Favouring of Cosatu-affiliated union led to Marikana massacre
Wilmot James, DA Federal Chairperson
20 August 2012
Today I spoke with the workers at Lonmin Platinum mine to get their side of the story. They described a situation in which the quality of a worker’s life is contingent on being aligned to the correct labour union.
The mine workers explained that membership of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) meant better jobs, easier access to decision-making mechanisms and perhaps most importantly, the ear of management. According to these workers, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) members enjoyed no such privileges. On the contrary, widespread intimidation is accepted and has become a way of life for AMCU members.
Favours for the politically well-connected members of NUM, as well as the gruesome nature of the 10 murders earlier in the week, appear to have played a significant part in instigating the atrocities experienced at the mine last week. The violent and illegal action of the strikers can never be condoned but the fact is that the members of AMCU were sick and tired of being relegated to outsider status.
At our meeting today, the 10,000 workers present agreed emphatically that:
- Workers should have freedom of association as far as labour union membership is concerned; and
- workers should have the right to vote or be aligned with the political party of their choice.
If an insider-outsider dynamic was responsible for creating the tinder box, then it was the institutional failures – failure to mediate and emotional policing – that provided the spark.
The massacre at Marikana is illustrative of the insider-outsider paradigm that has become a defining characteristic of the South African socio-economic landscape. This paradigm must be shattered once and for all to ensure that the violence of last week is never repeated.