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South Africa: Wildcat strike wave (sept-oct 2012) despite gate keepers of the labour movement - analysis and reports

A compilation for the LNSA mailing list

by admin, 10 October 2012

print version of this article print version - 10 October 2012

South Africa: Wildcat strike wave (sept-oct 2012) despite gate keepers of the labour movement - analysis and reports


1. Wildcat strike movement may birth new political party (Mandy de Waal)
2. South Africa wildcat strikes spread to more mines (Ed Stoddard and Agnieszka Flak)
3. 12,000 miners fired as South African strike wave grows (Bill Van Auken)
4. Some truckers suspend strike, bulk press on
5. It is time to pay miners a fair wage (Samuel Choritz)
6. The radical new face of labour relations in SA (Carol Paton)
7. COSATU and NUM statement on the current wildcat strikes in the mining industry with the full support of the SACP
8. State’s credibility in tatters after Marikana - CASAC (Lawson Naidoo)
9. Marikana: Shaky start for the Farlam Commission (Khadija Patel)
10. Wildcat miners’ strikes in South Africa spread to iron ore firm (The Guardian)
11. What’s mined is yours: the fall of capitalism in SA’s platinum belt (Mandy de Waal)
12. Video: Toyota strike complicates South Africa’s crisis
13. Cosatu blames mine bosses for giving in to workers’ demands (Natasha Marrian)
14. Mine workers march to NUM to cancel membership
15. Jay Naidoo’s An open letter to Congress of South African Trade Unions


Daily Maverick

Wildcat strike movement may birth new political party

Mandy de Waal
4 October 2012 00:34 (South Africa)

The bloody violence, police clampdowns and wildcat labour strife that’s spreading across the country like a virus is not just about wages and living conditions, it’s about something much bigger. It is the contagious birth struggle of an emerging socialist movement that could deliver a new labour party to South Africa. By MANDY DE WAAL.

The wildcat strike that started on Marikana’s platinum mines on the North West, and which has already seen the loss of some 46 lives, has now spread to the iron ore industry. Workers at Kumba Iron Ore’s Sishen mine in the Northern Cape have downed tools. Kumba Iron Ore is an Anglo subsidiary.

On the Gauteng/North West border, thousands of workers at Harmony Gold’s Kusasalethu mine near Carletonville started an illegal strike. “Last night, following a mass meeting, about 300 people started barricading the area to Kusasalethu. They hindered the night-shift guys from going underground,” said Marian van der Walt, the mine’s corporate and investor relations executive. She added that negotiations had begun between management and strikers, who had already handed over a memorandum of wage demands.

But the industrial action isn’t only about better wages, says Mametlwe Sebei, a leader in SA’s Democratic Socialist Movement, which is helping to co-ordinate independent strike committees in Rustenburg and beyond.

“We are campaigning for a new party, for a labour or socialist party to emerge,” says Sebei, who added that the Democratic Socialist Movement was mandated to draw up a resolution that can be voted on by mine workers to make a case for a party. The paper, which has not yet been circulated amongst workers, would also highlight the programme and ideology of what would be a new socialist, labour party.

“This is not an idea that emerged from us at the Democratic Socialist Movement, but in actual fact it has emerged on the ground,” says Sebei. “That is not to say that we haven’t been consciously campaigning for this, but the circumstances and conditions in Rustenburg have rapidly changed consciousness. What the workers are asking is: ‘What are we doing about this government that is killing us?’ The ANC has never represented the working class, and even though this country has been built on the blood of mining workers, neither does Cosatu.”

Sebei said the spreading wildcat strike action illustrates that the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and Cosatu are losing their power base amongst workers. “The illegal strikes show that NUM has consciously acted against the mandate it has been given by the workers, and if anything they are the conscious agents of the mining bosses. NUM through Cosatu is knotted into the tripartite alliance that of and by itself ties itself to the interests of the mining bosses who are represented by the ANC.”

A case in point, believes Sebei, is the sponsorship of Cosatu by Patrice Motsepe, who ranks as the fourth wealthiest man in South Africa with a net worth of some R22.75 billion as at March 2012, according to Forbes. Motsepe has interests in platinum, gold, coal, iron and manganese through African Rainbow Minerals, the company that helped build his billions, and was one of the first big BEE winners post democracy, when mining rights were only granted to ‘empowered’ companies. In its profile, Forbes talks about how Motsepe is labelled as an ‘oligarch’ in this country.

“But for all the adulation, in South Africa such success comes with a price: being labelled an oligarch. Even many blacks have complained that the country’s 1994 transformation from Apartheid to democracy has benefited only the elite few,” the Forbes article on Motsepe reads. “The criticism stems from laws that require substantial black ownership in certain industries, including mining. A handful of politically connected individuals have grown enormously wealthy as a result,” the article states, pointing out that one of Motsepe’s sisters, Bridgette Radebe, is married to ANC deputy chair and Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Jeff Radebe.

“Motsepe has been sponsoring Cosatu for years. If you look at the report for the congress before this one, Motsepe was the biggest donor. This means that Cosatu is highly compromised,” says Sebei. As the Cosatu congress was underway in Midrand this September, Business Day showed African Rainbow Minerals to be the unions’ biggest private financial supporter:

“African Rainbow Minerals (ARM), owned by businessman Patrice Motsepe, is the largest private donor to the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), having contributed R1.75m to the federation over the past three years,” the report read. “This does not include ARM’s donation to this year’s congress, where Mr Motsepe was again the biggest donor. The size of this year’s donation has not yet been disclosed.” Motsepe funded Cosatu’s 2009 conference to the tune of R1m, and that same year donated R1.75m to a trust that supports dependents of deceased officer bearers.

“A debate has emerged about whether it is time to reconstitute the labour movement,” says Sebei. “This is a debate that is emerging within our own ranks, but the events of Rustenburg and the workers’ own action in defiance of mine bosses and NUM show that the move to earnestly rebuild the labour movement from scratch has begun. The workers will reclaim the labour movement for their own control and their own struggle, and I think that is a warning to Cosatu and to the rest of the other unions in Cosatu who think that they have a God-given right to lead the workers.”

Sebei said that the Democratic Socialist Movement was campaigning for a new socialist, labour party to emerge. “We need to be able to build a mass political party that will unite all the workers in the mining industry with all other workers in all other industries, but also with all communities in struggle, and with youth in campuses… this is an idea that has found its echo in Rustenburg and beyond.”

The call for a mass political alternative, which Sebei said would be based on the ideas and programme of socialism, would be given a loud voice on 13 October 2012 when workers, activists and youth would march from Church Square in Pretoria to the Union Buildings.

“We are saying that the entire mining industry, and the rest of the economy, must be brought under democratic control and the management of the working class. This means that mines must be nationalised first and foremost, so that the economy can be planned to meet the needs of the people, and not for the profits of those who have become rich at the expense of all of us during the past 18 years of democracy,” Sebei says.

According to Sebei, march organisers have been having significant problems with the police and local authorities “using every trick in the book” to try and stop the march from going ahead. “The authorities are being very difficult and trying to block us, but we are giving ourselves all the time we need to ensure we comply with Constitutional requirements, so that our march can go ahead,” says Sebei, who believes that some 10,000 workers, activists and students will participate in the protest action in the country’s capital.

“The working class needs a political party and government of their own, one that will take the entire economy under democratic control to ensure that our sweat and blood is not for the few, and to ensure that the misery we are wallowing isn’t a natural order of things. Our country is enormously wealthy – wealthy enough to create a better life for those living in misery, poverty and unemployment. All the parties that exist currently are different shades of capitalism. There is no one party that represents the interests of the working class. If you look at the number of people who are qualified to vote and who don’t vote, it is not because of a lack of political interest, it is because no one represents the workers. There is no one to take our issues to government,” he says.

Government has failed South Africa’s poor, and what it has delivered to the working class is in too many ways disappointing. The notion that capitalism has betrayed the working classes is a global phenomenon which will not escape this country either. But its expression here could be more militant: those with nothing to lose may finally cry: “Enough!”

Sebei says that the police clampdown in Rustenburg, together with the difficulty workers and political activists have been experiencing in exercising their right to gather, are as a direct result of the rising interest in a new political party. He adds that the first matter to attend to should be the strikes, and anticipates it is likely that the new labour-driven political party will be launched next year. DM

o o o


South Africa wildcat strikes spread to more mines
Wed Oct 3, 2012 1:54pm GMT

Mine workers take part in a march at Lonmin’s Marikana mine in South Africa’s North West Province September 10, 2012. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

By Ed Stoddard and Agnieszka Flak

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - A series of wildcat miners’ strikes in South Africa spread to a new sector, iron ore, on Wednesday and hit another gold firm in an escalation of the labour unrest that is testing President Jacob Zuma’s leadership.

The industrial action at Kumba Iron Ore, a unit of global miner Anglo American, further dented investor confidence in the continent’s wealthiest economy as it showed the protests had moved beyond platinum and gold mines.

Workers at the Kusasalethu mine near Johannesburg, operated by South Africa’s No. 3 bullion producer Harmony Gold, also downed tools in what management called an "unlawful" action launched outside the normal collective bargaining channels.

Zuma is under fire for failing to address and contain the workers’ protests demanding wage increases, which stem in large part from glaring wealth inequalities persisting in South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994.

As many as 75,000 miners, or 15 percent of the South African mining sector’s total workforce, are already out on strike, while a national truckers’ stoppage is squeezing fuel suppliers. Analysts said if it lasts another week, some petrol stations could run dry and some banks’ ATMs could run out of cash.

Kumba, one of the world’s top 10 iron ore producers, said the wildcat strike at its giant Sishen Mine in the Northern Cape involved only 300 employees and was limited to one area in the open cast mine, leaving most of the facility unaffected.

"The action is being dealt with in line with the Company’s labour relations procedure, with due consideration to the safety of the vast majority of workers who are not taking part in the unprotected strike," Kumba said in a statement.

Kumba’s share price was over 4 percent lower on the news. Shares of Harmony Gold fell 1.5 percent in Johannesburg.

The recent weeks of labour strife, in which around 50 people have been killed, have stirred up criticism of the ruling African National Congress and the presidency of Zuma, who faces a challenge from ANC rivals ahead of a party leadership conference in December.

In another illegal strike over wages by contractors at mining company Petmin, a security guard was hacked to death this week by knife-wielding assailants at the Somkhele mine in KwaZulu-Natal, local media quoted police as saying.

The rand fell one percent in early trade on Wednesday, partly due to the escalation of the mines conflict.


Kumba was regarded as immune to the strike contagion because rank and file employees there in December who had worked for at least 5 years were given a lump sum of about 345,000 rand each after taxes as part of a share scheme.

This represented a fortune to workers earning as little as 7,000 rand a month. But it was not immediately clear if any of the 300 reported strikers were among the 6,200 who had benefited from the plan.

"We thought the share plan meant this would not happen there," said Gideon du Plessis, the deputy secretary general of trade union Solidarity which represents skilled workers.

Solidarity is not taking part in the strike.
Kumba produced 41.3 million tonnes of ore in 2011.

Seven weeks of labour unrest and strikes, which originally erupted at Lonmin’s Rustenburg operations, have now spread across the South African mining industry.

The world’s No. 1 platinum producer Anglo American Platinum is also grappling to resolve a strike at its Rustenburg operations in the country’s "platinum belt" about 120 km (75 miles) northwest of Johannesburg. Worker attendance at Amplats’ Rustenburg mines has fallen to below 20 percent.

Some 21,000 Amplats workers have joined the illegal walkout.

Fifteen thousand miners at Gold Fields KDC West mine downed tools on September 10, hitting production at the world’s fourth-biggest bullion producer. Gold Fields bosses have refused to negotiate with them.

The spreading labour unrest has raised fears the country could see a repeat of the stand-off with police at Lonmin’s platinum mine in August that led to the shooting of 34 miners.

It was South Africa’s bloodiest security incident since the end of apartheid in 1994, and an official commission of enquiry started a probe this week into the killings.

The commission on Wednesday adjourned its hearings until October 22 to give lawyers involved more time to prepare and collect copies of relevant documents and testimony.

o o o


12,000 miners fired as South African strike wave grows
By Bill Van Auken
6 October 2012

Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), the world’s largest platinum producer, fired 12,000 striking South African miners Friday as the transnational corporations, the African National Congress government and the COSATU union federation sought to quell a growing wave of wildcat strikes.

The mass firing was announced by Amplats three weeks into a wildcat strike by some 28,000 miners at its four mines in Rustenberg and just a day after clashes between miners and South African police there left another miner dead.

“Yesterday [Thursday] the cops shot many people, but one of them is dead, even the dead body is still there where he was shot yesterday, it has not yet been taken (away),” Gaddhafi Mdoda, a representative of the strikers, told AFP on Friday. He said that in addition to rubber bullets and tear gas the police had fired upon the miners with live ammunition. The killing came after repeated police attacks aimed at preventing the miners from gathering for a meeting.

On Friday, Amplat workers demonstrated again outside a shantytown near the mine, blocking streets with burning tires and rocks as riot police backed by armored cars moved in to repress them.

The strikers have grown increasingly angry over the police repression and the company’s refusal to negotiate on their demand for a 16,000 rand ($1,800) monthly wage. Earlier this week, two mine conveyor belts were torched along with a training center and several automobiles.

Amplats tried to justify its mass firing by saying that the workers had ignored the company’s demand that they appear for disciplinary hearings. Management admits that it has been unable to get more than 20 percent of its workforce to show up at their jobs and has therefore been forced to halt mining operations.

The strike had spread on Tuesday to another Amplats mine in Limpopo, South Africa’s northernmost province, some 250 miles to the north.

The refusal of the Limpopo miners to go underground brought to 75,000 the number of workers in the mining sector who are on strike in defiance of the mining corporations, the ANC government and the official unions of COSATU and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). This represents 15 percent of the industry’s total workforce.

The strike wave was triggered by the walkout two months ago by platinum miners at Lonmin’s (the second-biggest platinum miner) Marikana mine demanding higher pay. The ANC government and its security forces responded to their strike, which was opposed by the NUM and COSATU, with the worst massacre since the end of the apartheid regime 18 years ago. Heavily armed police gunned down strikers, killing 34 and wounding another 78, with many of them shot in the back.

The killings, along with the arrests and brutalization of hundreds more miners, failed to break the strike, and Lonmin decided it had to end the workers’ uprising by granting the miners wage increases of up to 22 percent.

Both outrage over the killings—which reminded many in South Africa of similar massacres by the white minority regime at Sharpeville and Soweto—and increased boldness resulting from Lonmin’s retreat before the miners’ militancy led to the spread of wildcat strikes throughout much of the mining industry and beyond.

From the platinum sector, the strike wave has spread to gold, iron ore, diamond and chrome mines. In virtually every case, the strikes are in defiance of low-wage contracts imposed by the mining bosses and the NUM and have therefore been declared illegal.

At Gold Fields, the world’s fourth-largest gold-mining company, management evicted 5,000 striking miners from company dormitories, claiming that they were using their housing to organize strike action and stop other workers from going into the mines. Gold Fields has obtained a court order allowing it to fire the strikers. Several of the miners’ leaders have been jailed.

COSATU sent its general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi into talks with Gold Fields CEO Nick Holland in an attempt to end the three-week-old walkout by more than 13,000 miners. A company spokesman said that the talks between the CEO and the top union bureaucrat had gone well. He added, however, “We are now waiting to see what happens with the miners after they meet with their representatives.” Clearly there is little confidence that the strikers will follow directions from COSATU or the NUM.

AngloGold Ashanti, South Africa’s largest bullion producer, has been almost entirely shut down, with at least 24,000 of its 35,000 workers on strike. The corporation’s management has also threatened to retaliate with mass dismissals.

AngloGold’s CEO Mark Cutifani insisted that he would not concede to any demands outside of the formal bargaining structure set up by the company and the NUM. The SAPA news agency quoted him as saying that AngloGold “could not risk being seen as rewarding illegal, violent, intimidating actions by striking workers.”

Over 28,000 truck drivers have been on strike for two weeks and one of their unions, SATAWU, has said it will call on South African rail and port workers to walk out next week. The truckers’ strike has begun to affect industrial production, with General Motors reporting that its car plant in Port Elizabeth on South Africa’s south coast had been forced to curtail operations. Shell Oil, meanwhile, has formally notified its franchises that it may be unable to safely deliver fuel, sparking fear of a gasoline shortage.

South Africa’s Road Freight Employers Association obtained a court injunction Friday against acts of violence in the strike after the burning of a number of delivery trucks.

Some 7,100 workers at Toyota’s Durban plant ended a four-day strike on Friday after accepting a 5.4 percent wage hike. The wildcat action sparked fears within corporate and government circles that the wave of militancy that has shaken the mining sector will now sweep through basic industry as well.

“We are worried about these strikes,” Labor Minister Mildred Oliphant declared on Friday. “I think there are people who are stirring this up.”

South African President Jacob Zuma delivered a speech Friday to the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Johannesburg, which suggested that the ANC president was a million miles away from the reality of mass struggles erupting in the working class.

He referred briefly to having “gone through a difficult period” of wildcat strikes and the massacre in Marikana and then went on to say, “Let me use this opportunity to remind business and labor of the need to ensure shop-floor peace and stability in the country, in order for us to continue the collective responsibility of promoting economic growth and development.” The problem, however, is that the workers have risen in revolt against the system established by the corporations and the ANC’s allied unions to maintain this “peace and stability” and thereby assure mining firms and other capitalist sectors unimpeded profits.

Zuma added, as if the problem was merely a matter of perception, “We should not seek to portray ourselves as a nation that is perpetually fighting.”

He acknowledged that “the gap between rich and poor still remains,” in South Africa, one of the most socially unequal countries on the planet, while attributing this to it “taking longer to re-engineer the economy to provide opportunities” for the country’s impoverished masses.

No such “re-engineering” has been attempted in the 18 years since the end of apartheid. Instead, the ANC emerged as the defender of capitalism and the same financial, mining and industrial corporations that dominated the country under apartheid. In return, it was the beneficiary of “black empowerment” policies that transformed a thin layer of ANC officials—including former NUM president and ANC general secretary Cyril Ramaphosa—and politically connected black businessmen into multimillionaires.

It is this entire setup that is now facing a challenge from below, with the mass strikes of miners and other sections of the working class, together with the spread of protests by residents of the country’s poor townships over the government’s failure to provide decent housing, sanitation and other basic services.

The offensive by the South African working class has provoked growing alarm in the world financial markets, with mining stocks suffering sharp declines: Lonmin down by 39 percent, and Amplats by 21 percent this year. Moody’s has downgraded South Africa’s credit rating, warning that the country’s government was showing a “reduced capacity” to meet the demands of striking miners and the masses of unemployed.

o o o


Some truckers suspend strike, bulk press on
Reuters | 10 October, 2012 09:18

Some of South Africa’s striking truckers have agreed to return to work on Wednesday, easing pressure on Africa’s biggest economy where two weeks of labour unrest in the transport sector have hit supplies of fuel, cash and consumer goods.

But disputes in the mining sector escalated after Gold One fired the majority of its 1 900 workers at its Ezulwini operation, paralysed since last week by a wildcat strike. Atlatsa Resources said it had also fired 2 161 miners for an illegal strike.

Since August, almost 100 000 workers across South Africa, including 75 000 in the mining sector, have downed tools in often illegal and violent strikes that may hit economic growth this year and undermine investor confidence in the minerals hub.

Two transport unions with 5 500 members agreed to abandon the truckers’ strike, but the biggest labour group, the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) which represents about 28 000 workers, pressed on with the boycott.

Another 9 500-strong transport union denied reports its members would also suspend strike action, saying negotiations were continuing.

An employers’ association had earlier said three transport unions had suspended the strike because “employers have now offered double digits (a pay rise) for the year”. It said it was still in talks with all groups to hammer out a final deal.

The rand currency, which fell to 3-1/2 year lows against the dollar on Monday on worsening investor sentiment about labour strife, firmed on news the transport unions would end their walk-out.

SATAWU is demanding annual wage increases of 12% for two years — more than double the inflation rate, while employers have offered a total 18% pay rise over that period.

“We are willing to compromise on our demands, but only as long as the employers do the same,” said Vincent Masoga, a spokesman for SATAWU.

An employers’ body said last week that the freight industry was losing around R1,2 billion ($135 million) in turnover each week. If the protests expand to rail and ports, exports of coal and other minerals would also be hit.


Affected companies include logistics groups Imperial Holding, Super Group, Grindrod, Barloworld and Bidvest.

President Jacob Zuma’s ruling African National Congress has been criticised for letting the strikes spread. Moody’s ratings agency downgraded government bonds a notch last month, saying ineffectual governance posed a long-term economic risk.

Large parts of the mining sector, responsible for about 6% of gross domestic product, have been brought to a standstill in the last two months by wildcat strikes by more than 15% of its workforce.

Platinum miner Lonmin reached a deal in September to end a wildcat strike for a yearly wage increase as high as 22% for some miners.

Within hours of the deal, workers at nearby platinum mines called for similar raises. In the days that followed, wildcat strikes hit sectors including gold, iron and car manufacturing.

The Chamber of Mines said it met unions on Tuesday “in an attempt to bring normalcy and stability” to the gold sector and that unions would address their members on Wednesday on proposals to correct anomalies in working conditions.

Last week, mining giant Anglo American Platinum fired 12000 of its workers who went on an illegal strike, raising the stakes in the labour disputes. Analysts are warning of further job losses and the closure of marginal shafts.

Almost 50 people have been killed in the current labour strife — 34 of them shot dead by police on Aug. 16 at Lonmin’s Marikana mine in the deadliest security incident since the end of apartheid in 1994.

“The ongoing violence that has led to the senseless and untimely death of workers will further discourage direct investment in the industry,” Bheki Sibiya, chief executive of the Chamber of Mines, said in a statement.

Kumba Iron Ore said it could not honour its contractual obligations to deliver ore to ArcelorMittal’s South African unit due to an illegal protest at its giant Sishen mine.

On Monday, a local government workers’ union said it also planned a protest in the next few days, the first sign of labour unrest spreading into the public sector.

o o o


LETTER: It is time to pay miners a fair wage
October 10 2012

Reading comments on local news websites covering strikes in the mining sector I have been deeply struck by their tone and substance. Here is the common refrain: striking workers are bringing the country down and they should get back to work immediately.

Also, those commenting believe that mining executives deserve salaries that are many times the wages of a rock driller because the managers really are more skilled and educated.

These opinions emerge from a semifeudal mind-set. Clearly, many South Africans continue to believe that it remains the fate of certain people to live out their productive lives doing highly dangerous work and residing in abysmal, single-sex hostels. Many South Africans also find it perfectly normal that these same workers produce generous profits for mining houses but receive meagre pay.

But those commenting cannot have it both ways: if SA’s economy is built on the back of mining, then it is also built on the backs of the miners themselves. The outrage in some quarters that miners have finally demanded a decent wage and better living conditions is therefore cruelly ironic.

Some pundits have been lauding Amplats’ move to fire 12,000 workers as bold, one which might even have the added benefit of staunching the flow of labour unrest to other sectors.

Sure, Amplats might save some money in the short term by no longer having to pay severance packages to those striking workers who might have been dismissed anyway.

But this is myopia of the first order. In the end, Amplats is surely just delaying the inevitable (just as Lonmin was) — and will most likely give in to higher wage demands, even if it does not rehire all of the fired workers.

Rather than rehashing this tired charade of strikers being fired and then rehired, and rather than shutting down operations for weeks on end, it is surely more economical for the mining houses to reach a new accommodation to pay workers a genuinely fair wage for their labour.

Amplats has said that three weeks of strikes had cost it R700m in revenue. Even in a country with such high unemployment, it will take Amplats months to find and train 12,000 people to replace those they fired. In the meantime, their operations will continue to suffer.

I am sure Amplats’ shareholders are none too pleased with the tanking share price. And workers are suffering without any wages. Everyone loses. But this need not be the case.

There are those who claim that a rising wage bill is unaffordable in these straitened times, and that mining houses might close down, costing more jobs overall. But solutions exist, and can be found.

For example, it has been widely reported that the top three Lonmin executives earn the same as 3,600 rock drillers, a situation reflected more or less across the mining industry. A 20% cut in executive pay will go a long way to meeting wage demands without raising overall operating costs, keep the mines up and running, and still leave top executives earning more per year than most people earn in a lifetime.

To those who fret that giving in now to higher wage demands sets a bad precedent, what is good for workers can also be good for companies.

An article in the January-February 2012 edition of Harvard Business Review detailed what most of us surely know from our own work experiences: that happy employees not only produce more than unhappy ones over the long term, they also consistently show up at work and go above and beyond the call of duty. Happy workers would surely be a boon to a labour-intensive industry like mining, and would help bind workers and management more closely to the same goals over the long term.

More than anything else, the mass firing shows how mining executives have been quite happy to hide their heads in the sand from one profitable year to the next, without properly addressing the root causes of brewing dissatisfaction among workers and mining communities.

That they have been caught off-guard by the recent strikes is damning evidence of their shortsightedness in an industry intrinsically reliant on long-term planning and investment.

To those railing against the workers, I say their time would be better spent asking hard questions of the mining executives.

Samuel Choritz

o o o


The radical new face of labour relations in SA
by Carol Paton, October 03 2012, 10:21

THE Marikana tragedy has shocked the world, and investors have had to recheck their assumptions about labour stability amid prolonged labour unrest. Carol Paton assesses how the world has changed.

Changes in labour relations dynamics as a result of the Marikana tragedy can be anticipated to be fairly immediate: there is the problem of contagion to other parts of the mining industry and to other industries; there is the certainty of sharply escalating wages, especially in mining; and there is the problem that damage has been done to the collective bargaining institutions, which since 1996 have effectively contained labour militancy.

As well as the immediate consequences, there is the bigger picture. For political analysts, the event – in which police shot and killed more than 34 striking miners while others, including policemen, died in unrest actions before and after the shootings – was a rare opportunity to get insight into a microcosm of social and labour dynamics, which for the most part are hidden from everyday perception.

Marikana showed beyond question that SA’s inequalities are unsustainable. It also showed that workers have lost faith in their trade unions and that, in this regard, while not alone, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is particularly badly affected. And lastly, it showed that government performance in the mining communities of the North West has been disastrous, and that mining companies will have little choice but to step into the gap to provide housing and ameliorate other government failures.

That, in a nutshell, is the summary. Now, to unpack some of the detail. The labour unrest that has kept Lonmin workers out of work for more than four weeks is a direct result of events four months earlier at Impala Platinum, a mine in the same region of the western limb of the platinum fields. From January to March, Impala workers held an illegal strike over wages, only a month after their union – the NUM – had signed an agreement that the increase coming into effect into 2012 would be between 9% and 10% for all underground workers.

Impala management, says executive director Paul Dunne, had suggested to NUM that rock drill operators, who have the hardest job of all underground machine operators, be given a differential increase, but the union had refused. “We recognised that we were out of step with the rest of the industry both in job grading and in pay. We wanted to give the rock drill operators a higher increment. But that suggestion never found its way into the Final agreement,” says Dunne.

A second problem then occurred. After the wage agreement was signed, says Dunne, management became aware that the mine was losing miners to its competitors. Miners are men in possession of a blasting certificate; they are more skilled, more educated and have some technical training. To stem the flow, Dunne says Impala had no choice but to grant a hefty increase of 16% to miners, outside the wage agreement.

It was the irregular increase to the miners plus NUM’s refusal to negotiate a better deal for rock drillers that led Impala workers to down tools . In an unfortunate coincidence for NUM, most of its shop stewards were miners; their trust in NUM, already low, plummeted.

The Association of Mining and Construction Workers (Amcu), the emerging union, had “never been heard of” at Implats before the strike by either management or NUM, but by the time it was over Amcu claimed it had signed up 11 000 members, close to half of the workforce. The Amcu-associated strike brought huge wins for Impala workers.

For rock drillers, pay went up 25% to R9 990. All other underground workers got pay hikes too. The strike at Lonmin was therefore already an effect of contagion. Impala workers are keeping a close eye on Lonmin and have indicated to management that they still have further wage demands to make. For all the mines, a great deal hinges on what is won at Lonmin and how close workers get to winning their R12 500 wage demand.

The contagion effect is also being helped along politically. Expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema’s first involvement in the conflict was with Impala workers during their strike. As ANC leaders and union bosses stayed away (much of the platinum belt has become a no-go zone for NUM, whose representatives face the prospect of death if they reveal themselves), Malema stepped easily into the leadership vacuum.

Malema has been stirring the pot at mines in the North West ever since, a province where the ANC is weak and divided and where NUM has a poor record. He has also been to gold mines around Johannesburg and NUM has reported that it believes all gold mines “to be vulnerable”.

One reason for the vulnerability, says NUM general secretary Frans Baleni, is that NUM’s negotiating strategy has been to raise the wages of lowest paid workers at the expense of differentiation between skill categories.

NUM is now as a matter of urgency trying to bring the biennial wage negotiations with the Chamber of Mines for the gold and coal sectors, due only in June 2013, forward and negotiate a new deal for mineworkers as soon as possible.

This is, on the one hand, to stop the contagion spreading and put wage negotiations back into their institutionalised channels. On the other hand, it is to restore its credibility as the champion of mineworkers and attempt to put itself back at the head of the negotiating table. NUM has been working hard on the ground among workers, attempting to pre-empt any further Malema-type politicking.

Lingering divisions from its recent leadership election – where 40% of the membership voted against Baleni – also provide fault lines that can be exploited. There is also evidence that Malema has ties with the anti-Baleni group, and he has been accused of providing finnancial and other support during the labour unrest.

If Malema is able to drive a wedge between the two NUM factions, the union will be in even more serious trouble .

To restore its credibility, NUM will have to drive a hard bargain for mineworkers.

Of significance is the fact that rock drillers in gold are more poorly paid than those in platinum, although the exact numbers – given sudden sensitivities over this – have become difficult to obtain.

Whether the contagion spreads spontaneously through copycat strikes, reckless politicking or institutionalised bargaining, mining wages are certain to escalate sharply. The militancy around wages could also spread to other sectors.

Marikana is expected, says Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, to have a radicalising effect at Cosatu’s congress, which was due to start as IM was going to press . Cosatu unions have always been militant and now, despite government attempts to bring about wage restraint, that trend is set to continue.

A 2012 survey by Cosatu’s think-tank, Naledi, gives further weight to this view: 60% of workers were unhappy with the increases their unions secured, even though these were all above inflation.

The Marikana incident also brought home some smaller, institutional weaknesses in the industrial relations system, which platinum employers can fix relatively easily. One is the absence of centralised bargaining for the platinum sector, which has led, in part, to the unstable competition around wage levels. The industry is now in favour of a centralised approach. This could make a difference in the future but won’t have much impact on the current disputes .

The second institutional weakness is the practice of endorsing a majoritarian approach to trade unionism. In the platinum sector, a trade union with a majority membership of 50% plus one is given exclusive organising rights, shutting out smaller unions . This practice will have to be revisited to allow a multiplicity of unions to co-exist without conflict.

While wage escalations and labour militancy are the immediate worries on the industrial relations front, the long term, big picture issues are harder to deal with – and are more worrying.

The first is the obvious fact that SA’s inequalities are not sustainable. While government, investors and rating agencies have always known this to be the case, Marikana drove the implications home more clearly than ever before.

Since democracy, SA’s inequalities have grown rather than diminished. While the numbers of people living in absolute poverty has declined significantly due to social grants, the gap between rich and the poor has grown. In 2009, data from the government’s Income and Expenditure Survey put the Gini co-efficient at 0,67, up from 0,64 in 1995.

Democracy also brought with it massive urbanisation with which low-cost delivery has been unable to keep pace. Although many mineworkers are migrants, the drive by unions and mining companies to do away with single-sex hostels and replace them with a living out allowance has seen the informal settlements mushroom around mines. The living out allowance is generous compared with the rest of an underground worker’s cash package.

In platinum, rock drillers earn a R5 400 basic salary and get a living out allowance of R1 800 . Not surprisingly, this is hard to resist, even where it means living in a corrugated iron shack.

To make matters worse, government service failure in these areas has been profound. Nkaneng, where most of Lonmin’s Marikana mine employees live, is knee-deep in piles of refuse and squalor.

There is no refuse removal, no sanitation, no formal roads and no electricity. The Marikana tragedy made it clear that generous living out allowances to workers cannot exonerate mining companies from blame when employees are living in squalor. In the future, mining companies will have to be more actively involved in development, particularly in the provision of low-cost housing, and do more to ameliorate government failure.

A third insight into labour relations brought about by the tragedy is the realisation that workers have lost faith in their trade unions. The Naledi survey of worker attitudes shows that this is a problem more widespread than the mining sector. Thirty per cent of those surveyed thought their union was corrupt, in that worker representatives colluded with management. (Few, however, had ever actually witnessed any corruption.)

The cause of the gap between worker leaders and workers is in part because trade unions have inevitably become institutionalised. Apart from negotiating on behalf of workers , it is also the responsibility of union leaders, given their broader understanding of the company and economy, to bridge the gap between what workers want and what management is likely to offer.

But the social gap is also a function of the benefits that come along with trade union leadership positions, even at the lowest level. Positions such as shop steward have become sought after as ones that an ordinary worker, especially an unskilled one, will not come by easily.

In the mining industry the benefit are more pronounced. Full-time shop stewards are no longer required to report for dangerous work underground. They tend to work in an office, get time off for union meetings and can be recipients of kickbacks from service providers hoping to win contracts over which workers have a say, such as catering.

Added to this, trade unions have been infected by corrupt ANC politics where positions can be bought and sold and money changes hands for votes. In his report to the NUM congress in May, Baleni noted an unprecedented level of contest in regional elections; a high number of complaints about the outcome and fairness of regional and shaft committee elections, for the first time; and the emergence of opportunistic and dishonest leaders, he said, “who, simply put, have a propensity to lie”.

This is a new and fundamentally different dynamic within SA trade unions, which in the context of a wider corrupt political culture has taken root over time and will not easily be reversed.

Contestation over union positions has also begun to creep into shop floor politics. Strikes are being fuelled by disgruntled members displaced from union positions in shop steward elections.

Drilling down into the labour dynamics of the mining industry exposes a multiplicity of fault lines, which can be easily exploited. In the highly charged political atmosphere that is South Africa today, the opportunities for conflict in the industrial relations terrain are without doubt growing. The risks for investors have grown sharply alongside them.

*This article was first published in Investors Monthly

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COSATU and NUM statement on the current wildcat strikes in the mining industry with the full support of the SACP

The members of COSATU affiliates and the NUM in particular will recall that the COSATU 11th National Congress held in September 2012 adopted a special resolution on the Lonmin (Marikana) Platinum mine tragedy, the mining industry, and general poverty wages. We attach the declaration for easy reference.

The wildcat strikes have since spread from platinum mines to the gold mines in Gauteng and the Free State.

We reiterate what we said in the congress - that it is the mine employers in general and Impala bosses in particular who must take full responsibility for all the strikes that are spreading in the mining industry. Impala committed a grave error in offering an 18% increase to one category (miners) to the exclusion of the rest of the workers of Impala and, more seriously, outside the collective bargaining process.

Expectations have been raised not by the NUM but by the employers and the recent mine workers’ strikes are a response to the employers’ miscalculation.

We wish to emphasize that the employers have made a grave error that now threatens every foundation of the industrial relations systems in the country. The collective bargaining system is currently under threat not because of the NUM but because the employers miscalculated. Lonmin should have known that getting wage negotiations to be facilitated by the churches and allowing everybody, no matter their legal status, to play a role in the negotiations will create precedents that they will not be willing to repeat anywhere else. In the process a wrong impression was created that the Lonmin deal was negotiated by AMCU and the churches and that workers received close to their demand of R12 500. Nothing can be further to the truth. The reality is that it is the NUM that won a 10% increase on wages for Lonmin workers and it is the NUM that agreed that the negotiations be brought forward so that current demands of workers can be accommodated.

Now that workers on their own have embarked on unprotected strikes, the NUM, with the active support of COSATU, have an obligation to lead the workers who are on strike and to channel their demands to the employers, so that a lasting solution can be found.

While the NUM does not endorse unprotected industrial action, and did not encourage such an action precisely because it opens workers to attacks from the employers, it must be said that the source of all of these upheavals is the pathetic levels of pay and working conditions mineworkers are subjected to. The NUM and COSATU are fully behind all the legitimate demands of the mineworkers for better pay and improved working conditions.

The NUM leadership have already engaged with the Chamber of Mines and demanded that the negotiations on wages and conditions of employment be
reopened or that the existing agreement, lapsing in 2013, is brought forward. The NUM met the CoM on 21st September 2012. A second meeting with the full NUM Chamber negotiating team for Gold and Coal will be on 3 October 2012.

We have developed a programme to address and consult with all mineworkers on this process.

In the meantime we have taken forward the COSATU National Congress demand that a high-powered commission of inquiry be established. The terms of reference of this commission must be to "investigate the employment and social conditions of workers in the mining industry historically and at present".

The Chamber of Mines, the Department of Minerals and Energy and the leadership of the ANC have since in principle endorsed the need for the commission. Consultation will proceed with all stakeholders to finalise its terms of reference before an appropriate announcement is made.

COSATU and the NUM will ensure that all these processes are driven with the necessary urgency to ensure a speedy resolution of the current situation. We are aware that a failure to resolve these issues as soon as possible will threaten the future not only of the mining industry but the jobs of hundreds of thousands of mineworkers.

We accordingly call on the Chamber of Mines to waste no more time before engaging with the NUM and other unions in the mining industry to ensure
that a lasting solution is found to the current stalemate. Dismissal of workers is not a solution to the crisis the mining industry is facing.

Accordingly we call on all mine companies contemplating taking short cuts such as mass dismissals of workers to desist from carrying out such threats but instead to join us to save the future of collective bargaining in our country, which is currently threatened by the mistake committed by some of the employers themselves.

Current challenges

The country and the world must note that as the Commission of Inquiry meets to look at the violence and intimidation in the mines that led to the death of 46 workers, the wave of violence and intimidation has not subsided.

There has been reports of violent incidents in and around Rustenburg, where the Branch chairperson Khomanani is still in hospital), in Westrand, where a steward has been dragged from his room and shot at close range; he is in hospital, and in the Free State where five workers were injured last week.

There are potential threats of dismissals at Angloplats, Goldfields, Rasebone, and AGA.

Lesiba Seshoka (Spokesman)

National Union of Mineworkers
7 Rissik Street
Cnr Frederick
Tel: 011 377 2047
Cell: 082 803 6719
Twitter: @Num_Media

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State’s credibility in tatters after Marikana- CASAC
Lawson Naidoo
03 October 2012

Advisory council also says apparent collapse of intelligence services has left SA vulnerable to destabilisation

Media Statement by the Advisory Council of CASAC on the impact of Marikana on South Africa’s constitutional order

We believe that Marikana represents a turning point in South Africa’s post-apartheid history. The question is: in what direction will we now go?

The serious violations of fundamental constitutional rights that the Farlam Commission must investigate with regard to Marikana are, in fact, a common reality for far too many people who live in South Africa.

The credibility and legitimacy of the police is in tatters. The needless death of Andries Tatane last year was a grave warning of the dangers of the militarisation of the police force and the inadequacy of its public order management capacity. Zones of illegality, painfully reminiscent of our repressive past, blot the landscape.

As a result, civil liberties are now imperilled, as the apparent collapse of the intelligence services and the partisan political use of state security forces render the country vulnerable to destabilisation -undermining our future prospects and prosperity, and which, more than anything, hurts the poorest members of our society the hardest.

The ‘state of emergency’, in deed if not in law, that has been in existence in the aftermath of the Marikana massacre demonstrates the duplicitous role of the government and its security forces. A repressive clampdown with the rule of law seemingly suspended has engulfed the communities grappling with the trauma and grief of the massacre.

The basis on which the police conducted search and seizure operations in the early hours of Saturday 15 September remains unclear; on the same day rubber bullets were again used resulting in the death of ANC Councillor, Pauline Masulo; marches organised by the Women of Marikana have been banned; individuals have been prevented from addressing meetings of workers for no apparent good legal reason; and there have been numerous arrests of workers in other platinum mines in recent weeks - these are all occurrences associated with the repressive apartheid regime in the 1980s.

Now is the time to draw a line in the sand and to demand a renewed commitment to the Constitution, its progressive vision of socio-economic transformation, and its principled commitment to the rule of law.

We submit that Marikana cannot be examined in isolation of the socio-economic and political context in which it occurred - a context in which a dangerous culture of intolerance and political violence has persisted, and in which the ability to process peaceful dialogue and to mediate industrial relations has been lost.

The system of collective bargaining established by the 1995 Labour Relations Act has also been dangerously undermined.

Rightly, the Commission’s Terms of Reference require it to consider corporate responsibility. The imperative of creating new decent jobs, with a living wage, has to be a shared social obligation.

Thus must we all reflect candidly on the causes of this crisis, recognising its various components, which include: structural weaknesses in State institutions that have permitted a culture of impunity in the use of State power to grow; acute failure of leadership in both government and in the ANC; deep rifts in and between trade unions; unacceptable levels of wage inequality; the root causes of chronic poverty and long-term unemployment.

While recognizing and affirming the right of all workers to embark on industrial action, to associate freely and enjoy the right to freedom of expression, a society established on the basis of constitutional norms cannot countenance the persistent violence and sense of lawlessness that characterises many public gatherings, strikes and protests. We appeal to all people to exercise the right of assembly without bearing arms and weapons of any kind, and to desist from engaging in acts of violence and intimidation.

We must also acknowledge the fact that the ANC’s looming national elective congress is contributing to the heightened levels of intolerance and conflict as factions within the ANC jostle for power.
There is a conservative trajectory within elements in the ruling party that betrays the noble objectives of the liberation struggle, and which threatens the idea of progressive constitutionalism that was at the heart of the post-1994 social compact. The ANC’s Mangaung Conference will likely determine whether that trajectory is hastened or rejected.

In short, progressive politics are under threat. Progressive organisations and movements must inject new energy and commitment into their efforts to protect our constitutional order, and must commit to work together to pursue rights and secure human dignity.

As the Farlam Commission begins its work in earnest, it must mark the start not only of an open process of unrelenting, unconditional search for the truth about what happened on 16 August, and why, but also a new chapter in our collective resolve to build a society that reflects the vision of our Constitution.

It is an opportunity that must be grasped. The government must do everything possible to ensure that the Commission can do its work, with full access to all relevant information, as well as to all role-players and decision-makers within both the police and the wider security establishment. Any suggestion that evidence is being suppressed or bad decision-making covered up will do untold harm not just to the search for accountability and justice, but to the families of the victims of Marikana.
Their needs and concerns must be the central concern during this time. CASAC calls on the Commission to put the families at the forefront of the Commission and to ensure that they have appropriate support, whether in the form of provision of transport and accommodation so that they might attend the hearings, or in the form of ensuring effective legal representation, and extending to offering counselling for the tragedy they have suffered.

The barbarity and violence of 16 August must be replaced by civility and a newfound respect for human life.

Honorary Members: Bobby Godsell, Emma Mashinini, Roelf Meyer, Prof Njabulo Ndebele

Advisory Council Members: Prof Cathi Albertyn, Mr Oupa Bodibe, Prof Richard Calland, Prof Hugh Corder, Adv Susannah Cowen, Prof Pierre de Vos, Mr Mukelani Dimba, Adv Fanie du Toit, Ms Jackie Dugard, Mr Ebrahim Fakir, Ms Judith February, Ms Isobel Frye, Ms Nomboniso Gasa, Dr Frene Ginwala, Prof Adam Habib, Adv Adila Hassim, Mr Sello Hatang, Mr Mazibuko Jara, Prof Sandra Liebenberg, Dr Tshepo Madlingozi, Ms Basetsana Molebatsi, Mr Mosibudi Mangena, Ms Sisonke Msimang, Mr Lawson Naidoo, Adv Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, Dr Nomfundo Ngwenya, Prof Velile Notshulwana, Ms Liepollo Pheko, Sipho M. Pityana (Chairman),Adv Paul Pretorius SC, Bishop Jo Seoka, Adv Tseliso Thipanyane, Mr Siyabonga Titi, Adv Wim Trengove SC, Mr Mathatha Tsedu, Adv Faranaaz Veriava

Statement issued by Lawson Naidoo, CASAC, October 3 2012

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Daily Maverick

Marikana: Shaky start for the Farlam Commission

by Khadija Patel

2 October 2012 05:28 (South Africa)

The Marikana judicial commission started on Monday in the absence of the deceased miners’ family members. As the site inspection went ahead, it became obvious that the unpacking of the truth is going to be a monumental task. By KHADIJA PATEL.

Billed as the biggest judicial probe in South African history since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Marikana judicial commission convened in Rustenburg on Monday. "Our country weeps because of the tragic loss, and this Commission will work expeditiously to ensure the truth is revealed," retired Judge Ian Farlam told the hearing. But even as he assured the assembled audience of the Commission’s impartiality, he soon found out that it was not the credentials of the Commission itself that most imperilled the legitimacy of the Commission to establish the truth of the Marikana massacre. Any attempt to understand what exactly happened, and why, will need to mirror the complexity of the buildup to the strike.

Family members of the deceased were glaringly absent from proceedings as the names of the victims were read aloud on Monday morning.

“A roll call was taken and Judge Ian Farlam invited families to stand up as their loved one’s name was called, but no families were present. Nonetheless, the proceedings continued,” said Jackie Dugard, an attorney with the Socio-Economics Rights Institute (SERI), who is representing 20 of deceased miners’ families as well as the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union.

Despite the gathering of media, advocates, witnesses, and observers, then, some of the most important role players were not present – a situation criticised sharply by Dugard.

“It is very upsetting that the families have apparently not been prioritised,” she said.

As much as the truth of Marikana is crucial to the trade unions, ANC politics, the government and the interests of big business, it is perhaps the relatives of the deceased that have the strongest need to know what happened during the strike.

Advocate Dumisa Ntsebenza told the Commission that SERI knew of some of families that were still not aware that an inquiry was underway. These families had no legal representation, and Ntsebenza implored the state and Lonmin to assist them.

"Of all the parties who are represented here, if any one party would be worthy of being assisted by the state, at taxpayers’ expense, they are the parties that have got to be assisted," he said.

The anger that fuelled the strike in Marikana was to a great extent lent from a sentiment of exclusion. People felt left out of the decisions that governed their lives. To leave out their relatives in a process that sought to clarify why exactly they died would be a further indictment.

A request for a delay was first issued by Ntsebenza, who requested that proceedings be postponed for two weeks.

His request was seconded by attorney Dali Mpofu, who is acting on behalf of the 270 miners arrested and charged with murder and attempted murder in the aftermath of the violence.

"Consulting with 270 people can take quite a long time ... if there is extra time, it would be welcomed on our part," he said.

Representatives of the South African Police Services said they were not averse to a postponement. The extra time, they said, would afford them an opportunity to better prepare for the Commission.

Advocate George Bizos, acting for the Legal Resources Centre, was nonetheless adamant that the Commission had to continue. The cost of a postponement, he said, would be an unnecessary expenditure. And in the end, Farlam decided against a postponement, confident that in the day-and-a-half during which the Commission did site inspections would be sufficient to bus the relatives from the Eastern Cape to Rustenburg, in time for the next hearing.

“We were told after a tea break this morning that the Department of Social Development was making plans for families to attend. We hope this is the case. When we visited our clients late last week and over the weekend, none had been contacted by the Commission,” Dugard said.

Altogether it proved to be a disorganised, shaky start to the Commission, lending credence to fears that it had been convened too quickly to address adequately the many issues at hand.
Last week, human rights group Amnesty International noted, “The Commission is also under pressure to embark on its work at extremely short notice and to present its findings within four months.”
Despite these impediments, the pressure on the Commission to explain what happened in Marikana is immense. “This Commission must not fail,” Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International’s southern Africa director, said in a statement. “It is vital that it is empowered, properly resourced and given the time to do everything necessary to uncover exactly what happened in Marikana and help ensure these horrific events are not repeated.”

But even as a spokesperson for the commission expressed regret at the absence of the families, many still believe that it will be impossible to transport and accommodate representatives from all the victims’ families by Wednesday.

“We feel that it is essential that families are placed at the centre of the Inquiry and we understand that the Commission has substantial logistics-related resources: we hope some will be utilised to ensure families are present at least during the first few days of the Commission," Dugard said.

It now remains to be seen if the Commission will go ahead on Wednesday if families of the deceased are still not present. Dugard for one is hopeful that Farlam will reassess his decision to postpone hearings for another week.

When the Commission does conclude site inspections, the first session is expected to focus on the events immediately preceding 16 August – the day of the shooting – with each party given an opportunity to present an overview of events from their point of view. The Commission has asked SAPS to provide an overview of events from the police’s perspective, and asked that the presentation include notes, photographs and plans with annotations. Members of the media were also requested to submit whatever footage they may have of the events leading to the shootings on 16 August.
But as residents from the nearby informal settlement approached the scene, singing struggle songs and chanting against Jacob Zuma, they carried placards that warned, "Don’t let the police get away with murder".

To many in Marikana, the violence has already been analysed and blame has already been apportioned. DM

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The Guardian (UK)

Wildcat miners’ strikes in South Africa spread to iron ore firm

Industrial action at Kumba Iron Ore’s mine at Sishen in Northern Cape further dents investor confidence in country

The escalation of labour unrest in South Africa is testing the leadership of President Jacob Zuma and denting investor confidence. Photograph: Gallo Images/Getty Images

Wildcat miners’ strikes in South Africa have spread to the iron ore sector and hit another gold firm, in an escalation of the labour unrest that is testing President Jacob Zuma’s leadership.

The industrial action, involving 300 workers at Kumba Iron Ore’s mine at Sishen in Northern Cape, further dented investor confidence in the continent’s wealthiest economy as it showed protests had moved beyond platinum and gold mines. Kumba is part of the London-listed company Anglo American.

Workers at the Kusasalethu gold mine near Johannesburg, operated by South Africa’s No. 3 bullion producer Harmony Gold, also downed tools in what management called an "unlawful" action launched outside the normal collective wage bargaining channels.

Zuma is under fire for failing to address and contain a series of protests by workers demanding higher wages, which in August led to the killing by police of 34 strikers at the Marikana platinum mine run by Lonmin.

The "Marikana massacre" jogged painful memories of apartheid-era killings by the security forces, and it has kindled heated debate over glaring wealth inequalities persisting in South Africa since the end of white minority rule in 1994.

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Daily Maverick

What’s mined is yours: the fall of capitalism in SA’s platinum belt

Mandy de Waal
South Africa
9 October 2012 02:49 (South Africa)

A lone, frightened voice was channelled from an Amplats mine near Rustenburg to South Africans tuned into SAfm on their radios. "There are people outside fighting with the police. I’m shaken, I don’t know how we will get out,” the voice stammered. It could just as well have been the voice of the mining capital in South Africa, wondering if it would survive in the face of contagious strikes and surging, militant socialism sweeping across the country. By MANDY DE WAAL.

"I’m at the Bathopele shaft. Our shaft is the only one working," the voice of an unnamed woman said during a call to SAfm after striking miners briefly blockaded Anglo American Platinum’s (Amplats) only operational shaft on the morning of Monday 08 October 2012.

"There are people outside fighting with the police. I’m shaken, I don’t know how we will get out," the woman continued, adding that some 800 people had been trapped underground.

The woman, who added that she was an Amplats worker, said miners were targeting township residents who hadn’t downed tools. "We stay in the same area, so if you are not at home, they go and kill your family, and still Amplats doesn’t care," she said.

Amplats was asked for verification of the incident, but didn’t get back to Daily Maverick before deadline. A strike organiser, Gaddhafi Mdoda, said workers wanted to ask managers at Bathopele to release their colleagues so that the miners would be united in their call for wage increases. "They did have some fights with the cops, the cops tried to disperse them," Mdoda told AFP.

But the police denied that there had been law enforcement action at Amplats. “There were no incidences today and the police didn’t have to use any means of force to disperse anyone,” said national SAPS spokesperson Dennis Adriao, who added that he’d spoken to the general at the operation centre on the ground in the besieged North West platinum belt. “The police have high visibility in the area, but if there was any action at all, it would have been noted.”

Adriao said the police were “enforcing the law” by not allowing people to walk around with illegal weapons, and added that any groups of people constituting “illegal” gatherings were being made to disperse. “If there are any illegal gatherings of fifteen or more people, the police will warn the crowd to disperse and then they will they will have to disperse,” Adriao said.

Last Thursday, 48-year-old Mtshunquleni Qakamba was shot dead after police fired on a group of miners gathered on a hill adjacent to Anglo American Platinum’s Merensky reef near Rustenburg. Strike leaders say they found spent cartridges at the scene of the shooting the next day, and allege the mine worker was killed with live rounds. The incident is being investigated by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate.

There was also trouble at an Amplats mine situated south of Thabazimbi in Limpopo. A National Union of Mineworkers official and SABC journalist were forcefully removed from the company’s Northam plant. NUM spokesperson, Lesiba Seshoka, said a local union leader went to address workers at the Swartklip Union mine who had been threatened with mass dismissal by Amplats.

The journalist and union official were surrounded by nine security officials who verbally threatened the pair and subjected them to insults and racial slurs. "It has become very clear that the company promotes racism through procuring security and other services from racists and their companies, and that it has no intention to empower African people," Seshoka said.

Amplats was asked for comment on the incident, and more specifically to explain why the security guards had evicted the pair with force and what action would be taken against the guards. Again Amplats had not responded by the time that Daily Maverick was on deadline.

A total of 12,000 workers were fired from Amplats operations near Rustenburg last week, but employees of the globe’s biggest producer of platinum say they’re ignoring these dismissals. "The dismissal does not threaten us. If the mine is going to dismiss us, no one is going to work at the mine," Mdoda told Mail & Guardian.

Earlier, Mdoda addressed workers at the Blesbok stadium outside Rustenburg, encouraging them to intensify protests. "This is the beginning of the war," Mdoda said to rousing applause.

"This is the division that Anglo is making between us, the black people, us, the working class. So bad things are going to happen, and I am not sure if Anglo American and the leaders of the land in South Africa are going to take the responsibility of that blood that is going to be shed," he said.

Reuters estimates that some 75,000 workers have downed tools in South Africa’s mining sector since August, and predicts that the spreading strikes will affect growth and government efforts to reduce budget deficits.

The international wire service said labour actions had “tarnished South Africa’s reputation among foreign investors” and “raised questions about President Jacob Zuma’s leadership”.

"International investors are really quite concerned around South Africa," Mohammed Nalla, an analyst at Nedbank, told Reuters. "Structurally and fundamentally, the outlook on the rand is deteriorating." The rand has now dropped to its lowest level since the beginning of 2009.

Economist Chris Hart of Investment Solutions told EWN that the country could be headed for a recession if the mass strike action continued. “Inflation is going to be rising, as well as unemployment. We are looking at a recession, probably in the next year or two,” Hart said.

The words were hardly out his mouth when late on Monday 08 October, news came of a possible public sector strike. The SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) said it had filed notice of a national strike set to begin at the week’s end, and that it was consulting with its 190,000 members to determine if the strike would commence. The strike would be in protest against the SA Local Government Association, which was in dispute with Samwu regarding wage issues.

In an interview with Union Solidarity International, Samwu spokesperson Tehir Sema spoke about worker disenchantment with the capitalist system in SA. “For the first time in South Africa, we are seeing workers standing up, speaking out about the capitalist onslaught and also joining leftist formations like the South African Communist Party, and aligning themselves with progressive movement to ensure the country’s economic trajectory is realigned, especially towards the labour-intensive sectors that country needs to invest in,” Sema said.

“The country will have to do something very quickly, and drastically change the way in which we do our day-to-day business. There is clearly going to be a radical shift in our economic policies,” he added.

Workers in the mining sector, which is being crippled by labour action, have articulated through their leaders that they want a more militant, leftist approach that would see operations owned and run by the workers themselves.

Across the impasse, the government is pointing fingers at mine bosses (many of whom are ANC heavyweights or benefactors) and waving about the mining charter, which to date has been little more than an ineffectual “gentleman’s agreement”.

And local capitalists are running scared, either trying to patch things up with workers (as happened at Lonmin) or taking a heavy-handed, tough approach as witnessed at Amplats.

This coming Saturday (13 October), thousands of workers are expected to march through Pretoria towards Parliament. One of their demands will be that mines are “democratised”.

Capitalism the world over is in crisis, and South Africa’s crony-driven version of the “free” market system be any exception? A question we might well see answered in the coming months, by voices that will insist on being heard. DM

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Video: Toyota strike complicates South Africa’s crisis

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Cosatu blames mine bosses for giving in to workers’ demands

by Natasha Marrian (2 October 2012)

MINE bosses were to blame for the surge in wildcat strikes in South African platinum, gold and coal mines in three provinces, the Congress of South African Trade Unions and its affiliate, the National Union of Mineworkers, said on Tuesday.

The NUM is meeting the Chamber of Mines on Wednesday to discuss the strikes in the gold and coal sectors.

Further meetings would take place with platinum bosses, to facilitate a process of collective bargaining in the sector, NUM general secretary Frans Baleni said.

Mr Baleni was speaking after a meeting between the NUM and Cosatu to chart a way forward to address the crisis.

"The people who must shoulder all the blame for the current wildcat strikes are the mine bosses ... they created pandemonium," Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said.

Mr Vavi said a "miscalculation" and a "grave error" on the part of Impala to hand one category of workers an 18% increase outside of normal bargaining processes was at the root of the problem.

Lonmin, which recently agreed to give rock drill operators a 22% wage hike, had followed suit and made the problem worse.

"We wish to emphasise that the employers have made a grave error that now threatens every foundation of the industrial relations systems in the country."

Mr Vavi said while Cosatu did not encourage wildcat strikes, the federation and the NUM would not abandon the workers who had downed tools.

"We have an obligation to lead workers on strike," he said.

The main source of the upheaval was the "pathetic pay" mineworkers received.

Death at Amplats

Mr Baleni also delivered the sombre news that five people had been killed at Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) since Sunday, saying this was linked to threats of dismissals by the company.

At Gold Fields’ Kloof mine, a shop steward was shot at close range, Mr Baleni said.

Amplats said on Tuesday that disciplinary hearings for striking workers had begun.

Amplats spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole could not disclose how many workers arrived for the hearing.

About 21,000 mineworkers, out of a workforce of 58,000 at the Amplats operation in Rustenburg, went on a wildcat strike two weeks ago, demanding a R16,000 salary before deductions.

AngloGold Ashanti’s mining operations also remained at a standstill on Tuesday as an illegal strike continued, the company said.

"We still have not received through the formal bargaining process any formal demands," spokesman Stewart Bailey said.

On Monday, CEO Mark Cutifani said it would not meet workers’ demands outside the formal bargaining structures, as Lonmin had.

He said giving in to the striking workers’ demands would only lead to job losses in the future.

Gold Fields finds itself in a similar situation, and workers at two of the group’s mines also remained on strike on Tuesday.

"At both our KDC West and Beatrix mines, the vast majority of our workers are still on strike," spokesman Sven Lunsche said.

About 15,000 people work at KDC West, and a further 9,000 at Beatrix.

There were isolated reports of intimidation but no major violence.

Gold Fields obtained urgent interdicts last month for KDC West and Beatrix West in an attempt to force strikers to return to work.

The mine has yet to enforce its interdict.

On Tuesday, workers at junior South African gold producer Gold One International’s Ezulwini mine also embarked on an illegal strike in defiance of a wage agreement signed in July, the company said.

"Ezulwini is known to be at best a marginal operation and, as such, it is incomprehensible that employees can put both their jobs and the future of this business at such high risk of closure," CE Neal Froneman said in a statement.

The company said it had put contingency plans in place to manage the impact of the latest industrial action to hit the mining sector.

Workers at Samancor’s Western Chrome mine also remained on strike.

With Sapa and Reuters

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Mine workers march to NUM to cancel membership
Sapa | 10 October, 2012 10:54

Striking miners outside the Anglo American mine in North West, September 12, 2012. File photo.

Sacked Anglo American Platinum mine workers walked to the regional office of the National Union of Mineworkers in Rustenburg on Wednesday to cancel their membership.

"We do not want NUM to represent us. They are the stumbling block to re-open the wage negotiation. They must back off," worker leader Gaddafhi Mdoda said.

"We are at their offices. There is no one here. They have run away. There are thousands of us from four mines and the comrades from Samancor."

He said another march to the NUM office would be arranged.

"We have dispersed and we our going to meet at our different shafts to discuss about when are we marching again."

Police spokesman Captain Dennis Adriao said the group gathered in the city’s CBD without a permit.

"We explained to them that they need a permit to march. They understood and dispersed peacefully," he said.

Mdoda said they would not appeal their dismissals.

"We are not going to appeal because we see no reason to appeal."

The workers elected a committee to speak for them. They burnt NUM t-shirts at one of the protests at Samancor in Mooinooi.

At their meetings they had a box full of membership forms for the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), despite claims they had no ties with any union.

Amplats fired 12,000 workers last week. The company said that since the illegal strike started less than 20 percent of workers had reported for duty.

"Currently four of the company’s mining operations in the Rustenburg area have insufficient staff to operate and only essential services are being carried out at those mines. Our Rustenburg concentrators, smelters and refineries and Bathopele mine continue to operate normally," the company said in a statement.

The strike had spread to Amplats operations in Limpopo.

"Anglo American Platinum also confirms that the company has begun to experience strike contagion at its Union and Amandelbult [Tumela and Dishaba] operations, where workers have presented memorandums of demands similar to those received in Rustenburg," Amplats said.

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Jay Naidoo’s An open letter to Congress of South African Trade Unions


The above articles from the South African media have been reproduced here for educational and non commercial use.