South African and International Press Review

(October 9-26, 2012)


Even dismissed, the strikers [in South Africa] are standing firm on their demands


AFP, October 9 : «A meeting between government representatives and the miners dismissed last week by Anglo American Platinum took place on October 8. The strikers are demanding pay rises and are standing firm on their demands, in spite of the dismissal of twelve thousand of them that was announced by the world's number one platinum extraction company. The dismissed strikers have no tintention of abandoning their fight . . ., they remain determined to continue their action.»


Zuma convenes a «social summit» ...


On October 12, the South African economic and financial daily Business Day reported that President Zuma «had invited representatives from the business world, trade unions and civil society to a meeting to find solutions to the wave of violent strikes that are threatening economic growth .»

The article continued, «Jacob Zuma stood up forcefully against the violence linked to the strikes. He stated that although it was a democratic right of the workers to strike, the culture of deadly violence against persons, combined with the destruction of property, was unacceptable.»


Not a word, of course, on the police massacres.


Business Day added: «The president of the COSATU trade union federation, S'dumo Dlamini, decared that in this meeting 'they had been informed of the veiwpoint of the international investors concerning the current situation in the mines.' He added that, «A call must be made to all South Africans : yes, we have problems but let us not destroy our jobs ; we need to clearly demonstrate where the genuine leaders of the people are; the danger is that the workers realize too late that Julius Malema has lied to them.»


Business Day reports that the president of the bosses' association Business Unity, Jabu Mabuza has declared that «the call from the president is timely and must be supported; it was good to hear it said that the violent character of the strikes was unacceptable».

... But the strikes are spreading


Five days after the Social Summit, it is obvious that nothing has been resolved. The strike is taking root. It is estimated that 100,000 workers are affected by the strike. Zuma has been forced to reiterate his call to the «social partners». The Sowetan of October 17 headlined, «Zuma says to the strikers 'Back to work now'».


It is a call that has no no echo, despite the violence against the strikers.


In the Kumba iron ore mine, for example, according to the Mail and Guardian of October 16, 300 workers decided to stop production. They are demanding that their salaries be increased to 15,000 Rands and they have been occupying the premises. Brutally, a 200-strong commando of police, special forces agents and security guards took the place over. Seven miners were injured and 40 were arrested.

Strike in a diamond mine


On October 18, a South African press agency announced that the diamond workers of Petra, east of Pretoria (approximately 1,800 workers, 1,000 of whom are members of the National Union of Mineworkers / NUM), had gone on strike, demanding a salary of 12,500 Rands. Their strike is «illegal» and the NUM section does not support it but, according to its general secretary, the union has been compelled to represent the miners.

In other sectors ...

The conflict has been concentrated in the mining sector but has spilled over into other branches, such as the truckers who, after three weeks of strike, have won significant pay increases.

As the press has admitted, «the COSATU union federation, which is losing ground,» has been led to to giving its approval to these strikes. Such is the case, for example, for the strike in the clothing-workers industry of Newcastle, who until now have been paid below the legal minimum wage.

The COSATU leadership has backed Zuma


After Zuma reiterated his call for the strikers to go back to work, the press agencies announced, on October 18, that «COSATU will back President Zuma's candidacy for a second term as head of the ANC».


A meeting of the strike committee delegates affirm, «We will not give in!»


That is the conclusion that the Financial Times (October 19) has drawn from the situation and a gathering of delegates from several mines: «Those who participated in this gathering of 'workers' delegates' from the platinum and gold sectors, the sectors heaviest hit by the strikes, have sent a harsh warning to the mining companies : the miners demands must be met, or the strikes that broke out in August will spread. . . . Sphamanala Makhanya, a winch operator, has spent a decade in the mines and said he took home around R5,000 a month before he was dismissed by Amplats. He lives in a tin shack in a squatter camp and 10 of his relatives, including his four children in faraway KwaZulu Natal province, depend on his salary.»


Provocation from Anglogold Ashandi


A spectacular example of the escalation in social unrest is the following: AngloGold Ashanti, the world's number three producer of gold, has been forced to suspend all its operations overnight, because 24,000 of their 35,000 empolyees went on strike last month (Financial Times, October 19). On October 22 «AngloGold Ashanti . . . threatened to dismiss its strikers if they did not return to work by Wednesday.» (AFP)


«Legitimate Defence»?


Two months after the Marikana tragedy, not one single police agent has been placed under investigation. At the inquiry set upby the government, the lawyer for the South African police expressed regret but pleaded «legitimate defence.»


We must remember that at least 34 miners were killed, many of them by a bullet in the back.