The bloody episode in this eighteen-year-old black-majority democracy takes many back to the days of white-minority rule, when policemen routinely fired on and killed thousands of South Africans fighting for their freedom. Now, the question many are asking is, Freedom for whom?
Charlayne Hunter-Gault on the Marikana shooting, a massacre and a test for South Africa: http://nyr.kr/Sh2TZu
Photograph by Leon Sadiki/City Press/Gallo Images/Getty Images.
…former head of the youth wing of South Africa’s governing African Nation Congress is set to launch his new party in Marikana where police last year killed 34 striking miners demanding a pay rise. Julius Malema, who was expelled from the ANC for bringing the party into disrepute, told South African media he wanted to become the country’s next president under the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party. He said he would not be satisfied with a seat in parliament.
The Marikana Massacre of African workers has already sent a signal that something urgent must be done to intensify the economic and social emancipation of the African majority in Azania for the good of everyone The African people cannot live like slaves in their own country perpetually The poverty, the filthy inhuman shacks in which millions live must go Azania (South Africa) is four times the size of Britain and Northern Ireland combined and richer in natural resources Indeed liberation without repossession of land and its resources by the dispossessed is a gigantic colonial fraud
Open letter from South Africa - release the report into the Marikana massacre
This is an edited version of an open letter from activists asking why
the results of the inquiry into the massacre have not yet been made
President Jacob Zuma addresses Lonmin mine workers following the Marikana massacre (Pic: GovernmentZA)
To His Excellency President Jacob Zuma,
Shortly after the Marikana massacre, when the nation was still
reeling from the gunning down of 34 striking platinum miners by South
African Police, you told us, “We have to uncover the truth about what
happened here. “In this regard I’ve decided to institute a commission of inquiry.
The inquiry will enable us to get to the real cause of the incident.”
You also told us that, “In a very short space of time, we will announce the results.”
It has now been one month since you received the findings of the
Farlam Commission of Inquiry into the deaths of those young men. You must, president Jacob Zuma, be painfully aware that the families
of those who died, have had to wait patiently for two years and eight
months for some kind of explanation. Many attended the commission day in
day out, listening to various parties give evidence, hoping that all of
this time, money and effort will lead to a just outcome.
But what would a just outcome look like?
Firstly it would have to
involve the truth, as much of it as possible, however painful. The families deserve to know why their loved ones were gunned down by police using R5 rifles. They deserve to know what discussions were had by police, by mining
company Lonmin, and by your cabinet in the run-up to the massacre. They deserve to know what preparations were made for the 16th, why
mortuary vans were ordered on the morning before the attack, and why
paramedics were prevented from assisting those injured in the crucial
hour after the shooting took place. They deserve to know what is going to happen next.Who is going to be held accountable? Who is going to be held accountable?
Questions We do not know if the answers to these important questions are to be found in the final report of the Farlam Commission. We know that you set about to establish the commission not just to
restore calm at the time, but because you wanted to get to the truth.
How else could you justify such a lengthy and expensive process?
But there is something else at stake here. In the aftermath of the
massacre there was a collective weeping for our democracy. Nobody would
expect that the might of the state would be brought down on a group of
low paid workers under an African National Congress government. In a constitutional democracy it is not a crime to go on strike, or to demand a meeting with one’s employer. Some notable people have even said that what happened at Marikana was
worse than massacres like Sharpeville, because it was planned.
Whatever one believes, Marikana will live with us as the greatest blight on our democracy to date. After the massacre you told people that, “Today is not an occasion for blame, finger-pointing or recrimination.”
With the completion of the Farlam Commission Report surely that day has come?
We therefore appeal to you to make the unedited Farlam Commission Report immediately available.
If you are not able to do this, we request an explanation for why you
are not willing to give the public full access to these findings.
Rehad Desai, Noor Nieftagodien, Patrick Bond, Trevor
Ngwane, Ronnie Kasrils, Mark Heywood, Zwelinzima Vavi, Peter Alexander,
Jacklyn Cock, Thea de Wet, Farid Esack, Leo Zeilig, Fred Hendricks, Dale
McKinley, Jane Duncan
SOUTH AFRICA, Marikana : A South African miner dances carrying a branch of tree on August 16, 2014 in front of the hill where two years ago miners where gunned down by the South African police during a violent wave of strikes. Thousands of South African platinum mineworkers on August 16 gathered at Marikana to commemorate the second anniversary of the killing of 34 of their colleagues by police during a strike. AFP PHOTO/MARCO LONGARI
In a hastily arranged news conference Sunday, officials from the National Prosecuting Authority said that they would await the outcome of further investigations into the shootings, but did not rule out bringing murder charges again.
“Final charges will only be made once all investigations have been completed. The murder charges against the current 270 suspects will be formally withdrawn provisionally in court,” said Nomgcobo Jiba, the acting national director of prosecutions, told reporters.
Prosecutors also said they had not ruled out charges against the police.
“The actions of the police will be sorted out still,” said Johan Smit, a provincial prosecutor in the region where the strike took place told reporters. “We’re not ignoring that.”
270 miners were recently charged en masse by prosecutors using a mechanism, “common purpose,” which was common during the Apartheid era and allowed prosecutors to charge an entire crowd for the crimes of just a few people.
Since Apartheid, South Africa has been making steady strides. Outside of the continent, many know it as the only post-development nation, a tourist destination spot with a stable government, and low rates of violence. A civilized veneer has swept over the nation and people just didn’t expect the massacre at Marikana where 34 miners were killed during a miners workers wage protest.
Many believed that once a nation strips itself of racist laws and moves forward towards a more just government, that the turmoil that accompanies a broken nation simply goes away. Instead what we see with South Africa is much like what we saw in Anaheim California, or St. Paul, or Israel. We are witnessing a global shift and tension between institutional powers behind corporations, and the working class and the poor. South Africa demonstrates where we could go if we don’t start to address the brutalities of living in a world that only cares about the bottom line.
The bloodbath began because a group of miners were tired of working for the equivalent of $500 a month. That is how much their lives are worth to Lonmin and this is why things became desperate. I was not there, I did not talk to these miners, I don’t live their lives, but I can appreciate the feeling of being economically starved, working a job that could kill you but making next to nothing because your job is replaceable, not high-skilled and undervalued within the capitalist model. No one cares how many children you have, or that you want them to be fed, let alone educated. There is no consideration what kind of life you want for the people who depend on you, so you strike hoping you can change that. The sad reality for the miners is that if some miners chose to work, Lonmin could simply fire strikers and replace them with other South Africans too poor to worry about better conditions, reasonable pay, or justice. Without solidarity, there is no power.
Two years ago, police in Marikana, South Africa, killed thirty-four platinum miners who were striking against Lonmin, a British-owned mining corporation. At the time, Charlayne Hunter-Gault wrote that the shooting—which followed weeks of tension between two rival unions—was a sobering reminder of South Africa’s apartheid past: “The bloody episode in this eighteen-year-old black-majority democracy takes many back to the days of white-minority rule, when policemen routinely fired on and killed thousands of South Africans fighting for their freedom.”
In April, the photographer Jason Larkin travelled to Marikana, where he found “thousands of homes without power,” even though there were “miles of power lines crisscrossed above them, solely for the use of mining companies.” It was staggering, he told me, “to see how the government and mining companies have ignored such an important workforce and their environment for as long as they have.”
Marikana. As an event that saw a violent play off between strikers and policemen outside the Lonmin platinum mines near Rustenburg, it’s a word that haunts South Africa’s post-apartheid legacy. 34 strikers (mostly mineworkers) were killed, 78 injured. And in the preceding week, 10 more people were murdered, including 2 policemen and 2 security guards. The effects of the harrowing incident have leaked into arts, culture and politics, making many South Africans question and contribute to an extended conversation around wealth, power and privilege.
Every victim who died at the Marikana massacre had lives and had families. Mama Marikana is a documentary film that shares a different side to the story, giving a voice to the women left behind. Widows, mothers, sisters and community members have been forgotten but their struggle to move on, away from the event that changed their lives and their perspectives, continues. Working together, they provide a powerful voice to the women of the community through strength, agency and protest.
Not a stone has been left unturned on the political landscape
Weizmann Hamilton, Workers’ and Socialist Party (WASP)
Under severe pressure from the families of the victims of the Marikana massacre and threats of legal action, President Jacob Zuma has released the report of the Farlam Commission of Inquiry.
A colonel said the shootings that led to the deaths of 34 Lonmin mineworkers only lasted eight seconds. (Photo: SABC)
Not unexpectedly, the report completely exonerates the government, specifically: Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and former Police and Minerals & Energy Ministers Nathi Mthethwa and Susan Shabangu respectively. Lonmin PLC, the owner of the platinum mine where the strike took place, has been rapped over the knuckles with a feather. It had not used its “best endeavours to resolve disputes between itself and striking workers”, had not “responded appropriately to the threat of violence”, and must bear “a measure of responsibility for the deaths and injuries of its employees”. Only a measure for a company that had summonsed the armed might of the state to settle a labour dispute! Lonmin not only ignored its housing responsibilities in terms of its mining license, but falsified reports of its redirection of funds for social responsibilities, and engaged in tax evasion and the subversion of exchange control regulations. There is not even the suggestion of compensation for the victims’ families, nor any comment on the blatant violation of its dispute resolution procedures.
As is customary with such inquiries the foot soldiers have to fall on their swords for the establishment – the government and the bosses. Such was the weight of the evidence of state culpability that it was impossible not to make recommendations for investigation into criminal liability against the police involved in the shootings.
As for the top brass, it will be public humiliation only, with recommendations that the president institute inquiries into the fitness to hold office of National Police Commissioner, Riah Phiyega, and North West Provincial Commissioner Zukiswa Mbombo, both the first women to hold such senior positions in the police service. In anticipation of the commission’s outcome, Mbombo, who was caught on video as saying “today [16th August] we end this thing”, took the precaution of going on pension when her retirement was due two months ago. Phiyega, appointed to the position by Zuma despite no policing experience, told police the day after the massacre that they should have no regrets about their actions; they had acted in the service of their country.
In the most shocking attempt at holding the workers responsible for the massacre, the commission found that the actions of the workers – singing provocative songs and arming themselves with weapons (machetes, traditional sticks etc.) – had contributed to the massacre. The commission therefore recommended that the NDPP investigate possible criminal prosecutions for the ten deaths that took place in the days leading up to massacre, implying the workers were responsible.
The facts around these ten deaths are that the majority, six, were workers. Two were police and two private security officers deployed as is customary on the mines during strikes, to force the workers back to work under threat of gun fire. These deaths have in any case already been investigated by the police with no outcome.
Marikana mine workers seek safety after massacre(Photo: Thapelo Morebudi)
In fact it was from these clashes, which occurred on the company premises, that the workers drew the conclusion that it was unsafe to continue to remain on the mine itself and to retreat to the nearby Loskop Hill, where it would be possible for them to identify any attackers and to protect themselves. There they stayed determined to remain until their simple demand that management should meet them there over their demand for a R12 500 minimum wage was met.
Farlam’s report is a prime example of the fact that the principle of bourgeois judicial “impartiality” is a myth built on the foundation of class law which in the final analysis, is to protect the property and wealth of the rich. The report is riddled with references to the aggressive, threatening behaviour of workers doing no more than singing and toy-toying (a rhythmic marching dance). In circumstances where the vital interests of the capitalist state come into collision with the simple demands of workers to be treated like human beings and be paid a living wage, in the eyes of a bourgeois judge, it is the interests of the former that invariably prevails.
But even as a pretence at impartiality, Judge Farlam’s report completely fails to dispense culpability with even a semblance of equity. In a conflict between victim and perpetrator, between 3 000 workers armed for self defence with nothing more than traditional weapons, and 3000 police from nine different units including what used to be called the Riot Squad under apartheid, now euphemistically given the “democratic” name – Tactical Response Team, the judge offers the workers nothing and the tops of state and the bosses the equivalent of an amnesty. This was a stand-off between workers who had laid down their tools, refusing to continue to be exploited like slaves, and seeking a peaceful resolution of a labour dispute on the one side, and the aggression of police deployed with pre-mediated murderous intent, armed with riot shields, water cannon, armoured vehicles, hand guns, automatic rifles, and helicopters ferrying snipers and razor wire.
Farlam gives post-facto justification to the central aim of the police operation – the disarming of the workers, criticising the police only for the timing of the operation and the manner of its execution. The best time to have implemented this operational plan would have been the morning after to minimise bloodshed, says the worthy judge. The disarming of workers who posed no threat to anyone, who gathered at a hill away from both the mine premises and the nearby squatter camp where those not accommodated in the barracks otherwise known as hostels lived, who were exercising the constitutional right to strike and who stayed on the hill for their own protection, was a legitimate operational objective – the slaughter that ensued was merely the unfortunate result of bad timing and the breakdown of the chain of command on the day.
Buried inside the Commission’s recommendations for corrective measures — riot control training, a review of standing orders, the fitting of helicopters with cameras and greater circumspection in the decisions on what arms police may possess during such operations! – is a recommendation that would be hilarious if it were no so callous: first aid training for all police officers. Presumably this is so that when police shoot down the defenceless, they should attend to their victims themselves. The reality is that the police left them there to die for a full hour, barring emergency vehicles from attending to the dead and wounded as well as the mortuary vans – the presence of which constitutes amongst the most damning evidence of premeditation. The commission could find only one person that might have survived the hour the police waited for them to die whilst they contaminated the scene and planted weapons next to dead bodies as ’before-and-after’ pictures that emerged soon afterwards showed. This is the weight the commission attached to the loss of working class lives.
No reference, at least in Zuma’s executive summary, is made to the fact that that in neither of the two scenes of the massacre could any justification be given for the slaughter. The first burst of gunfire at scene one captured by the world’s television cameras and which claimed the lives of seventeen miners in eight seconds, occurred after workers, realising that they were about to be massacred, were led down the hill by the ‘Man in the Green Blanket’, Mgcineni Nkokeni. After observing the aggressive manner of the police deployment, he advised it was better to avoid bloodshed, descend the hill and return to the squatter camp where they lived. The workers were instead ‘kettled’ with razor wire and driven in the direction of the waiting police who gunned them down in cold blood.
If initial television pictures at scene one gave the misleading impression of aggressive intent by the workers as they were forced towards the police lines carrying their traditional weapons, events fifteen minutes later at scene two, five hundred metres away from the hill where workers had gathered, left absolutely no doubt about the intention of the police to slaughter the workers.
After witnessing the slaughter at scene one, and with their way to the squatter camp barred by the police, workers fled up the hill to hide between rocks and under bushes. ‘Evidence leaders’ (at the commission hearings) described the actions of the police as a “free for all”. Their actions appeared to have been perpetrated with impunity, and with scant regard for standing orders that require warnings before the use of live ammunition and for the lower body to be targeted.
“Much of the killing was carried out with execution-style precision: of the 17 miners shot dead at what became known as scene two, four had bullet wounds in the head or neck. Nine of them were shot like fish in a barrel while trapped in a natural enclosure among the rocks and bushes.
“In a statement to the commission one miner, Nkosikhona Mjuba, who survived scene two, said: “The police officers started shooting the mineworkers with long and short firearms. Some mineworkers put their hands [in the air] to show they weren’t fighting [or] attacking, but they were shot. Shadrack Matshamba, a rock-drill operator at Marikana’s Four belt shaft, huddled between two rocks…witnessed another miner being mown down while surrendering. He testified that ‘one protestor suggested that we should come out of the hiding place with our hands up…Guys let’s surrender. He then went out of the group with his hands raised. He was shot on his hands or arms. He kneeled down and, as he tried to stand up, still with his hands up, he was shot in the stomach and he fell down. He then tried to stand up but he was shot at again and he fell down. He tried to crawl but he could not do so.”
The Mail & Guardian (26 June – 2 July 2015)
Families of the victims have understandably reacted with outrage and cynicism at the report. In the three years since the massacre, the government has piled onto the injury of the murders of their husbands, fathers and sons, the insult of reneging on the promise to avail the report to them 48 hours before its public release. What confidence can they have in a police force whose initial reaction to the massacre was to arrest and charge the survivors of the massacre with the murder of their comrades under the notorious Doctrine of Common Purpose law that survives on the stature books from the apartheid era, and whose investigations into the deaths of all ten pre-Marikana deaths has failed to produce a single arrest or conviction?
Instead there was a conspiracy reaching to the tops of the police senior command structures to cover up by planting and manipulating evidence at the scene, doctoring the video tapes, concealing written and taped minutes of police planning meetings and giving false testimony to the Commission. Yet the Commission failed to recommend perjury charges against senior police for lying to the commission about when the decision to implement the operation had been made, admitting under cross examination that the final decision had been taken the day before the massacre and not on the day itself as they initially testified.
The elaborate efforts by the state to cover up the Marikana massacre, of which the Farlam Commission is but the latest and most ignominious attempt, will in all likelihood succeed in shielding the government, Lonmin, and particularly the ministers at the heart of the operations to crush the strike — deputy president and Lonmin shareholder and director Cyril Ramaphosa, Ministers Nathi Mthethwa and Susan Shabangu, accusations of responsibility against whom the Commission found to be “groundless,” and behind them president Jacob Zuma and his cabinet.
Cartoon by Alfonso Zapico
Evidence at the commission showed incontrovertibly that tycoon Ramaphosa, the first general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers – who personally offered the families R3m in compensation weeks after he offered to pay R19m for a prize bull at an auction –in particular was the central figure in the attempt to end the strike, and was in constant communication with mine management, the police and the cabinet. He set the tone for the massacre with his infamous email to the Mining and Energy Minster declaring the strike “a criminal act that must be dealt with concomitantly.” It is inconceivable that a decision to carry out the worst massacre since the Sharpeville massacre by the apartheid regime in 1960 which claimed the lives of 69 black people shot by the police for protesting in front of a police station against the passbook (documents blacks in urban blacks areas were required to carry on their persons all the time and produce on demand by the police or face arrest and deportation out of the cities to the bantustans) was taken without the knowledge and consent of the president.
Marikana a watershed
What the establishment will not be able to prevent, however, is the political fall-out from the massacre. Firstly if the Commission was set up in the hope of closing the door on this chapter once and for all, it will only open the sluice gates for further litigation including civil claims against Lonmin, the government and possibly Ramaphosa.
Marikana, however, was far more than a simple labour dispute “tragically” mishandled. It was a political earthquake the after-shocks of which continue to rock the political establishment, the latest development of which is the SA Communist Party’s (SACP’s) renunciation of Zuma whose support for him in the toppling of Thabo Mbeki in 2007/8 they now claim was a mistake.
From the onset, the strategist of the ruling class understood that this was no ordinary strike over wages, outlandish as they considered the demand for a R12 500 minimum wage to have been. In an editorial comment extraordinary for its naked language of class war, Business Day (17 Aug 2015) was forthright in its analysis of the implications of the strike calling upon the entire ruling class to rally behind the “venerable” National Union of Mineworkers, a union that “understands capital” and warning the “ruling political establishment of the ANC, SACP and COSATU” that they faced a force without respect for it and over which they had no control.
Often the Marxists come to the same conclusion as the strategists of capital – but from the opposite class standpoint. The Democratic Socialist Movement, co-founders of the Workers and Socialist Party, and the only left force to intervene in these tumultuous events, had been present in Rustenburg for three years before Marikana, anticipating that the chain of working class illusions in the post-apartheid dispensation would break at its strongest link – the NUM, at that time the biggest, richest and politically most influential of COSATU’s affiliates. We understood that the mining industry, despite its relative decline in the share of the country’s Gross Domestic Product, was historically the economic and political backbone of South African capitalism – the weight of its political influence as the vanguard of the capitalist class far exceeding its present day economic role.
The miners’ strike took the form of singing, chanting, marching and dancing (Photo: AP)
We understood therefore that because the strike of the Lonmin workers was led by an independent strike committee, it was in fact a rebellion not only against their exploitation in an industry in which it would take the average mine worker 300 hundred years to earn what a CEO earns in one year, but against the NUM. It was an expression of the realisation that the NUM had degenerated into collaborators with the mining bosses in protecting the rule of the bosses in the mining industry, based as it was on the oppressive migrant labour system which had been in place for over a hundred years and which the apartheid system had inherited from colonialism and developed to support the capitalist system, the management of which the ANC took over when it came to power.
Because the NUM was the powerhouse of COSATU, and because COSATU in turn was the most important ally of the ANC in the Tripartite Alliance with the ANC and SACP, this was in reality an unarmed political uprising against the entire political establishment whose political takeover had been so carefully put together at the negotiated settlement reached at CODESA (Congress for a Democratic South Africa). CODESA had put an end to white minority rule and ushered in majority rule based on parliamentary democracy but with the central strategic objective of preserving the economic dictatorship of capitalism under the mask of bourgeois parliamentary democracy.
From these events, we concluded, the working class would draw the most profound conclusions. The working class sometimes arrives at an understanding from the significance of a single event, what they had apprehended incrementally in their consciousness over decades from a succession of events which individually did not reveal their significance. The Marikana massacre we pointed out, illuminated with blinding clarity the implications of the successive betrayals of the ANC over the previous 18 years.
What the editor of Business Day had understood immediately after Marikana, the workers understood also at the same time. The ANC had revealed itself as the party of the mining bosses and the broader capitalist class; the state had revealed itself as the armed guardians of the dictatorship of capital; COSATU and the SACP had betrayed themselves as the collaborators of the capitalist class and their political management team, the ANC in the perpetuation of working class slavery.
It was not enough, however, for the DSM to be able to read the message in the tea leaves. The success of the socialist revolution requires the consummation of the marriage between the objective and the subjective factors – the coming together of the objective process of the socialist revolution the masses had embarked on to overthrow the existing political order without a clear idea of what to replace it with, and the intervention of the subjective factor – the organisational capability of the conscious forces of Marxism to embed themselves into the elemental movement of the masses.
The DSM, in the personages of Liv Shange and Mametlwe Sebei especially, implemented the programme of the first rule of revolution, the organisation of the unity of the working class on a programme that would empower the masses to first overcome their immediate adversary and ultimately to understand the need to proceed towards the overthrow of capitalism itself. The Lonmin workers were not alone in realising the treachery of the NUM. Across the Rustenburg mining belt, workers had established independent strike committees in virtually every mine. Far from crushing the strike, the Marikana massacre provoked a movement that spread across the Rustenburg mining belt spreading beyond the North West province into the mining industry as a whole in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the Northern Cape.
The DSM-initiated Rustenburg-wide Joint Strike Coordinating Committee developed into the National Strike Committee. It led at its height a strike of over 100 000 workers in the mining industry, inspiring also the strike of the farm workers in the Western Cape. By year’s end, the decision was made, on 15th December, 2012, between the DSM and a number of strike committees to form the Workers and Socialist Party which was launched on Sharpeville day on 21st March 2013.
Striking workers at the Marikana mine (Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko/REUTERS)
As the DSM has predicted, the Marikana massacre would prove to be the fault line, drawn in the blood of the martyrs of Marikana, between two epochs in the post–apartheid era, the first of illusions in the ANC and bourgeois parliamentary democracy, and the second the era of the breaking of the illusions in the ANC, a break-out from the political prison of the Tripartite Alliance, and the embarkation by the working class on a journey in search of its own class and political independence. Rarely in history has it been possible to identify the commencement of the appearance of the fault line between two historical epochs with the accuracy that the Marikana massacre has enabled historians to do. The old ended at precisely 15:40 on the 16th of August 2013; the new began 8 second later.
Since then, as we predicted, not a stone has been left unturned on the political landscape. The first aftershock of the Marikana earthquake was another major split in the ANC – the second in 5 years; the launch by expelled ANC Youth League president, Julius Malema of the Economic Freedom Fighters on a radical left-populist programme calling amongst other for the nationalisation, without compensation, of the commanding heights of the economy. However, the National Union of Metal Workers of SA (NUMSA)’s historic decisions at its Special National Congress in December 2013 to withdraw support from the ANC in the 2014 elections was an aftershock that registered much higher on the political Richter Scale. In addition to announcing that it would not be campaigning for the ANC in the 2014 general elections, it levelled a searing criticism of the SACP and the pro-Zuma leadership of COSATU, to which it suspended the payment of subscriptions. It resolved to form a workers party, a united front and a movement for socialism.
Although NUMSA, regrettably, did not heed WASP’s call for it to support our election campaign, our decision to stand in the elections had placed the question of socialism in the political mainstream, and sharpened the ideological contours of the debate about socialism.
COSATU reacted to NUMSA’s SNC decisions by expelling it as well as the COSATU general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi. COSATU, the most powerful, militant and radical trade union federation on the African continent, has now all but disintegrated. The SACP is deeply split with growing calls from within to contest the elections. Although framed as a tactical move to enable the ANC to survive in office through a coalition with it, any such decision will only deepen the divisions further both within the party and the ANC. The Tripartite Alliance has been left in ruins by the Marikana earthquake. The process may lack ideological clarity and coherence and take detours, but the way has now been cleared for the development of a mass workers party. Wasp is campaigning for the formation of a new trade union federation, supporting the united front, building the Socialist Youth Movement and a federation of socialist civics, and campaigning for the unity of these forces in a mass workers party on a socialist programme.
Workers arrested at South Africa’s Marikana mine have been charged in court with the murder of 34 of their colleagues shot by police.
The 270 workers would be tried under the “common purpose” doctrine because they were in the crowd which confronted police on 16 August, an official said.
Police opened fire, killing 34 miners and sparking a national outcry.
The decision to charge the workers was “madness”, said former ruling ANC party youth leader Julius Malema.
“The policemen who killed those people are not in custody, not even one of them. This is madness,” said Mr Malema, who was expelled from the ANC (African National Congress) earlier this year following a series of disagreements with President Jacob Zuma.
Last week marked the second anniversary of the Marikana massacre, a dark moment in South Africa’s post-apartheid history when security forces shot and killed 34 striking mineworkers. The world was shocked by the brutality of the incident, but according to Pulitzer Center grantee Jack Shenker, it was not an isolated event.
“Throughout history, South Africa’s mines have been the incubators of every major shift in the country’s political and social development: The modern state was founded on its mineral wealth beneath the soil, the apartheid system grew out of pass law regulations designed to maximize profits for mine owners, and the resistance struggle that eventually overthrew apartheid was born and stoked in the furnaces of gold, diamond and platinum concessions dotted throughout the land,” says Jack.
In a penetrating feature story for The Guardian’s weekend magazine, Jack and photographer Jason Larkin revisit Marikana and find that the fault lines dividing Africa’s richest economy have continued to deepen. “This region is once again in the eye of a storm which commingles wealth, power and an extraordinary battle for change from below – the outcome of which could not only reshape South Africa, but echo much further afield as well.”
BOOTS ON THE GROUND IN IRAQ
As U.S. airstrikes attempt to hold Sunni extremists at bay in an increasingly fractured Iraq, it appears that the Kurds and their peshmerga militia are the Obama’s administration’s only reliable allies in the region. “But Kurds are not a monolithic group with a single ambition, and the peshmerga have not always represented a unified Kurdistan,” writes Pulitzer Center grantee Jenna Krajeski in her latest dispatch for The New Republic.
Jenna has been using a series of Pulitzer Center grants to report on the Kurds for nearly three years. During this time she has emerged as one of the authoritative voices on this complex and important story, contributing stories to The New Yorker,The Nation, Foreign Policy and many others.
“Since 2003, when Iraqi Kurdistan was deemed the ‘success story’ of the war, the region has been propped up as an example of the U.S.’s good intentions by those trying to rationalize military force, particularly conservative American policy makers,” writes Jenna. “But progress has come alongside reports of rampant corruption, a widening gap between the rich and poor, and increasingly authoritarian tendencies in a government still dominated by family names.”
REFUGEES SAVING EACH OTHER
The flood of refugees created by civil war in Syria has overwhelmed the resources of cash-strapped aid agencies. In Lebanon alone, a poor country of 4 million, there are already 1.5 million Syrian refugees, with more on the way. This means the refugees must fend for themselves in a host country that views them with increasing hostility.
Pulitzer Center grantee Alice Su, writing for VICE News, tells the story of a resourceful group of Syrian refugees who raise money via social media from private donors for fellow refugees without access to UN or NGO aid. Most of their donors are Syrian expatriates in Europe, America, and the Gulf. The cash they’ve collected has paid for everything from basic school supplies to at least one open heart surgery.
The lights went down and miners in helmets and gumboots rose up from a dark pit beneath the stage, headlamps aglow, singing a rousing song of struggle.
The packed crowd of hip young South Africans whooped and cheered. It was opening night of “Marikana: The Musical” at the country’s most stately theater, an unlikely tribute to a tragedy still fresh in the minds of many here.
Two years ago, South African police shot dead 34 striking mineworkers at the Lonmin-owned Marikana platinum mine northwest of Johannesburg. It was the bloodiest police action since the end of apartheid, and a day that shocked the nation. An official inquiry into these deaths, and 10 others during the unrest, continues.
The ANC local branch office in the shack settlement of Nkaneng, which borders the Lonmin mine in Marikana.
The office was attacked and set ablaze by local residents in the days leading up to this year’s general election, the latest episode in a litany of anti-ANC activism across the region that also saw government ministers being chased out of nearby towns and President Zuma cancelling a campaign stop in the area due to fears of violence. Local residents remain furious at the ANC government’s apparent unwillingness to hold police and corporate executives accountable for the 2012 Marikana massacre, and are angry at the ANC’s perceived collaboration with big business at the expense of ordinary communities whose living standards have shown little sign of improvement after 20-years of ANC-led democracy.
The ANC ended up securing 62% of the vote nationally, but saw their support crumble in the platinum mining belt.
Image by Jason Larkin, caption by Jack Shenker. South Africa, 2014.
“Platinum mining contributes more to South Africa’s GDP than gold and diamonds combined. Platinum and its associated elements are used as catalysts in a range of chemical reactions, as well as being vital components of nearly every electrical device we use.”
Jack Shenker, ‘After the massacre: life in South Africa’s platinum mining belt’, The Guardian