Saturday, August 18, 2012

Some details of the Marikana strike from an IWW member in South Africa. We now know, of course, that many more than 18 strikers were killed.

I thought I'd put together some notes on the Marikana massacre that
happened today.

On Friday (10 August) a wildcat strike began at Lonmin's Marikana
platinum mine (Marikana is a small mining town - population under 1000 -
in the North West province, about 60km West of Pretoria). This strike
was started by some 3000 rock drillers, miners who are in the lowest pay
grades at the mine and who have been left out of a recent pay rise.
Currently rock drill operators earn R 4000 a month, and the strikers are
calling for an increase to R 12 000. By Monday night some 10 people were
dead: six miners, two police officers and two mine security guards. The
workers continued with their strike, attracting increasing support. By
today there were some 4000 strikers gathered on a hilltop that had
become their "base". Police - including the SWAT-like Special Task
Force - tried to violently disperse the striking miners, and opened fire
on them with live ammunition. Many were killed - some media sources
report 18 dead. The strikers have apparently regrouped in an informal
settlement near the hilltop they occupied.

Background to this is tension between the National Union of Mineworkers
(NUM), the COSATU-affiliated mineworkers union (membership 300 000) and
the Assocation of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU). AMCU is a
more radical union that split off from NUM and now has some 50 000
members. At Lonmin AMCU claims 21% of the company's 28 000 employees,
and is the majority union at some of its operations (e.g. the Karee
mine). AMCU's strength is mostly in the lower pay grades. AMCU did not,
however, officially call Friday's strike and the extent to which they
can speak for the strikers (or call off the strike) is not clear.

NUM's role has been extremely reactionary. On Monday NUM General
Secretary Frank Baleni "call[ed] for the deployment of a special task
force or the SANDF to deal decisively with the criminal elements in
Rustenburg and its surrounding mines". Today NUM denounced a Lonmin plan
to make a deal with rock drill operators, offering a R 750 a month
"allowance": - presumably this (pittance of a) deal
was an attempt to deflect anger at not being included in the recent pay
rise that NUM negotiated.

Lonmin is a 100 year old company (incorporated in 1909) with nearly $ 2
billion in annual revenue. Even in the 1970s they were denounced by UK
Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath as the "unacceptable face of
capitalism" (presumably because of their role in Rhodesian sanctions
busting). Their headquarters are in London:

Lonmin Plc
4 Grosvenor Place

Tel: +44 (0)20 7201 6000
Fax: +44 (0)20 7201 6100

and their SA headquarters are in:

1st Floor
34 Melrose Boulevard
Melrose Arch
Republic of South Africa

Tel: +27 (0)11 218 8300
Fax: +27 (0)11 218 8310

1 comment:

Chris Hall said...

It's a rum do as they say and with more twists than a bag of pasta.

The NUM leadership seems to be doing what many union leaderships do best - cosying up to the bosses. I'd suggest that the relationship between the NUM, the bosses and the SA government is somewhat unhealthy for the workers.

Take for example Cyril Ramaphosa, ex General Sec of the NUM, ex ANC Sec General, ex SA MP, and now a Director of Lonmin which of course owns the Marikana platinum mine.

What I never realised was that Lonmin is in fact the infamous Lonrho. Small world, for the bosses anyways.