In the normal power struggle between unions and employers no one is suppose to die. When one person dies, it is abnormal and a crisis. When more than 40 people die, it is a massacre of unthinkable proportions, a catastrophe. Because of what happened at Lonmin’s mine, the date 16 August and the name Marikana is echoing throughout the world and will be for many years to come.
As leader of the Freedom Front Plus, I want to convey my sympathy and condolences to the families of the miners that were killed but also to the families of the security guards and policemen that were brutally murdered.
Ons hoop dat die verskillende kommissies wat aangestel is, so gou as moontlik die feite oor wat presies alles by Marikana skeefgeloop het, sal vasstel.
The question in a situation like this is, at what stage should maximum force be used and when minimum? In my experience the better the police force is trained, the less force is necessary to contain a difficult situation like this.
Volgens die huidige feite, die videomateriaal en ooggetuie-verslae, het die stakers met wapens op die polisie afgestorm. So ’n gewapende stormloop moes eindig met of ’n slagting van die polisielede of van die stakers. Die polisie het hulle Donderdagmiddag in ’n posisie bevind waar hulle nie meer ander opsies gehad het nie.
Die drie minute se slagting kan egter nie in isolasie beoordeel word nie. Die vraag is: Hoe het die polisie en stakers, na die weke wat die staking reeds aan die gang was, in so ’n skaakmat posisie gekom? Was die polisie-onderhandelaars goed genoeg opgelei? Was die polisie se intelligensie goed genoeg? Wat was die rol en verskuilde agendas van die leiers en opstokers van die stakers? Was alle ander vreedsame metodes reeds uitgeput?
The final question: Who is to blame for what happened?
I believe no role-player can be singled out. All the role-players share the guilt.
The Unions: For the way in which they conducted their power struggle;
The Employers: Who colluded with the established unions, like NUM to keep AMCO out and leave minority unions with no rights;
The police: For allowing the situation to develop into such an uncontrollable state;
The Union leaders: For the violence they incited and allowed as part of this strike.
Similar to major strikes elsewhere in the past – never forcefully condemning violence; and
The government: For their failure to keep unions accountable and demand of unions that they exercise their power without the language of intimidation and without violence as a bargaining tool. Tans, swaai die stert die hond en nie andersom nie!
Let me give you examples:
In 2006, the three-month security guards’ strike led by the SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union ended with about 40 non-striking workers killed during that strike. In Soweto, two guards who chose to defy the call to strike, were kidnapped from work, beaten and flung from a moving train. The union leadership weakly “condemned” this with no further action against union members involved.
Remember the public sector strike of 2010, when workers attacked patients and nurses in hospitals while teachers attacked children in classrooms?
When yearly municipal workers strike in Johannesburg or Cape Town most people flee the city centre. Why? Because they know what is coming – a marauding, angry mob of workers who seethe with hostility and aggression and who destroy everything in front of them. In the end the city centre resembles a wasteland of rotting food, trash and broken glass.
This violent theme has been present in every major strike during the last decade. As deaths and injuries mount, the union leadership and government were mostly passive.
It is estimated that this year alone there have been about 400 violent protests around South Africa. Think about the attacks on foreign business people operating in poor neighbourhoods. These communities take out their frustrations on foreigners. They beat them. They stab them. They shoot them.
Violence has become the norm in SA. How does a society become as broken as this?
Redi Tlhabi asks in the Sunday Times (19 August 2012) “How did we become such a brutal people? Our excuse cannot simply be: ‘We have a violent past,’ when there are many other societies whose histories are littered with atrocities. Have we accepted that our violent history will also permeate our present and future?”
Waarom gebruik mense geweld? Omdat hulle glo dat hulle met geweld hulle eie posisie gaan verbeter en hulle opponent s’n gaan verswak. Eers later volg die verrassing -- dat almal na geweld in ’n slegter posisie is. Dit is wat by Marikana gebeur het.
During the turbulent violence between Inkatha and the ANC in the 90s, former president Mandela said, "Take your weapons, your knives and pangas, and throw it into the sea!" That should now be the message!
Once the reports are released, the Unions, the police, the employers and government must act to ensure that this never, ever happens again.