Marikana Massacre of 50 African workers and 78 injured at the platinum mine North-West of Johannesburg under ANC government on 16 August 2012, illustrates the absence of economic liberation for 80% of the African people who were supposedly “liberated” in April 1994. Azania (South Africa) is home to 80% of the world’s known reserve of platinum, a very precious metal which competes with gold in value and price.
The price of platinum fluctuates between $1650 and $1800 per ounce. Miners at Marikana platinum mine as all other mines where minerals are dug from the ground; do very dangerous work. Some miners have described mining as “graves” as the mine can collapse at any time bury them, never for them to come out alive. The Marikana platinum miners went on strike demanding an increase on their wages. They are paid R4000 a month. This is about five hundred American dollars. Many of these miners have families to support.
They were massacred in what the media has described as: “Another Sharpeville,” “The Hill of Horror,” “Bloodiest Security Operation Since Apartheid,” “Bloodbath,” “Killing Field,” “Mine Slaughter,” etc. Three thousand miners took part in this mine strike. It involved talks with mine company unsuccessfully. The platinum bosses are some of the leading controllers of the economy in this economically colonised African country.
In South Africa, Africans are still treated as mere source of cheap native labour, just as in “bygone” apartheid colonial days. Police could have used other methods to disperse the strikers peacefully. Many strikers were shot from the back. It is an indication that they were running away from the police. Looked at from a broader perspective, this strike was not just about wages. It went beyond “an industrial action.”
This is a national issue that was swept under the carpet at CODESA in a hurry by some “negotiators” to get into high government positions,leaving economic power and the land question unresolved and continuing with the inhuman colonial economic inequalities between the African majority and white minority.
An official of the American government, Josh Earnest has said, “We are saddened by loss of life. We encourage all parties to work together to resolve the situation peacefully.” The mine workers pursued this route for a long time. Officials of the Marikana platinum mine refused to negotiate with leaders of Associated Mining and Construction Union (AMCU).It is alleged that they negotiated secretly with the National Union of Miners which is allied to the ANC. The leaders of AMCU have accused leaders of NUM with being preoccupied with their own business interests and being favoured by management. The monthly salary of Num Secretary Frans Baleni is reported as one hundred and five thousand Rand.
Mistrust has led to the death of 50 miners. Not one Marikana platinum mine official has been injured. Instead there has been warning that miners’ actions will scare investors. Concern has focused on profits not on the heavy loss of human life.
An executive member of the ANC has offered two million Rand for the burial of these miners. His company Shanduka, owns 9% of shares in the Marikana mine. This gesture is human and must be appreciated. But why should Africans always be offered money when they are dead? This is reminiscent of those days in the liberation struggle when Europe would supply the South African regime with weapons and send bandages to the African freedom fighters and “encouragea peaceful solution.”
President Jacob Zuma has announced the establishment of a commission to investigate what caused this brutal massacre of African workers. A period of mourning was announced four days after this horrible incident, seemingly as a response to the anger of the people from every corner of the country and beyond.
The massacre has been reported widely on BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, Sky News, CCTV and observers across the world have conveyed support for the miners as well as shock at this blood-soaked outcome.
Despite the mourning period declared by President Zuma the Marikana platinum mine management has ordered all employees on strike to return to work or face dismissal. The workers have responded, “Expecting us to go back is an insult. Many of our friends and colleagues are dead and the company expects us to resume work. Never! Some of our colleagues are in prison and hospitals. We must mourn them.”
Zuma has expressed surprise at the anger and behaviour of Marikana mine workers. But there has been open anger about the horrible conditions in which Africans live in so-called “New South Africa”?
Poverty is the mother of revolutions. Poverty causes despair, particularly when many leaders serve their own personal interests and not those of the suffering masses. These leaders are more concerned about “investors” and “foreign aid” than about developing their countries with what they have.
The truth is that most Western countries that are supposedly giving “foreign aid’ to Africans are themselves getting their own riches from Africa. Azania is no exception. Leaders of African governments must stop dealing with Western countries as if Africa has nothing to put on the table.
Without platinum from Azania, the West would not move an inch economically. Therefore, the dependency mentality of African leaders on the Western countries must stop. Africa’s leaders must bargain with enormous material resources Africa is endowed with. These raw materials must be exchanged for high technology. The West is reluctant to transfer technology to Africa or invest in the infrastructure of Africa for the rapid development of the continent.
Africa must demand a world of interdependence between the West and Africa. Europe and her allies have milked Africa of its riches for far too long. Without Azania chrome, manganese and uranium the West would not be boasting of its present development. The West has advanced nuclear technology today because of uranium from Azania.
Azania must rise and lead a Pan African Economic Revolution for the emancipation of Africa’s people. Azanians are not wild beasts to be slaughtered for their own platinum in the land of their ancestors. The Marikana massacre of these 50 African people signals that a people centred model of nationalisation of land and mines in Azania is long overdue.
Citizens of a truly sovereign state are not massacred like wild pigs in their own land and over platinum which is legitimately theirs. There must be equitable redistribution of economic resources according to population numbers in Azania.
Dr. Motsoko Pheko
(The writer is the author of TOWARDS AFRICA’S AUTHENTIC LIBERATION and several other books. He is a former Member of the South African Parliament as well as former representative of the victims of apartheid at the United Nations)
- Rage by Miners Points to Shift in South Africa – New York Times (nytimes.com)
- Apartheid and the Marikana murder charges: a common purpose indeed (dailymaverick.co.za)
- Questions remain over Marikana mine killings (itv.com)
- South Africa Mine Massacre: Miners Charged with Murdering Themselves (world.time.com)
- Marikana: Zuma reclaims his soul, and his presidency (dailymaverick.co.za)
- Marikana: What price will Zuma pay? (dailymaverick.co.za)
- South African police kill 34 miners… survivors charged with murder (kasamaproject.org)
- Zuma says he can’t interfere in miners’ case (radionz.co.nz)