Today, 17th September 2012, marks another turning point in the working class struggle. While thousands of striking mineworkers and delegates from mineworker communities from across the country, make their way to Marikana in Rustenberg, thousands of shopstewards make their way to Gallagher Estate, for the Cosatu Congress.
The police sit as delegates in the Cosatu Congress; Cosatu union leaders such as from the National Union of Mineworkers, NUM, even proclaim that they ‘fully support the crackdown on criminality’. The worker delegates at the Cosatu Congress are intimidated and tightly controlled by the leadership cliques of their respective unions. It is likely that Popcru members have even been encouraged to be part of the suppression of the striking mineworkers. To date, Popcru has not even condemned the Marikana massacre of the 16th August. Were their members part of the special police unit that perpetrated the massacre? Are some of these police delegates to the Cosatu Congress? The Cosatu Congress has been funded from the investment companies, that draw their funds, in part, from exploitation of mineworkers. The ANC leadership operates the main labour brokers on the Platinum mines, among others; the ANC leaders operate the private security companies, like Protea Coin, that brutalise mineworkers daily and who proclaim themselves specialists in controlling industrial unrest. The SACP has a joint partnership with Implats (and thus with Anglo American) in the Taboti Platinum mine in Kalkfontein. Yet, the ANC and SACP leaders are welcomed to the Cosatu Congress, in fact they give the lead to the Congress. The BEE billionaires openly rub shoulders with the Cosatu delegates- they feel at home. I-phones, I-pads and bling-bling decorate this Congress where the leaders, one month after the massacre, have yet to organise a picket, let alone a single protest against the planned execution of the leadership of the striking mineworkers, by the forces of the ANC govt. Here are shopstewards and worker leaders who sell 6.8% or 7% as a victory to the working class when workers’ inflation runs at over 30%; these leaders claim that an electricity price increase of 15% is a victory, while most of the working class live in the dark.
The Cosatu leaders encourage the police to crack down on strikers; they encourage the state to impose a state of emergency on strikers in order to break the back of the strike, to enable scabs to go to work. The ANC govt acts as the executive arm of the mine bosses, chiefly Anglo American, to give protection to scabs to go to work. The Cosatu and SACP leaders want the workers to surrender, to go back to a life of slavery. The Cosatu leaders know that Anglo American and the other mining corporations are stealing hundreds of billions of Rands through transfer pricing, every year. But they remain silent on this criminality. The very mineworkers who stand up against this grand theft by the mine bosses, are regarded as ‘warlords’, as criminals. The Cosatu and SACP leaders support the state of emergency imposed by the ANC govt on all mines and mining communities. How far have these leaders diverted from the time of the 1987 mineworkers strike, which took place under the state of emergency by the apartheid regime. Then the Cosatu leaders refused to call out the rest of the working class in a general strike in support of the striking mineworkers. In the end, that strike ended in defeat, with the mineworkers isolated and the mine bosses cynically offering only an increase in death benefits. Shortly before the Cosatu Congress, the Alliance Secretariat (Vavi, Nzimande, Mantashe) issued a joint statement on the 7th September, where they blamed the Marikana deaths on the protesting strikers. They commend and support the role of the NUM leadership. They claim they act for ‘all South Africans’ which means they act for the mining bosses too. In fact their actions show, they act mainly for the mining capitalists. This alliance leadership wants the strikers and the families of the victims to ‘wait for the Commission’. Must the families and children in the mining squatter camps, in the rural areas of Lesotho, Swaziland and South Africa eat grass while they wait for this Commission? The crackdown and brutalization of the striking mineworkers is not ‘waiting for the Commission’- the workers are being attacked by the state right now, and continuously since the 16th August. Before the Marikana massacre, Frans Baleni, NUM Secretary, encouraged the police to shoot the strikers like they did Tatane. This is the NUM leadership that signs for 10% increase on a slave wage while allowing the bosses to steal hundreds of billions of Rands every year. This is the same NUM leadership that acts in partnership with Standard bank and Liberty and the Chamber of Mines, to act as a loan shark for their own members. This is the leadership that the ANC govt wants for mineworkers when they call for 1 union, one industry. The Cosatu leaders support this NUM leadership and ‘commends’ them for the good job done.
The striking mineworkers Congress gathers today in the dusty streets of Rustenberg; the police are everywhere to try to prevent it. They meet under the state of emergency imposed by the ‘democratic’ ANC regime. Workers’ delegates come with their own means, some on foot from the far corners of the country, determined to unite the mineworkers in a Congress, determined to advance an industry-wide general strike. The central objective is to achieve a living wage, to stop the mass theft that is daily perpretrated by Anglo American and other mining bosses. The strikers have long ago rejected a ‘Malema’ or any demagogue- they know they come for self-interest, not for advancing the cause of the working class. Workers have tolerated the presence of Malema at times because the mainstream media follows him and sometimes some of their cause gets attention. Workers know that Malema is sent by a faction of the ANC that wants to get their fingers on the state purse strings.
i-pads and bling bling are noticeably absent; absent are the BEE billionaires. A delegation from Cosatu came over the weekend but when strikers started asking them about why they are not stopping the stealing by the mining bosses, they replied that they were not there to discuss politics; the Cosatu delegation disappeared rapidly. The humble and simple demand from the strikers is for R12 500 per month, a demand which would cost less than 0,5% of the actual profits of the bosses. Yet the bosses say, this is not affordable. The mine bosses are defending the type of union which the Cosatu and many ‘independent’ unions represent, namely a union that acts to discipline the workers, that accepts peanuts while the bosses get away with the bulk of the wealth.
The humble and simple message from the striking mineworkers is that the mining corporations should stop stealing and all the wealth that has been stolen over the years should be brought back. Here is more than enough funds to wipe out unemployment in the entire Southern African region, if not the entire Africa. The mineworkers are demanding nationalization under workers control. What they are saying is that to nationalise under the control of this ANC govt is to put the mines in the control of the chief labour brokers and security companies that the ANC leaders run. The mineworkers are saying they know how to operate the mines. If the mine bosses do not want to bring back the stolen wealth, then they should just hand over the keys and go. The mineworkers are standing up for all the masses in the entire Africa not only for themselves.
The mineworkers are asking that the families of those massacred by the police should receive R12500 per month from the Lonmin bosses, with the annual increases and benefits, including medical and pension benefits as if the workers were still alive.
The striking mineworkers have said that the Cosatu Congress is faced with the choice: either break with the alliance with the ANC government, or they as the mineworkers will break with them. It is necessary to sweep out of office every leader and every shopteward who collaborates with the strikebreaking, labour broker ANC govt and the capitalists.
We call for all rank and file soldiers not to allow yourself to be used by the strikebreaker ANC govt. We call for strikers to set up self-defence committees as part of the strike committees, to act to defend the strikers against attacks by the state.
Cosatu was founded on ‘An injury to one is an injury to all’. Unions cannot be neutral in the class struggle. Let us stand up against massacre regime of the ANC. What fate awaits the future generation if we do not stand up now? Forward to an industry-wide, regional mineworkers strike, supported by a general strike. For strike committees, irrespective of which union you belong to, whether you are casual, contract or permanent, or local or immigrant, in every mine and every mineworker community, for solidarity strike committees in every workplace, farm, every school, every working class area. The ANC govt, the regional governments are all governments for the rich, they are not governments of the working class and fellow poor. They are the labour brokers for the rich monopolies, selling the working class into slavery.
We salute the workers and activists around the world who have rallied to support the striking mineworkers. The only point we can add is that there is a need to establish an international, revolutionary working class party, based on the above programme.