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23 August 2012
This Union has been watching the developments in Marikana after the killing of 37 mine workers last week, and believe it is important that we express a viewpoint about what has happened. While we support the call for the various enquiries that are scheduled, and hope that they uncover the whole truth, we cannot remain silent. The killing of 37 workers, regardless of which Union they belong to, or their demands, or the way that they have conducted their dispute is still a shocking attack on the working class, and especially organised workers. Our Federation COSATU was built on the slogan of An Injury To One is An Injury To All. There are a number of reasons why we must not flinch from commenting on what has happened.
Our most pressing concern is the continuing arrogance of the mine owners. In almost the same breath that they expressed their condolences, they threatened all those who refused to go back to work with dismissals. This is unacceptable behaviour. The whole community is traumatised and to expect them to behave as if it was business as usual is an indication of how the profit motive is paramount for mine owners. In other words they don’t give a damn about the workers, or the communities where they live. The report from the Benchmarks Project that was written just before the massacre exposes their callous disregard for workers and their communities. It was left up to no less than the Presidency to inform the company that a period of Seven Days of Mourning had been declared and that threats of dismissals were therefore inappropriate.
Our second concern is the very worrying role of the police in industrial disputes. We have still to hear a convincing argument why vast numbers of police personnel were supplied with automatic weapons and live ammunition. What was the strategy that they were following? Was this considered a war situation? Why was there not a fall-back position in place? What were the police hoping to achieve? We hope that the various inquiries will also explain why so many of the dead and wounded were shot in the back while retreating, and why there has been a thorough police clean-up of possible evidence in the killing fields of Marikana.
As a Union we are no strangers to the police opening fire on our members, including with live ammunition as the killing of one of our local leaders Comrade Petros Msiza indicates in Tshwane in February 2011. An arrest for this killing is still to be made. We hope that the whole of the trade union movement and civil society will join with us and demand that armed battalions of the police have no role to play in settling industrial disputes. This is not befitting the democratic society we claim to be. Is it any wonder that people all over the world are shocked at what has happened in the rainbow nation?
Finally, we hope that the trade union movement will regard this tragic situation as a wakeup call to strengthen our democratic structures, to ensure that our leaders and our members are united and act together, including in the communities where they live, and that we do not make the mistake of putting short term interests in front of what is needed for the working class as a whole.
Our sincere condolences go out to all of the families and communities who have lost loved ones, and also to those who are recovering from injuries. We hope that out of this massacre, important lessons are learned for all concerned, and that we can say with confidence, Never Ever Again.
South African Municipal Workers` Union of COSATU
National Media and Publicity Officer
Office: 011-492 2835.