The human cost of the Marikana tragedy, and the continuing collapse of South Africa’s mining industry, is almost impossible to put into words.
At Lonmin mine, 44 people were killed, and 78 individuals were wounded. This amounts to 128 families affected; 44 who no longer have fathers and uncles, brothers or sons. 528 family members may permanently lose a source of income because of death, and a further 936 are vulnerable because of the breadwinner’s ill health.
In the aftermath, 15, 000 miners have been fired following wildcat strikes at a series of other mines. This has left 180, 000 people vulnerable, without access to an income.
Marikana represents a failure of leadership on a massive scale from the President downwards. And we have to be honest with ourselves: this parliament failed too.
The truth is that the Marikana tragedy exposed far more than its proximate cause of union unrest. It also revealed the raw tissues of a broken society.
Ours is a President, after all, who craftily announced that his cabinet’s salaries will be temporarily frozen in response to the current crisis, and yet refuses to halt the R250 million upgrade of his private home at Nkandla. This is the time to speak the truth boldly and plainly: the President’s lack of moral urgency is a blot on South Africa’s conscience.
The Marikana tragedy was not a, as some have suggested, random event. It forms part of a larger story of human loss. Adcorp forecasts that 200, 000 jobs will be lost in the mining industry over the next decade. This will leave just under 2, 5 million people vulnerable to life without an income.
If this happens, the already weakened seams of our society will rip apart. This does not even take into account the loss of dignity which accompanies being without work.
Since 1986, employment in the mining sector has declined by almost 38%. This is a decline of just under 840, 000 workers to just over 500, 000 over a period when production has flat-lined.
In a negative domino effect, strike-related revenue losses total R3, 3 billion. This equates to lost tax revenue of over R1, 1 billion.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) acknowledges that there are no easy policy solutions. We will support this government if they sincerely seek to address the deep human underlying issues, and, at the same time, adopt measures to increase productivity.
Sincerity, however, is subject to proof.
In framing a new vision for the mining industry, the President and his government must recognize the need for a structural shift in the industry.
The DA believes that the most urgent intervention must be to review all legislation that underpins the system of oscillating migration in the mining sector. Simply put, we need to introduce a more humane system of labour to help rebuild families and communities.
We need to ensure that cash gets back to the many families in need in rural South Africa. And we must mitigate health risks, especially HIV infections.
For too long, public policy has been crafted in a disjointed way. The DA today calls for the immediate establishment of an ad hoc parliamentary committee to find solutions to address the problems in South Africa’s mining industry.
This ad hoc committee must comprise members from the labour, police, trade and industry, minerals, health, and rural development portfolios.
Unless we do so, we cannot raise work participation and reduce absenteeism. Only then can we make mining a more attractive industry in which people want to work, and investors want to invest.
Closely aligned to this, the President must intervene to end the de facto closed shop policy so that workers can be represented by unions that are not affiliated to Cosatu. The Marikana tragedy was, in part, sparked by smaller unions being locked out of wage negotiations.
So with the ‘fierce urgency of now’, we must fix the migrant labour system; establish a capable state with appropriate infrastructure; and build a shared national platform around social solidarity with fair work and fair pay for everyone.
I thank you.