Socialist Worker

Guards fire on striking miners in South Africa

by Ken Olende
Issue No. 2354

Ten striking chrome miners were hospitalised after rubber bullets were fired on Tuesday of this week at the Lanxess mine near Rustenberg in South Africa. 

Miners in Marikana last year

Miners in Marikana last year (Pic: Governm

Security guards hit at least 15 of the 470 miners on unofficial strike, saying they fired in self defence. 

The miners have been on unofficial strike since the previous Thursday. 

The incident happened close to where police massacred 34 striking miners at Marikana last August, also claiming self defence.

Tensions are high in the mining sector after a two-day stoppage at the Lonmin mine where the Marikana strike began, following the murder of an AMCU union activist.

AMCU has replaced the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM)as the dominant union in much of the mining sector. This is because it has been prepared to fight for increased wages, and lead unofficial strikes.

Territory

The NUM held a 1,000-strong political school last weekend. The speakers were keen to trash their rival union. 

South African Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande, told the workers that AMCU is not a trade union, but a group of “vigilantes and liars”.

NUM president Senzeni Zokwana said, “Instead of raising problems with employers, they just run to workers and instruct them not to go to work.”

The NUM is aggressively trying to hang on to its territory in the mines, but also by raising demands for wage increases. 

This month is traditionally the beginning of the annual wage negotiation round in South Africa. 

Bosses say there is no money for wage rises. Amplats, the world’s largest platinum producer made its first operating loss in South Africa in the last financial year. 

Earlier in the year Amplats said it would have to lay off 14,000 workers. Now it says it will “only” have to sack 6,000. 

Unions have greeted the new announcement with anger. Workers say they will down tools unless the company puts people before profits.

Elsewhere, around 1,600 workers joined a wildcat strike at Mercedes Benz which ended on Tuesday of this week. 

The Numsa union, one of the more radical voices in the Cosatu union federation, is demanding a 20 percent pay increase.

Numsa national treasurer Mphumzi Maqungo said, “If our demands are not met we will have no option but to go to the streets.”

A three-week strike at the state owned bus company ended with a pay rise of 9.5 percent. Currently inflation is running at around 6 percent.

Bosses claim that they can’t pay higher wages because they are not making enough profits. They blame this on workers demanding higher wages.


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Article information

International
Tue 21 May 2013, 19:16 BST
Issue No. 2354
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