On the Farlam Commission report and the Marikana massacre
The leadership of the SACP, NUM, Cosatu and the ANC would have us believe that the striking mineworkers at Marikana were ‘violent’, that they were thugs. The Farlam Commission report, limited as it is, shows the contrary.
Despite the political manipulation of the conclusions of the Farlam Commission by imperialism and the ruling party, the evidence is very clear that the ANC leaders, the NUM leaders and the Lonmin bosses worked together to massacre the striking mineworkers’ leaders.
A central point made by the Commission was:
‘ It is clear from the evidence that either none, or very few, of the strikers who were killed had been shooting at the police.’ [page 375, paragraph 1083 of the Farlam final, published report]
If you consider that none of the police suffered a single gunshot wound, nor even a scratch and that not a single bullet was found from the supposed shots fired by workers, we can only conclude that not a single worker, who was killed by the police, had shot at the police.
This exposes the lie of the police that the workers had ‘planned to attack and kill police’ on the 16th Aug 2012. This shows that the strikers were unarmed. The Farlam report rather loosely used the term ‘armed’ to mean: carrying sticks, kieries, pangas or spears. This was a deliberate exaggeration by the police to cover up their planned massacre, which the Farlam Commission did not expose strongly enough.
The SACP has long argued that the first step towards Socialism is for a ‘national democratic revolution’, namely that in order to achieve the democratic programme, it was necessary to hold back the working class from taking power on its own and that a multiclass alliance, of the working class and the indigenous, oppressed middle class and capitalist class, had to assume the reins of power.
The Marikana massacre shows that not only is the alliance unable to achieve even the most basic democratic demand around housing and the dismantling of the migrant labour system, but on all major questions, the indigenous, formerly oppressed, middle class has sided with big capital against the interests of the working class. The big monopolies are more entrenched than ever.
The mineworkers showed the way by establishing independent committees that were based on delegates from the employed workers and the unemployed from the surrounding communities. This political break from the ANC and SACP started with the mineworkers and extended to the break of the Numsa workers from these parties. The #feesmustfall student-worker movement owed its successes in that it broke decisively from the domination of the ANC-SACP as well as the parliamentary parties.
The central point here is that the path to achieving even the most basic democratic demands, can only be achieved by the working class taking political power on its own. The bourgeois apparatus proved itself unable to even have a full investigation into the massacre and failed to come up with fundamental recommendations to undercut the violence that is the centre of the exploitation on the mines. The only path to the decisive expropriation of the commanding heights lies in the hands of the working class taking political power. No other class has the interest to carry out this step. Even the partial and vague demands of the Freedom Charter are incapable of being realized through an ANC govt nor any govt that leaves the current repressive apparatus intact.
In short, if the mineworkers want justice, they need to organise the entire working class independently and against the capitalist state.
The state had planned to massacre the leaders of the strike
The report goes on to say:
‘The obvious question, then, is why they were shot. The explanation is that this was a paramilitary operation, with the aim of annihilating those who were perceived as the enemy.’ [page 375-6; paragraph 1083 ]
There we have it, the state planned and carried out a paramilitary operation to annihilate the leaders of the strikers, knowing full well that they were unarmed. Thus it is no accident that many of the police had their R5 rifles on machine-gun mode on the 16th Aug 2012.
The point is, why did imperialism and the state consider a massacre necessary. We turn to the reasons below.
Anglo American was the driving force behind the massacre
Cyril Ramaphosa reported that industry was pressurising him to end the strike. There are 3 main players in the Platinum sector: Amplats (Anglo American, by far the biggest), Lonmin and Implats.
In January 2012 there was a strike at Implats where the bosses were forced to increase the wages of the RDO’ s (Rock Drill Operators). The bosses were scared that if the workers’ won their demands at Lonmin then Amplats would be next. This was to be avoided at all costs. Thus Amplats brought pressure on the Lonmin bosses to end the strike as soon as possible. In fact NUM leaders confirmed (p489) that Anglo Platinum had raised concerns over the demands of the RDO’s with them. This is further evidence of the complicity of Anglo American in the massacre.
At stake was not just a matter of a single wage negotiations but the entire basis of cheap labour, the very foundation of capitalism was being threatened by the workers’ committees. More on this later.
In 1973 the copper mines in Chile were expropriated by the Allende government. Chase Manhattan bank (main shareholder of Anglo American), Pepsi and Anaconda copper (main shareholder, the Rockefellers), held a meeting where they decided that the government should be overthrown. The CIA supported a military coup in September 1973 on behalf of these capitalists. There is a long history of violence by Anglo American and others, across Africa, across South America, in Asia, against the working class and broader masses. Millions have died at their hands. This is further political evidence that indeed Anglo American was the main driving force behind the Marikana massacre. In this case, more precisely, US and British imperialism were behind the Marikana massacre. The mining revolt had to be put out at all costs.
There was also the factor that the strikes at Implats and Lonmin had set up independent committees, which united workers irrespective of union affiliation. This posed a serious threat to imperialism in SA and indeed across the region. This is because the union structures are used by imperialism as a means to hold wages and conditions down. In particular in SA, the Cosatu union leaders play a major role in maintaining low wages.
NUM has a bargaining process where workers have general meetings to draft demands but before demands are submitted to the bosses, it first goes to a forum where the demands are checked and adjusted downwards so that they meet the industry ‘norms’. Then the demands are passed on to the bosses. The rise of independent committees would mean the breaking of the iron grip of the union bureaucracy that is a central component of maintaining the current cheap labour system on the mines and in the broader economy. The independent committees would have provided a fundamental challenge to the cheap labour system that capitalism thrives on in SA and in much of the neo-colonial world.
Considering that in 2012 NUM was the main union in the mining sector and that Anglo American is the main boss therein, there was (and still is) a cosy relation between these 2 to maintain the system of cheap labour. Further, considering that various ANC leaders are on the boards of the mines, the essence of the Cosatu- ANC-SACP alliance is a partnership with Anglo American (who controls the bulk of the the economy in SA and the region) in maintaining capitalist relations here. The rise of worker revolt against capitalist regimes around the globe since 2011 was also reflected in the mineworkers’ revolt, in SA, of 2012 onwards and in the workers’ revolts in Numsa, the farm workers’ struggles and in the #feesmustfall worker-student movement.
Thus imperialism had a broader objective of smothering a workers’ revolt here as part of their efforts to put out the flames of revolution around the world. In Egypt when the masses toppled the hated Mubarak regime, imperialism installed a military regime in its place. In Syria, imperialism united all their reactionary forces in the world against the heroic masses. In SA, imperialism launched the Marikana massacre to protect the cheap labour system that capitalism depends on.
The Tahrir Square revolt inspired the working class and broader masses around the world; it sparked the Occupy Wall Street movement in the USA, the occupation of public squares in Greece and Spain and many other countries. A successful workers’ uprising in South Africa could have inspired the masses even more. This is why imperialism had to crush the strike and the independent committees, even if it meant a massacre. This is the bloody history of how imperialism gains and sustains its control of the masses.
The structure of the mining industry
The Journal of Southern African Studies (Ashman, Newman, Fine) reports that theft by mining companies over many decades, before 1994 and since 1994 has been quite massive. All the mines and banks in South Africa are controlled by imperialism, even the Reserve Bank is controlled by JP Morgan Chase. Besides the huge profits, the mining companies/imperialism have been taking out, through illegal means, about R200bn per annum. The rate of theft increased since 1994 and reached its peak in 2007 when over R600bn was illegally taken out by Anglo American and others. These funds could have wiped out unemployment and homelessness overnight; they could also have provided free, quality education and health care for all, not only for SA but the whole Southern African region.
The entire structure of the SA economy is based on the extraction of raw minerals and primary agricultural goods by imperialism, for export. In other words, the economy is being limited deliberately, in the main, to the production of raw materials and thus is still primarily based on cheap labour. The 18 years since 1994 up to the Marikana massacre, had not transformed the cheap labour basis of the economy. If anything, the cheap labour economy has been entrenched.
The government and Cosatu and NUM leaders are all aware of this and are complicit in maintaining these slave relations. The previous Reserve Bank governor, Tito Mboweni, who was supposed to challenge this theft, turned a blind eye, taking up Chairmanship of Anglo Gold, after retiring; an ex Director General of the Dept Minerals and Energy, took up a CEO post at Bokoni Platinum, a joint venture with Anglo American; the SACP investment company has shares in Kameni Platinum mine. The Cosatu investment company has stakes in mining as well. The Zuma and Gupta families run labour brokers on the mines; Ramaphosa and Sexwale have a stake in security firms on the mines. Lonmin loaned Ramaphosa the funds to buy shares in Lonmin itself.
Thus we can now see that the ANC has replaced the old NP as chief of security for the mining monopolies, and is just as willing, for a few pennies, to commit massacres for them.
So confident were the Lonmin bosses of the support of the ANC that they only built 3 of the 5500 houses they had promised in their ‘Social Labour Plan’ that was one of their conditions for receiving a mining licence. Thus the Lonmin bosses were maintaining the migrant labour system on their mines but were confident that with an ANC leader on their board, they would not be challenged on this at all.
By contrast, the mineworkers had broken from the alliance with the ANC and SACP, and were spearheading the taking back of a tiny amount of the trillions that Anglo American and others were taking out of the country.
Further evidence that a massacre was planned
On the 14th Aug 2012 the Lonmin bosses met the police and agreed with a plan to massacre the workers; the provincial commissioner of police met with the National Management Forum (NMF) on the evening of the 15th Aug 2012 where the plan was finalised. The recording of this NMF meeting was lost- the police did not put the recording into its safe as per procedure but handed it to a police officer, who ‘lost’ it.
Commissioner Mbombo was recorded in the meeting of 14th Aug 2012 to remark that she also liked the plan to have snipers. This was conveniently left out of the Farlam Commission report but was captured in the Mail & Guardian. This links up with the shooting of one of the strikers who was shot in the back from 200m by the police.
The police ordered, in advance, 4000 extra R5 bullets and 4 extra mortuary vehicles (which could take 16 bodies).
The earlier records of the Lonmin security meetings where the NUM officials were present, which identified leaders of the strikers, were mysteriously lost. In its place the Lonmin bosses claimed that the strikers were a ‘faceless’ group. This is despite having wide camera footage of the entire strike. The claimed to know that the ‘militant group’ was about 300 strikers, yet mysteriously did not know any of their names- they were faceless, the company kept on repeating.
The police had a 10 day conference (27 Aug to 8 Sept 2012) after the massacre to prepare their statements. (This was the so-called Roots conference). They had another parallel set of meetings at the same time, from the 27th Aug to 20 Sept 2012, which was not to draw the lessons but to try and correct the story which was emerging from the initial meeting. The minutes of these parallel meetings have also disappeared. This is the conclusion of the conservative SA Human Rights Commission:
‘They submit that the SAPS did in fact use Roots as an opportunity to collude in that various aspects of the case of the South African Police Services are materially false and that the South African Police Services failed to comply fully with its discovery obligation to discover vital documents relevant to the process.’ page 403 of the Farlam report.
Mr X who was brought in by the police to strengthen their case of ‘striker violence’, was so totally discredited that all his ‘evidence’ was rejected, except that on the so called use of muti. We say that his evidence should be rejected in toto as he could have been lying on aspects of the muti as well. He mentioned nothing about strikers wanting to attack police in his initial statement, but 2 years after the massacre, after he had rejoined NUM, he suddenly remembered that strikers planned to attack the police.
Mr X and other witnesses confirmed that strikers had no intention of attacking the settlements. Why would the strikers attack the very places where they stayed? This exposed the lie of the police who claimed they put the barbed wire in position to protect the residential area. So why was the barbed wire placed in these positions?