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On August 16, the anniversary of the police massacre on striking workers at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana, over 5000 mineworkers gathered on ‘the mountain’ where their comrades were shot down a year ago.
The hardest thing is that I don’t know why I survived… when nothing has changed, said one of the survivors who was one in the group that was mowed down in front of TV cameras. He was shot with 14 bullets and lay in a coma for two months.
Family members of the murdered workers spoke of their loss and pain. The ANC-government, which sent no representative to the commemoration, is at the time of writing rubbing salt in the wounds by rendering the commission of inquiry it instituted ‘to find the truth’ a complete farce by refusing to cover the cost of legal representation of the mineworkers’ families.
The Lonmin workers’ strike leaders spoke of the struggle the still face as the company tries to take back with the right hand the unprecedented wage increases it conceded a month after the massacre. Though Friday was a working day, thousands of Lonmin workers chose to sacrifice a day’s wages to pay their respects to their fallen comrades. Workers from throughout the Rustenburg platinum and chrome shafts also made their way to Marikana, as well as workers from Limpopo and Gauteng mines. They included workers from the three Amplats shafts in Rustenburg which were closed down on the very same day. Amplats, the world’s largest platinum producer, is imposing a massive cuts programme on the workers who were at the heart of the solidarity strike which followed the massacre and was decisive in turning the Lonmin strike towards a workers’ victory. Also present were workers from the Glencore-Xstrata mine in Tubatse, Limpopo, who were dismissed for taking strike action against the racist abuse they suffer in the mine in May. Fittingly, workers were therefore coming together on the margins of the rally to begin to work out a fight-back strategy against the bosses’ offensive which is now gathering speed.
The organisers of the commemoration rally were the Democratic Left Front-linked Marikana Support Campaign behind a front of conveners, namely Bishop Jo Seoka, who supported the strike, Advocate Dali Mpofu who represents the workers’ families at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry and Joseph Mathunjwa, the president of the workers’ new union AMCU. The event was conceived of as an all-inclusive ‘apolitical’ commemoration. The rally started off with an hour of prayers and contributions from religious leaders. Local kings and the Lonmin CEO were among the other speakers to be given a platform. All political parties, except for the Workers and Socialist Party which was formed by the Democratic Socialist Movement and mineworkers’ strike committees following the strike movement, had been invited to participate. All but the ruling ANC showed up, and were given a platform on the stage which had been sponsored by Lonmin. The Workers’ and Socialist Party however managed to push for a platform and Liv Shange eventually got to address the rally last, after a long list of right-wing politicians such as the Democratic Alliance to the Inkatha Freedom Party had poured crocodile tears, and after Julius Malema, the expelled ANC Youth League president-turned-‘Commander-in-Chief’ of the new Economic Freedom Fighters.
Malema’s speech was kept for last as a grande finale, and his sharp attack on the Lonmin management and the Zuma-government as responsible for the massacre was met with great enthusiasm by the workers. The attempt to again exclude WASP from the speakers’ list backfired when Liv Shange got to make the final speech after Malema, and was met with an equally warm welcome.
A year after applauding the massacre, the NUM and all other ANC-aligned structures were absent from the commemoration, which was condemned by the ANC in the North West province. NUM has just lost a long battle it fought by means of fraud, intimidation and court action to retain its recognition at Lonmin despite having lost nearly all its members to AMCU, which now has majority organising rights at Lonmin. A heavy police presence kept at a distance from the mountain.
A year after the massacre, the rally displayed the undeterred fighting spirit of the mineworkers. Despite the rather confusing circumstances of the rally – e.g. the involvement of the Lonmin bosses, and the political parties which despite their sweet talk represent the very ruling class which in effect ordered the Marikana hit – the level of class consciousness which Marikana registered in the minds of not only the Lonmin workers but of working class people across SA was also clear. It is an urgent necessity for mineworkers to once again come together as they did after the massacre, this time to respond to the onslaught on mining jobs and on their newly-recovered independent fighting capacity which the bosses have engaged in since the strike wave subsided. The willingness to give all the political parties an audience indicated the keen search for a political alternative. The battles that lie ahead centred on the mining industry will put to the test all those who claim to stand on the side of the workers. The reception the Workers and Socialist Party and the DSM received, including a record-high sale of the DSM paper Izwi labasebenzi and WASP t-shirts, show the confidence that the DSM has established for WASP among the mineworkers. WASP will certainly play a key role in the fight-back that must be driven by the mineworkers reaching out for support to other workers and struggling working class communities.
Workers, Communities and trade unionists unify their struggle
On Wednesday August 3rd the Sefateng Stadium in Atok was filled with revolutionary worker songs. More than 700 people had come to the stadium to launch the Workers and Socialist Party in Limpopo. Mineworkers from Bukoni and Steelport, community activists from different towns and youth sang: “Limpopo when we are united, we can do miracles”.
by Meschak Komani
The mineworkers of the Xstrata Steelport mine were the first to arrive in Atok. They have been on strike against racism for months. The company suspended each one of them. Since then they have been fighting for reinstatement.
Experienced in mobilizing for their struggle, they toyi-toyied through the town around the stadium carrying WASP banners and posters with their demands. Delegations from Carletonville mine and other places were also present. The long line of speakers was seated in the middle of the stadium with a sound system to address the crowd.
Weizmann Hamilton, DSM general secretary and member of the WASP interim committee, was the first to speak: “WASP was established to unify the struggles of the working class”. Speakers saluted mineworkers from both unions present, GIWUSA and AMCU, calling for cross-union solidarity. It was emphasized that workers unity has to be established within and across the boundaries of each of the main battle grounds — service delivery protests, student struggles against financial exclusion and unaffordable tuition fees, and workplace action for better wages and working conditions and against retrenchments. His ferocious attacks on the ANC government’s pro-capitalist policies and his outline of WASP’s socialist principles and programme were frequently interrupted with applause from the workers.
Weizmann explained how the mine bosses view this year’s wage negotiations as the most important since 1994 and are preparing an onslaught on the working class. They want to restore the balance of forces after the upheavals in the mining industry following the Marikana massacre. They are preparing for mass retrenchments in the mines and there is already a low intensity civil war going on in the mines. “WASP is the answer to these attacks” Weizmann told the audience.
Reinstate the 2000 Xstrata workers
The Xstrata company is the first to set an example by retrenching the 2000 workers who went on strike. They want to crush workers resistance. This is why WASP puts their case at the top of its agenda and the agenda of the left and trade union movement in general. WASP calls for a day of action and a Limpopo wide general strike for their reinstatement and the creation of 100.000 jobs in the Sekhukuni platinum belt. A statement to this effect was handed out to all participants at the launch.
This was endorsed by the AMCU shopsteward committee chairperson of Xstrata comrade Mohlala who spoke on behalf of the Xstrata workers. He warned of the planned retrenchments of 250 000 workers in the next five years to come. The working class has to unite against this attack. The launch was also the first time he met comrade Weizmann after over 20 years when they were fighting together in the Marxist Workers Tendency of the ANC (predecessors of the DSM). He reaffirmed his continued commitment to the struggle for socialism emphasising that they both stand in the firm traditions of Marxism.
Justice Malatji from the Bokoni Labor Forum spoke for the mineworkers of the region. He explained why they had no choice but to join new trade unions after they were sold out by the corrupt NUM leadership. The mining industry was not the only sector represented at the meeting. Liver Mngomezulu, deputy president of the National Transport Movement, a new militant union that split from the Cosatu affiliate, the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union spoke on behalf of his union. He explained the need of all workers to unite under a mass workers party. He was warmly welcomed by the audience.
Trevor Shaku from the Socialist Youth Movement brought greetings of the youth and explained how the creation of more jobs in the mines would help to solve the creeping problem of youth unemployment in the region. The launch was closed by DSM spokesperson Liv Shange. She pointed out how much the capitalists are afraid of the power of the working class at the moment. They are afraid of the battles ahead but also of the outcome of the elections. But the establishment of WASP is not only for the elections but to unite the working class for the struggles to come and fight for a socialist society. After she spoke the voices of singing workers echoed “The capitalists are shaking…” in the Sefakeng stadium.
The launch was undoubtedly a great success particularly since it represented a breakthrough into new ground. Until the Limpopo launch WASP’s presence in this province was limited to the Bokoni mine where it has been established by the workers committee. The strong presence of Xstrata workers, who dominated those in attendance, was convincing evidence of the growth and further development of WASP. Already, since the launch, WASP has been contacted by workers from all mines and other industries from all over the region who want WASP to help them form new, fighting militant unions.
The Workers and Socialist Party to hold mass rally launching Limpopo structure
WHEN: Saturday August 3, 2013, 10h00 – 15h00
WHERE: Sefateng Stadium, Atok, Sekhukhune district, Limpopo (directions below)
The Workers and Socialist Party (WASP), Limpopo province, is this Saturday launching at a mass rally near Bokoni Platinum mine, Atok. Expected to be in attendance are thousands of mineworkers from the area, including workers struggling against their dismissal from the nearby Glencore-Xstrata Eastern Chrome mine, local communities who have organised in support of the workers as well as for access to services and education, and representatives from various organisations participating in the building of WASP.
The first in a series of provincial launches in the next few months, the main focus of the rally is the launching of a mass action campaign in defence of the 2000 dismissed Glencore-Xstrata workers and for the creation of 100 000 jobs in the Sekhukhune district at the expense of the mining companies’ multibillion profits. The 2000 workers were in effect dismissed for taking action against racist abuse in the workplace.
This rally is to announce the firm presence of WASP as a centre for working class resistance and struggle in Limpopo, says Mametlwe Sebei, WASP spokesperson.
A Limpopo-wide day of action for the reinstatement of the Glencore-Xstrata workers, for the massive expansion of decent jobs, education and services will be announced at the rally. This will also be linked to WASP’s call for a national day of action against mining retrenchments, for jobs and service delivery.
WASP calls for the nationalisation of the mines, banks, big farms and factories under democratic control by workers and working class communities.
Mametlwe Sebei, WASP spokesperson, 081 368 0706
Jonas Magedi, WASP-Limpopo, 076 317 6955
DIRECTIONS TO SEFATENG STADIUM:
From Polokwane, take R37 towards Burgersfort, follow it for about 70km, at first sign towards Bokoni Platinum Mine, turn right (opposite Mpusheng Sports Complex), drive straight about 1,5km until arrival at Sefateng Stadium;
From Burgersfort, take R37 north towards Polokwane, turn left at first sign towards Bokoni Platinum Mine (opposite Mpusheng Sports Complex on your left), drive straight about 1,5km until arrival at Sefateng Stadium;
From Witbank, take R555, pass Steelport, take left into R37, follow the above;
From Tshwane, take N1 north towards Polokwane, exit onto N1/R71 towards Louis Trichardt, get onto R37, follow for about 65km, take right at first sign towards Bokoni Platinum Mine (opposite Mpusheng Sports Complex), drive straight about 1,5km until arrival at Sefateng Stadium;
Alternatively, from Tshwane, go via kwaMhlanga, Marble Hall and Mathibela (from Mathibela, take R519 east, turn left onto R579, then right at T-junction onto R37 east, at first sign towards Bokoni Platinum Mine, turn right (opposite Mpusheng Sports Complex on your left), drive straight about 1,5km until arrival at Sefateng Stadium
Use mining profits to create 100 000 Jobs!
Xstrata_Leaflet (Download Statement as leaflet)
The Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) calls on all workers and residents to support the Glencore Xstrata Eastern Chrome Mine workers’ struggle for reinstatement. The 2000 mineworkers were fired after they went on strike in May in protest against the company’s protection of a white supervisor who racially assaulted a black worker. This is also a struggle against racism and for workers’ right to stand up against it, as well as for the mineral resources to be used to create decent jobs for all who need them.
Mine bosses feed on racism
The heartless dismissal of the Xstrata workers for protesting legitimately against racism reveals how racism remains ingrained to the core of the mining industry. Racism has always been part of the lifeblood of the SA mining industry, with the cheap black migrant labour and white baaskap system as the basis for a ruthless exploitation of the black working class, in particular, yielding the bosses extremely high levels of profit. Worldwide, racism has been a weapon to divide and rule the working class since the capitalist system first emerged.
Outrageous as the Glencore Xstrata bosses’ protection of a racist white worker may be, their primary objective is another. The dismissal first and foremost signifies another attempt by the mining bosses to turn the tables and reverse the balance of class forces in the mining industry, which were shifted in favour of the mineworkers by the strikes of last year. The Lonmin workers’ unprecedented 2012 victory over the brutal attempts of the mining bosses and their capitalist ANC government to drown in blood their struggle for better wages, in defiance of the NUM leadership, represented an important historical turning point in the relationship between mineworkers and -bosses.
The Lonmin strike victory – reinstatement of all workers and an 11-22% wage increase – inspired workers throughout the mining industry, on the farms and in other industries to rise to their feet and fight for better wages and working conditions, against racism and the whole system of working class slavery. It is this newly found confidence in the power of independent organisation and struggle that the mine bosses want to bring to an end.
An injury to one is an injury to all!
The main reason for the dismissal the Xstrata workers is to contain the virus of mineworkers militancy from spreading across the Sekhukhune platinum belt, to ‘teach’ other workers a lesson not to struggle and thus suppress the renewed self-confidence and militancy of the working class everywhere. Their dismissal should therefore be seen as an attack on all mineworkers and the whole working class. It is for this reason that other mineworkers, particularly from around the Steelpoort and Burgersfort areas, the whole of organised labour, communities and youth should rise and mobilise in defence of the Glencore Xstrata workers.
To act otherwise would be to isolate the Xstrata workers and allow their defeat, which could serve to demoralise all other workers and discourage them from struggling for better working and living conditions, while encouraging the bosses to escalate the attacks they are already launching against the mineworkers in Rustenburg, Carletonville, Klerksdorp and the working class communities and youth everywhere.
Say no to the bosses’ divide-and-rule!
In a manoeuvre to divide the workers and communities, the Glencore Xstrata management has advertised the jobs of its workers with the dispute still pending. Obviously they are trying to take advantage of the high level of unemployment, evident in the close to 100 000 applications for the mere 1000 positions advertised. If anything this reveals just how hopeless is the idea that communities and young people can secure a future by scavenging on the jobs of the dismissed Glencore Xstrata workers.
We can no longer accept this dog-eat-dog race to the bottom. The 1000 new posts will not be permanent, secure jobs. The ‘lucky’ few replacements will be casuals at the mercy of the same racist management. We can longer accept that the mining giants pillage our land and people, taking home billions in profit every year, and leave nothing to show for it in our communities.
The only alternative to this divisive competition for the crumbs of a few jobs thrown at the workers and communities is the unity of the workers, communities and youth. In WASP’s view the basis for such unity is a programme demanding both the reinstatement of the dismissed workers, satisfaction of their demands and the creation of jobs for all 100 000 applicants by Glencore Xstrata and the other mines, as well as the provision of free services such as education, water, electricity, roads and housing in all communities at the cost of the mining industry. This would be possible on the basis of the fabulous wealth created by the workers – Glencore Xstrata, for example, made net profits of over R11bn last year. With this money alone one could employ 73.000 people on a wage of R12.500!!
The programme should entail a campaign of joint, rolling mass action involving workers, communities and youth. To this end, communities and youth, particularly students in secondary schools and colleges should elect committees that would join forces with the committees of the workers from various mines, and trade unions where possible, to work-out a fighting plan and co-ordinate mass action in the mines and other workplaces, communities and schools.
Only this and nothing less could paralyse the determination of the mining bosses to set an example of devastating defeat with the Glencore Xstrata workers, advance workers and communities’ struggle for jobs for all and free basic services for all.
WASP proposes a joint workers and community campaign of rolling mass action for:
Reinstatement of the dismissed Glencore Xstrata workers release all arrested protestors
Dismiss the racist supervisor and those in management responsible for protecting him
For 100.000 jobs by Xstrata and other mining companies in the Sekhukuni platinum belt to employ the applicants and give socially useful, decent jobs for the community – cut the working week without loss of pay
Nationalisation of the mines under democratic workers control and management
Use the mine and companies profits for:
- Expended public works programme to build decent roads, houses, electricity and water provision for all
- Build more schools and classrooms, colleges and universities
- Abolish all fees in public schools and colleges
- Build more and better equipped clinics and hospitals; fill all staff vacancies
- Minimum wage of R12 500
To this end WASP calls for:
- A conference of all mass democratic organisations of local communities, workers and youth/students to discuss and adopt a common programme of demands and action.
- Election of Worker and Community Forums in every village to co-ordinate these various organisations and plans of joint, mass actions.
- A day of Regional General Strike of all workers, communities and students in the whole Sekhukhune district