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NUMSA press statement, 16 August 2018

It has been six years since 34 striking miners were ruthlessly murdered by the ANC-led government for demanding a living wage, in what is now commonly known as the “Marikana Massacre”. The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) salutes these martyrs of the mining industry. We shall never forget them or the price they paid for a better life.

The anniversary of the Marikana Massacre is an opportunity to remind us that for the working class majority who are black and African in South Africa, freedom and genuine equality remain an illusion. The mining sector remains completely untransformed like many other economic sectors in the country where the super exploitation of Africans continues. More than two decades after the end of Apartheid, the working class continues to be paid starvation wages, and the colonial wage remains, just as it did under the brutal system of Apartheid.

The mining sector remains the same brutal institution it was under Apartheid. Every year dozens of mineworkers are killed in accidents underground.  Since 1994, the number of mine workers killed every year underground in South Africa, is the equivalent of at least two Marikana Massacres per year.

The leadership of the ANC has simply refused to learn anything from the Marikana Massacre. Since the mass murder of mineworkers in 2012, they have introduced draconian legislation and austerity measures, to worsen the conditions for the working class in South Africa. The introduction of the new labour laws to limit the right to strike as well as the Poverty National Minimum Wage of R20 per hour, are just some of the measures this government has adopted. The introduction of these new laws is simply so the state can guarantee cheap African labour, which can easily be exploited, and does not have the power to strike. The new labour laws were a direct response to the Marikana Massacre.

Macro-economic policies such as GEAR and the National Development Plan have completely worsened the conditions of the working class, as well as the failure to fully implement the Freedom Charter. The government has refused to nationalize all the commanding heights of the economy and place all our minerals under worker control. Their refusal to address the fundamentals of ownership and control of the economy has led to the continuation and the centralization of wealth and the economy in the hands of tiny white monopoly capital, and a few co-opted black elites. The ANC has stubbornly refused to dump these failed macro-economic policies which have completely stagnated the South African economy and failed to lead to a job led industrial strategy.  Unemployment has worsened with at least 37% of the population out of work, and 30 million people go to bed without a plate of food. The racist character of the south African economy continues.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was a Lonmin executive at the time of the murders, used his political connections and sent an email that characterized the workers as dastardly, and asked for harsh action to be taken against unarmed workers. Ramaphosa used his political influence to serve the interests of Lonmin at the expense of workers. The former trade unionist sacrificed workers to enrich himself and to guarantee the profits of Lonmin. That is why to us he is #RamaphosaTheButcherofMarikana. The political principals who were in charge at the time of this tragedy continue to serve in high ranking ministerial positions. The former police minister Nathi Mthethwa and the former minister of Mineral Resources Susan Shabangu continue to serve in cabinet posts, albeit under different portfolios, despite their blood soaked hands. To add salt to the wound, not a single policeman has been convicted for the murder of the miners.

Meanwhile, Lonmin mines is planning to retrench 12 600 workers over the next three years. We view this as punishment for workers for participating in the strike and daring to demand a living wage of R12 500. Lonmin and its executives, (including #RamaphosaTheButcherofMarikana), have become filthy rich from the wealth they have extracted underground, but the working class community of Marikana surrounding the mine, continues to live a life of desolation, despair and crippling poverty. The shocking living conditions which drove workers to embark on the strike, continues unabated.

The Marikana Massacre played a part in the revolutionary decision which NUMSA took in 2013 to reject the ANC and the alliance. We could not continue to support the governing party in its chosen path as the defender of white wealth, at the expense of the working class majority. The mass murder of unarmed workers for demanding improved living and working conditions cemented in our minds, that the only way the working class can experience genuine equality and freedom, is through class struggle.

Six years on, there is still no justice for the workers of Marikana and their families. Today, as we commemorate the Marikana Massacre, we re-commit ourselves to the struggle of the working class. Only a united working class, fighting under the banner of the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party, (SRWP) which has been created solely in the interests of the working class, can free us from the shackles of poverty and inequality.

Aluta continua!
The struggle continues!