by BAR editor and columnist Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo
The bloodbath at Marikana was a watershed for post-apartheid South Africa. The compact between Big Capital and the ruling African National Congress is no longer acceptable to the workers that produce fabulous wealth for multinational corporations. “The youth, the labor movement have seen the ANC for what it is” – a protector of white supremacy and the neocolonial order.
Miners Shot Down! The Marikana Massacre Represents the Beginning of the End of the ANC – Part II
by BAR editor and columnist Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo
“The ANC has been willing to do the bidding of the corporations and to turn its guns towards the very people who produce the wealth of the nation.”
The Marikana Massacre was a landmark event in the history of post-apartheid South Africa. On August 16, 2012, South African police fired on a group of Lonmin Company Platinum mineworkers, striking for an increase in wages. The mining company and police refused to bargain with the mineworkers in good faith and pursued an escalating violent strategy. The police opened fire, wounding 112 and killing 34 protesters. The Marikana Massacre represents a brutal attack by the post-Mandela government against civilians. The savagery of the murders removed any pretentions that a neo-colonial South Africa was a structural deviation from its white supremacist past.
South African filmmaker/Director Rehad Desai’s film: “Miners Shot Down” has exposed the illicit, deadly relationship between multinational mining concerns and the Zuma government. Rehad is a producer/director of Uhuru Productions, where he is the CEO.
Below is part two of the interview with Rehad Desai on the Marikana Massacre documented in: Miners Shot Dead. Part one was published last week.
Marsha Coleman-Adebayo: I would like to focus on the role of Cyril Ramaphosa, considered the author of the new South African constitution, one of the heroes of the anti-apartheid movement and a stakeholder in the Lonmin Mining Company. What was his role, if any, in the decision of the police to attack the striking miners?
Rehad Desai: Cyril Ramaphosa, was a stakeholder in the Lonmin Mining Company. Instead of attempting to quell this situation through dialogue he continued to press for more police, calling the striker’s action “criminal” rather than a labor dispute. He argued that force (rather than dialogue) was needed to meet the level of violence. There are a string of e-mails and phone messages that confirm that Ramaphosa was in regular contact with Lonmin mine management, police, politicians and NUM (National Union of Mineworkers) officials in an attempt to break the strike.
Marsha Coleman-Adebayo: You mentioned earlier that the day before the Massacre On August 15th, there was a meeting in Cape Town of cabinet ministers. That evening, there was also a meeting of the National Police Management Force. The National Police Management Force is the highest decision making group inside the South African police force. They decided to conduct an operation against the striking miners that involved 4,000 rounds of live ammunition, extra ambulances, extra police and 4 mortuary bags – each of which each can hold 8 bodies. These items arrived, August 16th, the morning of the Massacre. Do we know if Cyril Ramaphosa was aware that the police were arming themselves for such an attack?
Rahad Desai: No, what we can say is that it was clear that Cyril Ramaphosa wanted an end to the disruption and an end to what he called the “wanton violence.” Ramaphosa was instructing the Police Minister and Minister of Mineral Resources to do what they needed to do to end the strike. Ramaphosa was a far more senior politician than the Police Minister and Minister of Mineral Resources so it’s understandable how his message of “ending the violence” could be interpreted by subordinates. But, you also need to understand that the Minister of Mineral Resources was formerly the Minister of Police. In 2011, he told a large assembly of senior policemen that the way to deal with criminals was to shoot to kill.... they (the police) should not waste bullets…and not ask for permission. This goes to the wider conversation about the political economy of South Africa where the vast bulk of the population, the black population, has been left out of the economic dividends of democracy that was promised. We have widening unemployment, gross inequality, substantial problems with crime and the only way the government is dealing with this failure to deliver a meaningful measure of democracy, is to turn towards more authoritative type policing.
Marsha Coleman-Adebayo: Who owns Lonmin? What is the history of this mining company?
Rehad Desai: Lonmin plc, formerly the mining division of Lonrho plc, is a British producer of platinum group of metals operating in the Bushveld Complex of South Africa. The company is listed on the London Stock Exchange. Its registered office is in London, and its operational headquarters are in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Company was incorporated in the United Kingdom on 13 May 1909 as the London and Rhodesian Mining and Land Company Limited.
In 1968, Lonrho acquired Ashanti Goldfields Corporation, a gold mining business in Ghana. By 1979, Lonrho employed 140,000 people worldwide.
Marsha Coleman-Adebayo: I think we both agree that the Massacre at Marikana represents, for many of us outside of South Africa, a turning point in understanding post-Apartheid South Africa. This understanding is a crystallization of what has gone wrong since independence. Let’s explore the political and symbolic meaning of the Massacre in its wider implications.
Rehad Desai: What it means to the vast majority of South African workers is that they can no longer trust the ANC, after 20 years to deliver on its promises of “a better life for all.” The social compact between the trade unions, the ANC and business was about holding wages down in order for (according to the mining corporations scenario,) a “slow takeoff” of the South African economy. In return for a cooperative relationship with the trade unions, the ruling party (ANC) would partner with big Capital and thereby the country would “takeoff” and benefit from a growing capitalist economy. But what has actually happened is just the opposite. The inequalities have widened since 1994 and there is more money in white households as compared to black households.
“The vast majority of South African workers can no longer trust the ANC on its promises of ‘a better life for all.’”
Twenty years after democracy, the gap between the rich and poor has widened. But we must understand that there is a co-determination between race and class in South Africa. This co-determination also expresses itself as a gap between white and black communities. But within each demographic, whether white or black we have seen major inequality gaps. This has led to a situation of social conflicts, particularly in the trade unions, where many of their leaders are paid by the Corporations handsome wages on par with senior management. This has led to a weakening of trade unions and a strengthening of corporate unions – some call them business unions – where the “deals” are done at the top and the unions no longer act on behalf of the workers they represent. This has resulted in a massive and growing distrust by the workers of the unions. A recent survey of workers indicated that 45% of respondents believed that their union leaders were corrupt. This has led to workers independently taking action on their own.
As a result, any trade union leader prepared to give expression to this disaffection of workers are given a big elbow and booted out.
Marsha Coleman-Adebayo: Are you referring to Zwelinzima Vavi, the former General Secretary of COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions ?)
Rehad Desai: Yes. Vavi is now working with NUMSA (National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa) to build a new trade union federation. The union has been registered and they are recruiting new members. I believe we will see a viable new public sector union made up of teachers and also health workers moving over from the other big union – COSATU. We will see the coming together of the mine and metal workers inside the new union federation. This will not be a small, toothless and powerless trade union federation but an organization representing 365,000 metal workers plus 180,000 mineworkers. This will be a significant new political and economic force in the country.
Marsha Coleman-Adebayo: Can you comment on recent student strikes on South African campuses calling for free education?
Rehad Desai: In the past few weeks, South African students across the country have conducted strikes refusing to pay fee increases and calling for “free education.” They have closed their campuses down in protest. I’m not talking about a few hundred students but tens of thousands of students who are organizing this militant campaign. These students understand the necessity of public education and the need for public access to higher learning as a pre-condition to fighting inequality and a sustainable democracy. South Africa is now considered one of the most unequal countries in the world.
Marsha Coleman-Adebayo: Could you comment on the Zuma Administration and the legacy of Nelson Mandela?
Rahad Desai: Unfortunately, Nelson Mandela and his colleagues made the decision to follow a neo-liberal economic policy. This shifted the direction of the country from one based on the Freedom Charter to one of a capitalist direct-investment policy. The crop of leaders around Mandela, I believe truly believed that the neo-liberal route was the best way to create a Black middle class and shift from a broad based empowerment policy to capitalist direction. They believed that these policies would “trickle down” to the masses. Of course, the “captains of industry” cautioned the new ANC leadership about implementing policies of nationalization and distribution of wealth. They intimidated the leadership by threatening economic backlash and isolation, threatening the leadership with the destruction of the South African economy. Mandela tried to walk a thin tight rope between both sides of the equation and he became a prisoner of the system. That led to the ditching of the Freedom Charter. In today’s terms, the Freedom Charter is a radical declaration of social democracy.
Marsha Coleman-Adebayo: What happened to the Freedom Charter? After all, Mandela said, before his release from prison, that it was “inconceivable” that he would not support the Freedom Charter.
Rahad Desai: Mandela was lobbied, quite heavily, even by the Chinese Communist Party, against policies of nationalization. Outside forces, including the active participation of the multinational mining concerns convinced ANC economists that any radical transformation of the South African economy would mean the destruction of the South African economy. It took Mandela a couple of years before he was confident enough to ditch any efforts at redistribution of wealth in the country.
Marsha Coleman-Adebayo: Will the Marikana Massacre intimidate the trade unions into compliance or will trade unions continue to pursue aggressive pro-worker/ liberation policies?
Rahad Desai: I think the State will be very careful in its future policing policies. We will see some policing reforms. I think we will see the State/government separate itself from corporations involved in labor disputes. The ANC would tell you that the Marikana Massacre happened because of poor intelligence. That’s their excuse. But, we know that the State planned Marikana. The ANC leadership know that when workers are shot down simply because they are asking for the right to dialogue, in this brutal fashion, by hundreds of policemen and 34 killed – that you have to take a side. Ordinary mine workers, who do back-breaking work – usually 6 days a week – at least 12 hours a day – in unbearable temperatures are clear that they are the economic engine of the country and without their sacrifice the country will be deprived of necessary foreign currency.
“We know that the State planned Marikana.”
It should be noted that the students in South Africa have been inspired by the Black Lives Matter Movement. I think we are entering into a very tumultuous political period in South Africa. As I stated earlier, the Marikana Massacre will take its place next to the Soweto and the Sharpeville Massacres.
Marikana was a watershed moment in South African history, where the youth, the labor movement have seen the ANC for what it is. It is clear that the State is not a neutral player. It acts in the interest of Capital. The ANC has been willing to do the bidding of the corporations and to turn its guns towards the very people who produce the wealth of the nation. This is obvious for hundreds of thousands of thinking people in South Africa. Why was 1960 significant? 1960 led the ANC to embark on a phase of armed struggle and radical transformative politics. What did 1976 do? It drove thousands of militants into revolutionary politics and the Black Consciousness Movement. The 2012 Marikana Massacre represents the beginning of the end of the African National Congress.
Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo is the author of the Pulitzer Prize nominated: No FEAR: A Whistleblowers Triumph over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA. She worked at the EPA for 18 years and blew the whistle on a US multinational corporation that endangered South African vanadium mine workers. Marsha's successful lawsuit led to the introduction and passage of the first civil rights and whistleblower law of the 21st century: the Notification of Federal Employees Anti-discrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002 (No FEAR Act). She is Director of Transparency and Accountability for the Green Shadow Cabinet, serves on the Advisory Board of ExposeFacts.com and coordinates the Hands Up Coalition, DC.