Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Marikana massacre: A brutal tragedy

Red Pepper’s South African sister paper reports on the slaughter of 34 Marikana mineworkers

August 21, 2012
4 min read

No event since the end of Apartheid sums up the shallowness of the transformation in this country like the Marikana massacre. What occurred will be debated for years. It is already clear that the mineworkers will be blamed for being violent. The mineworkers will be painted as savages. Yet, the fact is that heavily armed police with live ammunition brutally shot and killed over 34 mineworkers. Many more were injured. Some will die of their wounds. Another 10 workers had been killed just prior to this massacre.

This was not the action of rogue cops, this massacre was a result of decisions taken at the top of the police structures. The police had promised to respond with force and came armed with live ammunition, and they behaved no better than the Apartheid police when facing the 1960 Sharpeville and 1976 Soweto uprisings and 1980s protests, where many of our people were killed. The aggressive and violent response to community service delivery protests by the police, have their echo and reverberation in this massacre.

This incident represents a blood-stain on the new South Africa. This represents a failure of leadership. It is a failure of leadership from government: its ministers of labour and mineral resources who have been absent during this entire episode; its minister of police who maintains this is not political but a mere labour dispute and defends the actions of the police; a failure of the president, who can only issue platitudes in the face of this crisis and not mobilise the government and its tremendous resources to immediately address the concerns of the mineworkers and now their bereaved family members.

It has been a failure and betrayal of the Lonmin mine management that refused to follow through on undertakings to union leaders to meet the workers and address their grievances. The management somersaults between agreeing to negotiate with workers and then reneges saying they have an existing two-year agreement with National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

It is unfortunately also a failure of the union leadership: In the first instance the NUM, which regards any opposition to their leadership as criminal and asserts that such opposition must necessarily be a creation of the Chamber of Mines. This is obviously not true. It is also a failure of the leadership of Association of Mining and Construction Union (AMCU), which acts opportunistically in an effort to recruit disgruntled NUM members, mobilises workers on unrealistic demands and fails to condemn the violence of its members.

The level of violence on our mines demonstrates the deep divisions within and polarisation of South African society. Mineworkers are employed in extreme conditions of poverty, often living in squalor in squatter camps without basic services. The mineworkers are often employed through labour brokers and informalised without decent work conditions.

The wildcat strike (like other similar strikes on the mines) that set off the events leading to the slaughter is a response to the structural violence of South Africa’s system of mining. However, it is also a response to something else, which we dare not ignore.

Enriched mine-owners with the experience of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) co-option see an opportunity of driving a wedge between ‘reasonable’ union leaders and the workers. They entice the unions into sweetheart relations, dividing them from the rank-and-file workers. The anger on the mines is a deep-seated anger at mine management that is progressively being directed at the compliance and failure of their union leadership to defend and represent worker interests.

The alienation between union members and the unions’ leadership is a factor behind what has happened at Lonmin and what is happening on other platinum mines.

Nevertheless, the slaughter of more than 34 mineworkers is as a result of the violence of the state, specifically the police. At the very least minister Mthethwa must take responsibility and resign.

This article was originally published in Red Pepper’s sister magazine, Amandla! South Africa’s new progressive magazine standing for social justice

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics

Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.

Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making

Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show

The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services

With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas

Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world

A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle

Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune

Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali

To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi

Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun

Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh

With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament

Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair

A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook

‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali

Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.

Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent

Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art

Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs

Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox

Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole

Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part

Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper

Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s

Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach

Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.

Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite


14