South African police followed their massacre of striking miners with beatings in prison, while bosses have threatened strikers with the sack—yet the struggle continues, writes Ken Olende
Thousands of platinum miners in Marikana, South Africa, were continuing to strike as Socialist Worker went to press. Strikers have defied a police massacre as well as concerted efforts to get them back to work.
Lonmin, the British firm that owns the mine, could only claim that 13 percent of strikers had returned on Monday.
This was despite the firm reintroducing a threat to sack all workers who did not return to work. The firm had been forced to withdraw that threat the previous week while South Africa officially mourned the massacre.
The atmosphere remains volatile. A wildcat strike last week at Royal Bafokeng Platinum mine was rapidly settled by management. On Friday of last week 100 workers at Anglo American’s Thembelani mine refused to go underground.
Lonmin miners who had been imprisoned after the massacre have sworn 194 affidavits stating that they were beaten up in police cells. South Africa’s police watchdog has launched an investigation.
A source in the justice system told the press, “This is probably revenge. Lots of police officers have seen those images [of two officers who had been killed during the strike] and are furious.”
Miners’ representative Lybon Mabasa said that some strikers had been so violently assaulted that their “eyes were [swollen] closed”.
Some 600 strikers defiantly gathered by the site of the massacre on Monday morning. Meanwhile more detail of the police massacre that killed 34 strikers is emerging.
One strike leader told a mass meeting what had led up to the strike and the massacre. He said, “On 9 August we had a meeting to discuss our working situation, salaries and unions.”
A delegation set out the following day to see management. Security guards stopped them, told them to wait and that management had heard their grievances. Workers remained and police demanded that they disperse.
The leader continued, “Three hours later we were still waiting for a response from our bosses. The police had started pointing their guns at us.
“The boss felt that we didn’t deserve a response because we were not there with our union representatives. In all honesty the NUM [the main union in the mines] had deserted us.”
The workers met again on Saturday night. Two were shot leaving the meeting. “We ran away in fear our lives and went to live in the mountain [the hillock where they met].”
They were still camped there when police moved in. “The police were killing us, running over us with their Casspirs [armoured cars] and shooting wildly.”
Send messages of support for the strikers to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union at firstname.lastname@example.org