Socialist Worker

South Africa cops attack miners as fight spreads

by Ken Olende
Issue No. 2321


Platinum miners in Marikana, South Africa, protested outside Lonmin’s mine compound on Monday of this week, despite a police crackdown the previous weekend.

On union advice they moved to a local football stadium. Their solid strike started on 10 August.

On Wednesday of last week Lonmin strikers picketed out workers at Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), South Africa’s largest platinum mining company.

Police raided homes of striking miners in Marikana last Saturday, searching for weapons. They used rubber bullets and tear gas against miners who gathered to protest against them.

This is the first time the police have attacked miners since they massacred 34 and injured another 78 last month.

The next day, riot police and armoured cars stopped strikers from marching to protest against police violence in the city of Rustenburg. This is a city in the platinum mining region about 60 miles from Johannesburg.

For a second day they fired rubber bullets at strikers in Marikana. But many have expressed their disgust at the state’s actions.

The anti-capitalist organisation Democratic Left Front said, “We are told that the ‘full might of the law’ will be used to curb further unrest...

“There is talk of ‘illegal strikes’ when no strikes are illegal in South Africa. They are simply protected or unprotected.”

Standby

The state has also put the army on standby. South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma claimed that “Government action in Marikana is directed at ensuring that citizens exercise their rights peacefully and within the ambit of the law.”

However he has not called for the disarming of mine security guards or the police who carried out the massacre. But their action got another 60,000 workers to join the strike for higher wages.

When the strike at Amplats began, management there claimed they had “voluntarily” closed five mines because of “concerns over workers’ safety”.

The following Monday they said they would re-open production on Tuesday. Strikers from Amplats joined Marikana workers at a rally in Blesbok football stadium in Rustenburg.

Angry workers have left the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which is closely associated with the governing ANC. They say it does not represent their interests.

Some 15,000 gold miners are still on unofficial strike at KDC West mine. The NUM sent officials to try to convince them to return to work.

As they approached a workers’ mass meeting, union officials were met with cries of “Voetsek! Fokof!” (Go! Fuck off!) Amplats management said that they hoped to re-open their mines on Tuesday. A striker dismissed that as “a joke”.


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International
Tue 18 Sep 2012, 16:50 BST
Issue No. 2321
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