Platinum miners at Marikana last week reoccupied the hill that, just days earlier, had been the scene of the police massacre that killed 34 strikers.
South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma has announced a judicial commission of inquiry into the deaths. But strikers ask how the government, whose police were responsible for the massacre, can be expected to reveal the truth.
The massacre has created a deep divide between the leadership of the governing party, the African National Congress (ANC), and its Youth League.
The Youth League is still led, in practice, by Julius Malema even though he has been expelled. He was the first politician on the scene at Marikana. His fiery denunciations of the police, Zuma, capitalism and the NUM union are well received.
The old left in South Africa has played an appalling role. The NUM pushed strongly for the police intervention that led to the massacre.
The union’s leadership is closely aligned with the South African Communist Party (SACP). Blade Nzimande, minister for higher education in Zuma’s government, leads the SACP.
It has defended the police while the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has refused to take sides on Marikana.
This is becoming increasingly untenable. Others have now confirmed that there was a second kill site at Marikana, as Socialist Worker revealed last week.
More miners were shot down as they fled to the “killing koppie”. Leaked autopsy reports confirm that most of the dead miners were shot in the back.
More than 200 people crowded into a 'never again' meeting at the University of Johannesburg on Wednesday of last week. Striking miners shouted down an official from the NUM who tried to speak.
The meeting called for an independent inquiry into the massacre and the establishment of a Marikana support committee.
The Democratic Left Front has taken part in these activities. It is a socialist grouping that includes members of the Socialist Workers Party’s sister organisation Keep Left.
Mining makes a minority rich
Rural people have lost land on a huge scale as mining has expanded in South Africa. Whole villages have been bulldozed and the scale of displacement is enormous.
Platinum mining is spearheading these changes. In 1994, when black majority rule was achieved, there were four platinum mines. Now there are 26.
In the rural areas where mines are being dug a small group of local black leaders have got very rich—but ordinary people haven’t seen the benefits.
Take Bafokeng, where the Impala platinum mine is. Leaders told local people they should support the development of new mining operations on their land as they would create jobs.
The new mines came, but the jobs didn’t appear. It was easier for the bosses to bring in skilled workers like rock drillers from the Eastern Cape or Lesotho than to train up local people.
The article by Gavin Capps has been amended to correct an error introduced by a sub editor