South Africa: Justice needed for Marikana workers and community

August 25, 2012

In the aftermath of the terrible Marikana massacre on August 16, many statements have been released by South Africa's left, condemning and explaining the murder of more than 34 miners that day and several others in the weeks previously. Many of these statements can be read at Green Left Weekly's sister publication Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal.

Below is the August 23 statement by the Democratic Left Front, a South African anti-capitalist group formed in January last year.

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On August 16, post-apartheid democracy lurched into a horror. It was estimated 34 mineworkers at the Lonmin mine in the North West province were brutally gunned down by police, and in total more than 70 workers have been injured.

The death toll at this stage is still not completely verified, with the community still reporting loved ones missing and not accounted for in official body counts.

The Democratic Left Front (DLF) has been providing solidarity to the Marikana workers and community over the past few days and has actively supported a public meeting with the Marikana workers held at the University of Johannesburg on August 22. We have not produced an earlier statement because we wanted to be clear on the mineworkers’ own account of what happened.

From eyewitness accounts and academic assessments, provided at the public meeting, all the evidence of police action points to pre-mediated and orchestrated state violence.

A day after the provincial police commissioner said the police will end the strike, workers were herded towards a barbed wire exit with tear gas and rubber bullets, then gunned down as they tried to make their way through a narrow opening.

Moreover, other workers were randomly shot in other locations, in and around “Horror Mountain”, and some were run down with police Caspirs [armoured vehicles]. The DLF believes the state at its highest levels has a case to answer for the cold-blooded murder of the Lonmin workers.

We condemn the management of Lonmin for its refusal to negotiate with the striking mineworkers and believe that it also has a case to answer for its complicity in the massacre. We note that BEE [black economic empowerment] figures such as Cyril Ramaphosa also have a financial stake in Lonmin.

The Marikana massacre was a barbaric act of planned state violence. It is also unfortunate that South Africa’s media are not reporting in an all-rounded manner about the massacre and what happened.

The call by the City Press for the National Intelligence Agency to investigate the strike action is an attempt by the media to “securitise” legitimate and constitutionally guaranteed strike action. We reject this kind of partisan reporting.

However, the Marikana massacre merely illustrates an invisible and localised trend of ANC-police orchestrated violence against communities giving voice to their legitimate concerns about corruption, lack of service delivery and wanting democratisation of ward communities.

Marikana is the most visible expression of a low-intensity war by the ANC state against the working class.

For the poor, South Africa has became a nightmare of state authoritarianism. The brutal shooting of Andries Tatane [a 33-year-old man who died in a protest aganst poor service delivery in April last year in Ficksburg] among others underlines this.

Despite the ANC government’s call for a week of mourning, the Marikana massacre has garnered national and global sympathy for the mineworkers. The ghastly and painful visual images of the massacre mobilised public opinion in support of the victims of this tragedy.

We welcome all statements and acts of solidarity, such as those by the Labour Party of Pakistan and workers in Oakland, California. We encourage progressives in the world to actively demonstrate their solidarity as they have done outside South African embassies in Spain, New Zealand and Ireland thus far.

The DLF fully supports the concerns raised by the Marikana workers and community about the potential partiality of the state announced commission of enquiry.

Together with the workers and community we believe this would be a scapegoating exercise, without full transparency, and will protect the political forces in the state responsible for this heinous deed.

Together with the Marikana workers and community we have agreed on the following to support the ongoing strike action and struggle for justice:
August 29 to be a national and international day of solidarity with the Marikana workers;
To give solidarity to workers in the platinum industry willing to advance solidarity strike action and a general strike;
To call for an independent people's commission of enquiry to provide a basis for testimony and witness to be documented. The people’s truth has to prevail about what happened rather than an official state version;
Continue discussions with the Marikana workers and community on how to deepen solidarity.

The DLF supports the mineworkers’ demand for a basic wage rise from R4000 (about $460) a month to R12,500 for the dangerous work they do underground, and calls on the profit-rich platinum industry to extend this to all underground mineworkers.

We also call on the unemployed not to undermine the strike of the workers by working as scab labour and to stand in solidarity with workers.

Moreover, the DLF fully supports the charges of murder laid by the Marikana workers against the South African Police Services.

We also demand the immediate release of all mineworkers being held in police custody and for all charges to be dropped. This is punitive in the light of the state’s announcement of a so-called Commission of Enquiry.

The DLF believes the Marikana massacre is a defining moment for our democracy and underlines the importance of reclaiming our democracy from below.

Like the 1946 mineworkers' strike, Marikana opens a new period of struggle for a post-national liberation and post-neoliberal South Africa. Like the Marikana workers, we believe a post-apartheid labour market and another South Africa is possible; an eco-socialist South Africa.

Justice now for the Marikana workers and communities! Solidarity with the striking mineworkers! Long live the memory of the Marikana martyrs! Speak out now! Defend democracy from below! Forward to an eco-socialist South Africa!

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