS is immoral and brings great disgrace on our country. There were other ways and much better ways to handle the situation. Yesterday will always be remembered as a dark day in the long history of oppression in South Africa.

We wish to express our solidarity to all the families of the workers that have been killed and injured. We share your sorrow. You are not alone. We carry our pain together. Your children may not grow knowing their fathers but they will not grow alone. We have to care for each other and stand together as we struggle for a world that puts human beings first and treats all human beings equally. We wish to express our solidarity to all struggling workers. We face the same system that makes some people rich and others poor. We face the same government that refuses to recognise our humanity, which tries to force us to the margins of society and which represses us when we resist.

The ANC have shown no regard for the people of this country. They are putting us in transit camps and trying to keep us in bantustans. They are leaving us to burn in our shacks every winter. They are beating us in the police stations. They are shooting us in the streets. Millions of us cannot find work. A government that kills its citizens is immoral and must be opposed by everyone. A government that kills its citizens has lost all moral right to govern. What happened yesterday is no different from the killings of the apartheid government. This is no different to the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 which claimed 69 lives. It is no different to the Boipotong massacre in 1992 which claimed 45 lives.

Millions of people have suffered in their shacks and millions have suffered with work and without work year after year. Some shack dwellers are also workers and sometimes shack dwellers are too poor to be workers. But we have all suffered enough at the hands of the police, at the hands of politicians and at the hands of the rich. It has always been our call that real freedom and democracy are still a dream for the poor and the working class. All we see is politicians enriching themselves by stealing public funds that are meant to better people’s lives. All we see is that the new government keeps on with many of the worst policies of the old government. All we see is that our struggles are criminalised and repressed. The progressive middle classes are struggling to defend the freedom and democracy that they received in 1994. We are still struggling for freedom and democracy to come.

More than twenty five people have been killed by the police during protests since 2000. Tebogo Mkhonza in Harrismith, Monica Ngcobo in Umlazi and Andries Tatane in Ficksburg are just three of the people that have been murdered in the streets by the police. Activists have been tortured and assassinated. Our movement, like the Landless People’s Movement and the Unemployed People’s Movement, has been attacked in the night by armed men representing the ruling party. For months after our movement was attacked in the Kennedy Road settlement in Durban in 2009 the homes of our leading members were openly destroyed every weekend while the police refused to intervene. Last year Nigel Gumede, the Head of Housing in eThekwini, publicly said that the ANC was at war with our movement and threatened to kill S’bu Zikode. Senior people in the ANC have set a clear tone for the rest to follow. Poor people have been encouraged to attack and kill each other in the name of ethnicity and nationality. It is time to say enough. It is time to say no more. It is high time that all progressive forces join hands to curb this carnage. It is high time that all progressive forces join hands in a struggle for real justice and real democracy.

We have to recognise that there is a war against the poor in this country. We did not want this war but it has come to us. Today no one can deny that a war is being fought against the poor. The red ants and the police are not here to serve the people. They are here to drive the poor out of the cities, contain us in the human dumping grounds and repress our struggles. We have to stop pretending that the politicians are our comrades when they have chosen to make themselves our enemies. We have to fight the war that has come to us. And we have to fight it in a way that puts human dignity and the equality of all people at the start of our struggle and at the heart of our struggle.

We are aware of the dangers of the South African politic when struggling citizens demand real freedom and democracy. Activists are living under serious threats all over the country. We are aware of the time bomb that the shack dwellers in this country are sitting on. We have always warned, from the time when we first started to organise, that the anger of the poor can go in many directions. The dangers that we face can come from how people respond to oppression as well as from oppression itself.

There is more protest in South Africa than in anywhere in the world. But the government takes no notice of the people. It responds by militarising the police. It responds by talking about third forces. The local party structures send out armed men in the night. The government wants to make the anger of the people criminal and treasonous. It works behind the scenes to support the armed men that invade our homes and threaten us and our families. We have to accept that this government does not care about us. We do not count to it. When we ask to be heard we are treated as criminals and traitors.

Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape will march to the National parliament in Cape Town at 3:00 p.m. this afternoon together with comrades from other organisations. In Durban we will hold conversations with different structures of our movement and our comrades in other organisations, as well as the churches, to plan a way forward. Global Peace and Justice Auckland in New Zealand will be marching to the South African embassy in Auckland at 1 Kimberly Road at 2pm today. Our comrades in Cape Town and New Zealand march with our solidarity.

We all have to stand together. A war has come to us and we must fight it in a way that makes sure that we never turn into our enemies. We must fight this war in a way that puts humanity against brutality and never in a way that puts one brutality against another. Once your struggle starts to make you like your enemies everything is lost. A politic of war has come to us. We have no choice but to resist. But we must resist with our own politic which is a militant people's politic that starts and ends by honouring the dignity of all people.

Contact:

S’bu Zikode +27 83 5470474
Zodwa Nsibande +27 71 1834388
Abahlali office +27 31 3046420

Posted By

red jack
Aug 17 2012 13:49

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gypsy
Aug 18 2012 11:15

Are there any protests at the South African embassy planned after this massacre?

Mark.
Aug 19 2012 22:38

From Abahlali baseMjondolo
18 August 2012

The Marikana mine worker's massacre – a massive escalation in the war on the poor

It’s now two days after the brutal, heartless and merciless cold blood bath of 45 Marikana mine workers by the South African Police Services. This was a massacre!

South Africa is the most unequal country in the world. The amount of poverty is excessive. In every township there are shacks with no sanitation and electricity. Unemployment is hovering around 40%. Economic inequality is matched with political inequality. Everywhere activists are facing serious repression from the police and from local party structures.

Mining has been central to the history of repression in South Africa. Mining made Sandton to be Sandton and the Bantustans of the Eastern Cape to be the desolate places that they still are. Mining in South Africa also made the elites in England rich by exploiting workers in South Africa. You cannot understand why the rural Eastern Cape is poor without understanding why Sandton and the City of London are rich.

Mining has been in the news in South Africa recently. Malema, a corrupt and authoritarian demagogue who represents a faction of the BEE elite, has been demanding nationalisation. Progressive forces inside and outside of the alliance oppose Malema because he represents the most predatory faction of the elite and is looking for a massive bail out for his friends who own unprofitable mines. What we stand for is the socialisation, under workers' control, of the mines. We also stand for reparations for the hundred years of exploitation.

Things are starting to change but not for the better. Khulubuse Zuma, the president’s nephew and Zondwa Mandela, the former president’s grandchild, and many others with close family ties to politicians have become mining tycoons overnight. China has joined the bandwagon as well, plundering our resources.

Frans Baleni, the General of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) earns R105 000 a month. NUM has become a route into high office in government and even to places on the boards of the mining companies. The union is rapidly losing all credibility on the mines. It is clear that it is now co-opted into the system and is part of the structures of control. It is the police that take NUM to address the workers. Baleni's betrayal of the workers has made him a very rich man – a rich man who condemns and tries to suppress the struggles of the poor. It is no surprise that workers are rejecting NUM, trying to build an alternative union or acting on their own without any union representing them. The workers are right to chase the NUM leaders away from their strikes.

The Marikana Mine is the richest platinum mine in the world and yet its workers live in shacks. Most of the slain workers are rock drillers, the most difficult and dangerous work in the mine. They do the most dangerous work in the mine and yet they earn only R4 000 a month. Through the blood and sweat in the mines they do not only produce wealth that is alienated from them, they also produce the fat cats, which wine and dine on naked bodies and call that sushi.

The workers who occupied the hill came from many places including Swaziland and Mozambique. But most of them came from the rural Eastern Cape, from the former Bantustans where people live their lives as a living death under the chiefs, without work, without land and without hope. Every Rand that they win back from the capitalists is another Rand coming to the poorest part of the country. The part of the country that has been most devastated by the mines over the last century. We celebrate every Rand that the workers have taken back from the capitalists and fully support their demand of a salary of R12 500 a month. Will Baleni or Nzimande or Zuma accept R4 000 a month? If not why should anyone else?

The strikers see the NUM leaders as traitors. They delinked from the NUM because they saw that they needed to delink from the alliance of capitalists and tendepreners that run the ANC. The decision to delink was very courageous! We will have to delink in every sector if we are going to build a real movement for change.

Workers under the tripartite alliance are being sundered from socialism; they are only being encouraged to vote for the ruling party. Nothing is being done to fuse social consciousness in their struggle. They are encouraged to participate in sensational politics, the politics of who should lead and who should be removed. They are encouraged to see communities and workers that organise independently as their enemies.

It is easy to decide not to decide. It is much harder to make a decision pregnant with risk and promise. For miners to delink from the likes of Baleni and tripartite alliance was a courageous decision. They understand that courage is an important element of all struggles. They understand that there is no quick fix in the struggle for a just society, a society that will respect and uphold the rights of workers and nature, a society that will be ruled on the principle of each according to his needs. This society is based on each according to his political connections with the elite that has captured the ANC and its alliance partners.

If the strikers were protesting under the banner of the tripartite alliance they wouldn’t have been slaughtered. COSATU strikes have often been violent but their members are not shot like animals. In fact the campaigns to support Zuma in his rape and corruption trials were full of threats of violence and yet Zuma supporters were not gunned down.

Before the miners occupied the hill they made a vow that no bullet will deter them. They were willing to fight and die to get a fair share of the wealth of this mine for themselves and their families. What this demonstrates is that these were people who were aware of the risks that their decisions entailed, who thought about such risks carefully, guided by their conscience and concluded that they were willing to face the consequences that could arise.

Hellen Keller's words ring true “There is no such thing as a complete security, and if there was what fun would life be. Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success". She adds “To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate and adversity is strength undefeatable.”

The immense courage of the miners that gathered on Nkaneng hill was tremendous. They were prepared to take a real stand. They were prepared to face real risks. We do not see this courage amongst the left. In fact most of the left has abandoned real struggle in real communities for meetings and conferences and emails. The left has become something that NGOs run. It is about bussing poor black people into meetings that they have no control over and that are very far removed from the realities of our real struggles. It is about educating the poor and not about fighting with the poor. When real struggles happen in places like the shack settlements of Zakheleni, eTwatwa or Kennedy Road most of the left is not there. But when there is a big conference they are all there.

The ANC government has killed workers for demanding a salary increment from a notoriously exploitative and very, very rich company. The workers earn only R4000 per month doing the most dangerous work. The ANC president and cabinet ministers earn not less that R2 million per year. And on top of that there is corruption everywhere. Our politicians are part of the global elite. The lowest ANC deployee earns not less than R20 000 excluding benefits.

The Marikana mine workers lived in shacks with their families. The president of the ANC has recently built a mansion in his homestead, a mansion that cost tax payers not less than R200 million.

It is the ANC government that shoots and kills protesters when they are fighting for the assertion of their humanity. They recently killed Andries Tatane. They have killed at least 25 others on protests since 2000. If you are poor and black your life counts for nothing to the ANC.

What lesson can be learnt from the Marikana mine workers' massacre? The ruthlessness of this government does not diminish but on contrary increases with the number of workers and unemployed who starve. They are criminalising our struggles and militarising their police. It is clear that anyone who organises outside of the ANC, in communities or in the workplace, will face serious and violent repression from the party and the police.

The NUM and the SACP have made it very clear which side that they are on. By supporting the massacre and calling for further repression against the workers they have made it quite clear that they are on the side of the ruthless alliance between capital and the politicians. They have declared, very clearly, that they support the war on the poor. Their reactions to the massacre are a total disgrace. No credible left formation in South Africa or anywhere in the world can work with the NUM or SACP again. The decision of the miners at Marikana to delink from the corrupt and ruthless politics of the alliance has been vindicated.

Things will not get better but will get worse. When the elite’s power is threatened they will respond with more and more violence. War has been declared on the poor and on anyone organising outside of the control of the ANC. We are our own liberators. We must organise and continue to build outside the ANC. We must face the realities of the situation that we confront clearly and courageously. Many more of us will be jailed and killed in the years to come.

What they have done can never be forgotten nor forgiven.

Ayanda Kota
078 825 6462

Harrison
Aug 20 2012 04:56

That Ayanda Kota statement is just fantastic.

Steven.
Aug 20 2012 12:58
Harrison wrote:
That Ayanda Kota statement is just fantastic.

could you post it to the news section?

Mark.
Aug 20 2012 20:12

@Steven - I've posted it to news. You might want to change the intro.