Open letter to the members of Cosatu and rank and file members of the SACP on the large scale theft by Anglo American and other mining capitalists

 We address this urgent letter to you because we are concerned that in the biggest mineworkers strike since 1987 you are silent, in fact you dismiss the strike as hellbent on destroying Cosatu and NUM and that it is reactionary. In fact most of the workers on strike are members of NUM and thus members of Cosatu. Why would members of Cosatu want to destroy it? Why would so many thousands of workers allow themselves to be ‘manipulated’ into a reactionary strike? Surely there must be another explanation.

We know that AMCU has been opportunist to try and ride on the wave of workers dissatisfaction in order to recruit members. But AMCU is not leading the strike. At Lonmin the strikers did not want to be represented by any union, not even AMCU.  The question is why? 

The mine bosses are stealing trillions of Rands but neither the NUM nor Cosatu leadership does anything about it

We quote from a journal article which shows that the stealing by the mine bosses has been going on for at least the past 50 years. Read it for yourself:


‘Yet capital flight has plagued South Africa for five decades.

Apartheid governments repeatedly turned a blind eye to capital taken out of the country

illegally by large conglomerates. One exception to this lack of investigation by SARB is

Brian Kahn’s 1991 estimate that total capital flight between 1970 and 1985 amounted to

US$15.38 billion at 1985 prices. Mohamed and Finnoff estimated that capital flight as a

percentage of GDP increased from an average of 5.4 per cent a year between 1980 and 1993

to 9.2 per cent of GDP per year between 1994 and 2000. More recent calculations by

Newman using the same method found that capital flight between 2001 and 2007 was on

average 12 per cent of GDP per year. This figure increased year on year from 2001 and

peaked at 23 per cent of GDP in 2007. In particular, trade mis-invoicing remains a significant

channel for capital flight by companies.’ [Amnesty International? The Nature, Scale and Impact of Capital Flight from South Africa. Ashman, Fine, Newman. Journal of Southern African Studies. Vol 37. No1, March 2011.  pp7-25]. 


To give you an idea, 20% of GDP in 2007 was R600bn out of R3000 bn that was stolen by the large conglomerates, mostly by Anglo American, just in one year. Consider this, the money stolen just in one year would have been enough to build decent houses for everyone, provided jobs for all, provided free quality education for all and provided free quality health care for all. Add up all the wealth stolen each year through ‘mis-invoicing’ and the sum is really in the order of trillions of rands, if not trillions of dollars. [‘mis-invoicing’ or transfer-pricing means simply that when Anglo American exports Platinum, they label part of it Palladium, for example, and so smuggle the value of the goods out of the country. Palladium’s price is $600 while Platinum is $1600].

The NUM, Cosatu, SACP and ANC leaders all know about this stealing but fail to challenge it. For example in the Sept-Oct 2011 edition of The ShopSteward, there is an article of Ben Fine that exposes just this point.  The mineworkers know the value of the goods they take out of the ground, but when they look at their payslips, they do not see it.

Mineworkers have for a long time been challenging the bosses on their theft, but the truth is that the NUM leaders turn a blind eye to the theft by the bosses and settle for slave wages and multi-year agreements. Wages go up very slowly but prices go up every day. We are all subject to these agreements. The bosses get their profit right away but workers are told to wait for another year.

Thus after years of frustration, living in squatter camps where the sewage flows in the streets, facing death every day underground, the mine workers began to revolt. The pass laws may formally be gone but the migrant labour system exists, still. Most mineworkers families are stuck in the rural areas, living a hard life. The promise of family accommodation next to the mines, is a long forgotten dream. The water to cool the equipment underground is sewage water- workers often get sick but the bosses don’t care. Anglo American and others deny responsibility when workers die from silicosis and other mine dust diseases. 

The picture is even worse than this when one considers the NUM leaders have set up a loan shark company called U-Bank, in partnership with the Chamber of Mines. Many mineworkers have huge debt, trapped by their own union leadership.

One of the most brutal mining companies is Impala Platinum. Yet the SACP leaders are in partnership with it in a mining company called Tomboti Platinum. Instead of the SACP leadership being the vanguard and challenging the huge exploitation on the mines, they are in partnership with the bosses. The SACP has a Red October claiming to address service delivery, but it avoids the mine theft and ignores the mineworkers strike.  Part of the ANC leadership owns Mvelaserve which, through Protea Coin, provides security services to the very mine bosses who are stealing so much. The Zuma and Gupta family are on the Board of JIC, one of the main labour brokers on the mines. Ramaphosa himself is a director of Lonmin. The leadership of Cosatu, allow that Kopano Ke Matla, its investment arm, invests workers monies in the mining companies, instead of challenging the exploitative working conditions. 

The ANC government allows the masses to live in poverty and starvation while they allow the mine bosses to steal. There would have not been a single ‘service delivery’ protest if the mine bosses had been prevented from stealing.

How many have died from preventable diseases? From diseases of poverty? The mineworkers have taken the lead to challenge this theft by the mine bosses.

They need our support right now. Unfortunately the Cosatu and SACP leaders are prepared for workers to get peanuts; they do not want to challenge this exploitation. What should we do? NUM and Cosatu belongs to the workers, not the leaders. Workers need to form grassroots committees to take control of the unions.

To the rank and file members of Cosatu and SACP, we ask a simple question: What are you going to do to challenge the theft by the mine bosses? Every day the strike is on, is very hard on the mineworkers and transport workers.

Surely the central demand must be that all the stolen wealth must be brought back and the mine bosses should stop stealing.

Surely an ultimatum must be given to the bosses on this. You still have faith in the Cosatu and SACP leaders, see if they will call a general strike on this to support the striking mine and transport workers right now. You also need to ask yourself why they have not supported the strikers, why when workers were challenging the bosses, they were shot down by a special police unit at Marikana, why have the leadership called the workers thugs and warlords, when the biggest thugs and warlords are the mine bosses. If the ANC NEC members and their families are running security and  labour broking companies on the mines and are part of BEEE shareholdings on the mines, can we really say nationalise the mines under this government?  Can we really be in alliance with the ANC govt, the security guards and labour brokers of the mine bosses? Surely the demand must be to expropriate the mines without compensation to the bosses, placing these under workers control.

If the SACP is not prepared to lead the fight against the theft by the mine bosses, then surely workers need a new party, one that will unite the working class against the bosses, that will lead the fight to expropriate the commanding heights and place it under workers control. We cannot any more talk about ‘the people’ because the elite and bosses are part of the people. When the government talks about the rights of people, they really mean the rich.

Forward to expropriation of the mines, the large commercial farms, the banks, sasol, without compensation to the bosses, under workers control.Then we can say that the youth have a future.

Issued by Workers International Vanguard Party

Ph 021 4476777 ph 0822020617