Nco Dube
Nco Dube

Marikana: An orgy of opportunism in the face of disaster

I have resisted writing on the Marikana disaster for a few weeks now because of how the tragic events quickly degenerated into a political football in a disgusting blame game match. The tragedy has simply descended into an awfully obscene orgy of politicians, media, analysts and many other armchair critics.

But now I can’t ignore anymore the reckless reporting by the media, the slow confused response by government, violence of the strikers, indifferent attitude and greed of Lonmin management and other purveyors of capital, the greed of the unions, opportunism of politicians and incompetency within the police.

I name all these groups because they are all, in varying degrees, responsible for the sequence of events in Marikana and the subsequent tragedy.

The striking miners themselves are the main culprits here. A lot of people here see this, but are afraid to seem insensitive or politically incorrect. The fact is these striking miners have very valid grievances.

What they are being paid for the job they do is simply criminal. But in engaging in unlawful behaviour and activities in putting that point across diverts attention from the unfair treatment they receive at the hands of greedy employers and so-called investors.

No matter how aggrieved one is, fairly or unfairly, one can’t go around intimidating and murdering people including the police to get one’s point across. This is in the very least barbaric. Protests in a democratic dispensation don’t need to be violent as there are ample mechanisms in law and constitution to be utilised.

Second responsibility falls equally on both Lonmin management and the unions involved. Lonmin management and shareholders should be disgusted at themselves for letting things go this far.

They could have prevented this by being a responsible employer who pays workers fairly. A fair employer will never pay their workers, who risk their lives daily under horrible conditions, R4 000 a month while paying a CEO over R29-million a year! This is criminal and unjustifiable!

Lonmin further exacerbated an already bad situation by circumventing recognised unions and struck wage deals with selective grades of workers when there is a collective bargain agreement in place. This was both unethical and illegal.

When things turned violent management went underground where you could see only the black faces of management being used at feeble and unconvincing attempts at PR.

Both the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) showed that union interest is hardly, if ever, in the wellbeing of their members.

In trying to gain ground in membership, Amcu uses violence and intimidation.

At Marikana they convinced workers to make totally unrealistic and un-achievable demands.

While R12 500 is a fair demand, it is unrealistic to expect an employer to jump workers from R4 000 to that amount in one go.

A responsible union would be negotiating for an increment agreement that will put workers in that bracket over a period of time.

In fact it is the unions themselves, NUM included, who have allowed a situation where workers are abused this way. No miner should be earning the pittance they are earning in such a rich sector.

Clearly Amcu thought the only way to gain popularity would be to appear more radical than NUM. In response NUM forgot about the interest of their members and concentrated only on protecting their ‘territory’.

When the first signs of violence surfaced at Lonmin and 10 people were murdered government didn’t seem too sure what to do.

After what happened at Impala a few months before one would think government and the police would be better prepared for situations like these now.

Efforts should have been made to clamp down on the illegal gatherings and disarm the miners from the onset.

Effective policing and a responsive executive is what we lack. Even more shocking was when arrested miners were charged with murder of their own colleagues who were shot by the police.

If the police had handled the matter well from the onset, they wouldn’t have been faced with armed miners at that koppie.

Even after the shooting of the miners our government simply went AWOL. No one seemed to know what to say or do. Or were they paralysed by the upcoming ruling party internal elections in Mangaung?

One would be inclined to believe so, seeing that some of the prominent players like the Premier of the North West Province is still AWOL.

This indecisiveness by government opened an opportunity for an obscene blame game orgy by politicians from within warring factions in the ANC and government, opposition parties and of course Malema and his Friends of the Youth League (FYL).

Instead of helping resolve the situation, politicians only saw a chance to gain points over a weak and bumbling ANC. Even in tragedy politicians were like scavengers rushing in a craze.

The politicians and Lonmin were aptly supported by our ever partisan media.

The coverage of the disaster has been disgusting in the very least.

In a craze to show how competent the media and their so-called analysts and commentators are they lost their humaneness, they forgot all about the people that actually died and their families.

It was all about Zuma all of a sudden. Not that Zuma didn’t have a hand in this and deserved some of the blame.

SA media disgustingly gave us very simplified and subjective coverage of the disaster. All was done to milk as much sensationalism as possible to a point where there were ridiculous reports that the police actually hunted down the striking miners to kill them.

This subjective media coverage fed to the blame orgy by the politicians. We were simply fed a too simplistic analysis of the situation directed at blaming only government and the police whereas the situation was much more complex.

The shooting of the miners was a series of blunders, wrong decisions, indecisiveness and incompetency, greed and opportunism on the part of Lonmin, striking workers, police, government, media, unions and politicians in general.

Blaming it on a single group is further opportunism or ignorance.

Our media and the so-called analysts seem to be going to ridiculous length to shift part of the blame from Lonmin management and its white capital backers.

Very little has been reported on Lonmin’s role in the sequence of events.
South Africa needs to learn to bury differences in the face of disaster and rally together to provide leadership and solutions.

Otherwise we lose our common Ubuntu.

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    • bernpm

      The one important issue in your perception of the story is that -reportedly- Lonmin already pays 12.500 for the services of miners to Mr Ramaphosa’s company. But..this broker company pays the miners a lot less (R4000??). Ever heard of labour brokers??

      Alternative options for the recognised union (NUM?): take the matter to court for unlawfull labout practices. It seems that it is miners (or anybody’s) right to form and join another union under the “Freedom of association” rules. Recognising this union bites into the ANC’s powerbloc (Cosatu).

      In many instances of conflicts (and increasing so over the last years), the method of conflict resolution in SA has become violent. A good and intelligent (functioning intelligence department) government could have read the cards well in advantage and so prevent the collision of “rebels” and “police” in an emotional encounter.

      Often the grievances are related to the disparity between top management earnings and workers earnings. In “New Economics” we promote to establish a link between top earnings and bottom earnings in an organisation. If SA government had been serious about poverty reduction, this would have been a step to pacify the angry masses.

      But….with Mangaung on the horizon, our politicians seem to consider future personal power more important than social cohesion. Result: All suffer.

    • Jane

      At last, something is being written about this situation that I can actually agree with. Singlehanded blame on police has been extremely unfair, and I have been left disgusted at the irresponsible journalism behind the coverage of the tragic events. In their rush to absolve themselves of any responsibility, those culprits have shown their true colours. Well said!

    • Alastair Grant

      And you know the reports that police hunted down striking miners to kill them are ridiculous… how? That report, by Greg Marinovich at the Daily Maverick, was supported by photos, maps and eye-witness accounts, and followed up with additional evidence.

      Your account, on the other hand, adds nothing to what we’ve read from the armchair critics. Have you been there? Where are your photos and thoughtful reconstruction? Where are your interviews with the families of the dead, and the survivors? You decry the lack of humaneness of media coverage, but I don’t see it in your article.

      Sorry, Nco, your article ranks amongst the most opportunist and vapid that I’ve read so far. You’re guilty of the very thing you – questionably – accuse others of.

    • MLH

      Good column. Not much I didn’t agree with and that which I disagree with is not worth getting overexcited about.

    • Rob Thorn

      Can somebody in the know please tell the ordinary SA citizen the truth about what the miners actually earn? Lonmin claims it’s gross monthly wage for rock drillers is about R12000,00 per month plus bonuses? Media repeatedly stated estated that their earnings are R4000 per month! Who actually pays the miners – Lonmin or a third party? Has the media or anyone else seen a miners/rockdrillers payslip ?

    • Bouga

      Aren’t armchair critics generally people who have an opinion on any given topic but basically doesn’t get paid for it. Which basically makes you one as well.

      Otherwise I agree with you, The government has failed to hold protesters and their respective Unions accountable everytime they’ve resorted to violance to make their grieviances heard and now it culmnated to this situation.

      Protesters carrying traditional weapons didn’t end well for Inkatha people that died needlessly at Luthuli House as well thus should not have been allowed by the Police in Marikana as well.

      Its the purpose of any Union to ensure that they communicate honestly to their constituency and not make false promises or create false hope.

      As for the Media and their reporting, a part if me wishes Zuma doesn’t get the second term just to see how they’re going do their reporting. They seem to rope in a “blame Zuma angle” everytime, not that he himself makes it hard.

      All in all people died, and that could’ve been prevented through negotiating in bad faith, political scoring and lack of adequate training of police.

    • Alastair Grant
    • Arnie

      As far as I know it and it was published that the nett after tax earnings of the least paid worker is R4000 – if he works the minimum, without any performance bonus achieved for the month. There are benefits like medical aid, pension and PAYE which needs to be added to get to the Gross salary. Can we get some more light on this – as this is important and very confusing. Are they asking for R12500 nett? that is more than what an educated, Computer Programmer get (I am in the software industry).

      So let us compare apples with apples – bring the payslips and let us see what they really get and what they really want.

    • Brian B

      Well done Nco on a generally balanced and informed observation of a tragic event. Some questions come to mind.
      1. What is a fair wage for South African miners? In other countries mechanical diggers etc. replace workers because high wages threaten the viability of mining operations.
      2. Should the state not intervene regarding fair wages as the unions are clearly self serving and incompetent in this instance?
      3. Are our police adequately trained and led to deal with this type of crisis which seems to be escalating ?
      4, What effect does low productivity. unemployment and unrealistic remuneration have on inflation which keeps pushing wages up?
      Miners work hard how ever there are many people being paid exorbitant salaries for doing little and / or messing up..There are also far too many people who have lost all hope of regular employment.

    • Balt Verhagen

      When will it dawn on everyone that demands of ‘R12500′, ‘service delivery’ protests and refusing to vote during elections are all mantras, expressions of the same disenchantment with its erstwhile ‘liberators’ that 18 years of escalating graft, corruption, downright theft, rampant maladministration and in-your-face-living has engendered amongst ‘the people’? Many of the same arguments about unreasonable demands ruining the economy were heard in the 1980’s. This culminated in the ANC’s own ‘un-governability’ campaign – a curse it imposed on itself when facing the hard realities of governing a highly disparate society.

      South Africa’s socio-economic revolution has been underway for many decades, with violent and turbulent interludes. ‘The people’ have been inordinately tractable and accepting continuing disabilities in the hope of a better tomorrow, especially for their children. in the present dispensation. Albert Luthuli had one message to the Afrikaner Nationalists: give my people hope. It defies imagination that the present rulers could blandly go their merry, corrupt ways and not run up against the wall of failing expectations.

    • http://Marikana:anorgyofopportunisminthefaceofdisaster proactive

      To publish & repeat this 4k figure in the press over and over- without clear explanations from the employer- remains irresponsible jorno!

      Nco, did you ever visit Lonmin & asked them their factual figures- or is this info a blind repeat of the original incorrect hearsay? To compare an unskilled or partly skilled job with the CEO is sensational reporting! Yes it’s a lot, maybe too high- but a factor of global competition on that level- and for the board/shareholders to change!

      JZ on the other hand gets paid ~20mio/an in “honest earnings” from the taxpayers- costing the country ~103mio/year for producing nothing, except a mess, no education- just 5500 cadres to be chosen by- every 5 years- besides his dishonest earningst! Another tribal Zulu king receives a 59.5mio budget to also produce nothing- exept to keep the dream of an ancient past alive!

      Industry’s today have structures and Union negotiated wage agreements, which are found reasonable and form the norm in that industry! Greed has no boundaries- mischief makers can influence gullible & naive workers easily! We all would like to be kings- why not?

      Rock drillers- to work a “jackhammer” is unskilled work, yes its noisy, dusty, heavy and unsuitable for pen pushers! Mechanisation will replace unskilled work with the resultant loss of thousand of unskilled jobs- and than? Please be careful and separate too much sentimentalism from tough reality! A mine still employs 30-40k workers- how long still?

    • Balt Verhagen

      How president Zuma thinks he will contain the present explosion of expectations – for that is what it is, make no mistake about it – by a commission of enquiry that will report in four months’ time before taking steps again beggars the imagination. People are frustrated NOW, they are angry NOW, the leadership vacuum is being exploited by the likes of Malema RIGHT NOW. The rot of a trade union federation still in political bed with an exploitative government and a communist appendage will no longer wash. The cry of nationalisation is another mantra for the lack of a sense of communal ownership, of the very sense of participation in an inspired push for partnership (The People Shall Govern, Kliptown 1955).

      This country, urgently, needs a new social compact, a decisive step towards a new national convention. All the old ‘-isms’ have no further sway. Every South African should become a partner, a very conscious and motivated partner, in the new dispensation. Our physical, human and intellectual resources should be pooled in this process. We should take stock: THIS is what we have, THIS is what we agree to achieve. This will be my contribution. It is no small challenge, far from it, but unless we start RIGHT NOW implementing this vigorously we will come to rue the complacency we are being lulled into by rulers who know no better than to procrastinate. We have the talent. We can generate the inspiration. We need the guts to undertake this task and make the necessary…

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Nco, you are part of the media and the blame should be placed with NUM for signing sweetheart contracts with management.

    • http://southafricana.blogspot.com Dave Harris

      Great analysis Nco Dube!
      “Our media and the so-called analysts seem to be going to ridiculous length to shift part of the blame from Lonmin management and its white capital backers.”
      This summarizes the media coverage. Remember the objective of the white tribal DA and its mainstream media cohorts is to create a division within the ANC with the view to gaining more power at the national level. The DA’s scorched earth policy may win them votes in the short term but will prove disastrous in the long term.

    • bernpm

      @Balt: Prior to 1994, a referendum was hold about new elections with the ANC included.

      I am not a constitutional expert. But the question begs:

      Can the SA population demand a new referendum to give a judgment on the current government and/or bring 2014 elections forward and cancel the Mangaung circus??

    • Piet Boerie

      Point finfers where you like but the reality is the government has full responsibility for the situation.
      The government controls the transaction of mineral wealth and the fair exchange thereof .
      They have full political control for 20 years, they have the mandate by the majority that voted for them to change the current paradigm and they make the law.

      The ANC and Uncle Cyril have been corrupted by money thrown around (500million for Cyril).
      The Alliance and all its left wing i love the poor swagger is false and pretence. The Alliance hass been corrupted by greed by Lonmin and a right wing market capitalists.

      Fire the whole ANC top echelon, fire the greed culture in the Alliance that has seen more ANC leaders killing each other for governement resource then were lilled by Apartheid.

      Fire the governement by changing you vote. I doubt they will and this in-equality will blow up while the ANC keep blaming others.

    • Piet Boerie

      Its simple.

      The government passes laws to make sure the exchange is fair.

      To blame the Lonmin while ANC Cyril and Lithuli house has R500million invested in the Marikana mine is a pathetic.

      Black South Africa have a physcologial crutch of Apartheid and White Inc to be used forever whenever there is mistakes. Its there faulst, dirty capitalists…the richest man ib South Africa is black and so is the third richest. Your fake excuses dont wash anymore.

      I call them Black Apologists while journalists like Khaya are like baby boomers who fought for liberty only to get fat on the excess of capitalism.

      How long will you keep making up excuses for failure? Is the ANC failure seen as black failure??

      Simple:
      The alliance has total political control and for 20 years. They make the laws business follow. If they pass a law that says miners must pay for houses then its law. Instead you are been led to believe the evil British are too blame. Sounds like Mugabe does it not.

      Lets deal with the R70billion in corruption stolen by the Allaince and not by Lonmin. Blame them too racists. Black Apologists.

    • http://hismastersvoice.wordpress.com/ The Creator

      Interesting that the general agreement is that if the mining company underpays workers and AMCU murders workers, then it must be the NUM’s fault. It would seem that there is an agenda here (not so much from the commentators as from the newspapers and websites they read and believe).

      I’m inclined to feel we have been exposed only to distorted pictures which are deliberately intended to mislead our understanding. As to the dailymaverick stories, let’s not forget that Marinovich was a “Bang-bang Club” member who always worked to exploit South African political violence for the profit of multinational media companies, while the Maverick magazine was originally a corporate propaganda rag owned (ultimately) by the Anglo-American corporation. I would trust them to tell the truth about a mining crisis like I would trust the Guptas to tell the truth about Zuma.

    • Peter Joffe

      As the method of achieving their goals, as workers, they have become more and more violent over the years, with zero input from the police and the ANC. We have deteriorated to this. If you don’t put out a fire quickly, it gets bigger and bigger and now we have the fruits of doing nothing about it. There are bargaining councils in place and employers are bound to use them as supposedly are the employees. The main and painfully obvious fact, worldwide is that labour unions cannot be and must not be part of government, as running a country (surprise surprise) is not a political matter, it is a business matter. Not to be too protective of Lonmin or any other employer for that matter, nobody forced workers to join a company or mine and as workers are free to join or leave a company, the same is not true for the company, who have all sorts of labour laws protecting both good and bad workers. We have laws in SA but they are only for the ruling party to apply when it suits them. We look to labour brokers as one cause of the problem but employers use them because they need to produce goods and not spend their time in courts fighting to get rid of bad workers. They can get on with what they do while they leave the troubles of employing to the brokers. Who created this situation? The labour laws of the ANC which have encouraged labour brokers and denied employment to millions. If you cannot fire bad people then you will not hire anyone.

    • Tofolux

      @Nco, there is a fault line that no-one seems to be talking about and that is the killings before the “”Marikana Day” and the systematic killing and intimidation of shop stewards. It therefore follows that if shop stewards are being killed and forced out by the ”striking” workers then in whose interest? Furthermore, the following critical question remains has the conditions changed for unionism? I am appalled at the direction and manipulation of the so-called analysis. This incident is a major red flag for South African in particular. Not only is mining the backbone of our economy, it should raise the danger for all these who are forever-criticising without using their brains, that sustaining their luxurious and protected lifestyles will be difficult. Not only do they not follow this with the thought of our own credit crunch. But the real and critical question is the issue of freedom of association and intimidation. I fear that we are being manipulated in turning our attention to the non-issues as opposed to looking at this incident very closely. Someone, somewhere must be receiving something to orchestrate and manipulate this ”revolt”. WHO is the kingpin behind all of this?

    • Zeph

      Our coverage of this incident has been pathetic. The issue seems to be about miserly pay but we cannot even get clarification as to what that pay actually is. Seeing it is the apparent hinge on which the Marikanna debacle unfolded one would have thought responsible journalists would seek clarification on this issue.

    • Perry Curling-Hope

      “”What they are being paid for the job they do is simply criminal”….”While R12 500 is a fair demand,[…]”

      And how do you know this?

      Did you even take cursory glance at the companies balance sheet before making such a determination, or did you just decide that it seems ‘fair’ to you, so it must be?

      An increase from R5405 pm to R12000 pm would increase the annual wage bill by some R255 million

      The companies operating profit for the 6 months to March was R14 million.

      No profit…no mine. or maybe you would think that because reality conflicts with your worldview, the figures just have to be wrong?

      So Ian Farmer took home R1.2 million pm, expropriate him. kick him out and distribute all his fabulous wealth fairly amongst the rock drillers….which would increase their pay by R330 pm,

      Great….so now no CEO…..no mine, or mybe you believe just anyone can be ‘deployed’ to take over his job at R12,500 pm

    • Balt Verhagen

      @ bernpm

      Obviously, I am not a constitutional expert either, simply an aging person who has with increasing concern and horror seen the promise of 1994 slip into the present quagmire. A new referendum is hardly at issue now. My call, which at many different levels and wording is being heard from across the country, is for people with talent and vision (and energy!) (i.e. our latent leadership) to start enunciating and building inclusive, alternatives with partnership as their foundation. Existing structures are failing. Far from Cosatu grasping the nettle and taking an independent stance, it has again sworn allegiance to the status quo. Along with strong-arm government tactics, this will once again temporarily produce an apparent calm, the discontent simmering for another occasion to erupt. We have, according to Tokyo Sexwale, 11000 ‘service delivery’ protests per year of which a tiny minority ever reaches the media. Our society needs to start showing a human face and genuine, practical concern to set against institutional violence and political inertia. Who knows, this might even begin to filter through into official structures

    • Tofolux

      @Perry, the call for increased wages is a legitimate demand. Try living on R5404pm and see where it gets you. Try going many metres underground under extreme conditions, try working in those extreme conditions for many hours, try pounding rock for that many hours, try getting injured severely, without adequate danger pay, try living in a shack with no hot water or electricity and try sleeping in those conditions, exhausted from a days work. It cannot be that the CEO takes away millions, while others suffer inhumane conditions in order for him to pocket those millions. What kind of perverse logic condones this?

    • Brian B
    • Peter Joffe

      Zuma says that there will be a ‘meltdown’! What he did not add to that statement is that he and the ANC are the fire causing that meltdown. Although we cannot say that Zuma and the ANC are ‘fired-up’ about anything other the shoveling large quantities of coal into the furnace of the engine of the gravy train.

    • michael

      tofolux, it is not perverse logic, it is simple economics, try and read about the basics of economics and it will change your views radically, you will understand the world much better.

    • https://twitter.com/#!/McEwansholic Guinnessholic

      Fantastic! How you managed to blame whitey is truly astonishing. Black illegal rioters get shot by black policemen, ordered by black police officers who received instructions from black politicians, and this all boils down to white folk being the cause?

      But what everyone fails to address in all this (removing the Ramaphosa question from the equation) is what the mine balance sheet is, and are their profits out of line with other similar enterprises overseas? The immediate question should be: Are the miners worth more money in salary? And if not, why not?

      It is my experience – for one reason or another not worth exploring fearing it drags out the old race-pimps – that ONE undernourished, fresh from a Rio-Grande-crossing Mexican is worth – in productivity – about SEVEN strapping, in-their-prime, relatively disease free Xhosas. And this isn’t a guess, it’s calculated through productivity, management cost and other hidden expenses. Remaining NuSAns (New unimproved South Africans) don’t quite understand how tapered the management wedge and how high the fiscal pyramid is, in keeping tabs on SA labor and keeping them both honest and productive.

      There is a reason why you cannot compete in any labor intensive industry with almost anywhere in the world, and it’s a jolly good one! Your labor is extremely expensive and not very productive, so prattling on about working in pits whilst dwelling in shacks is a matter for labor to resolve, not business.

    • Tofolux

      @Guines, you are truly dreaming. Despite the insults, it is quite disingenuous to claim that we are ”unimproved”. Also, noting this nuance that you create of ”disease-free Xhosas” the meaning of which is quite intentional, it clearly premises the type of backwardness that is at play here. But lets pose this question, how is it that SA ranks No 1 in PLATINUM output, Ranks No 2 in PALLADIUM output, ranks No 3 in GOLD output, ranks No 6 in COAL output and No 9 in wool output? If we cannot compete, how is it that we have this high rankings? But noting the continued insults, let me leave you with this, SA is the ONLY African country that is a member of the G20!

    • https://twitter.com/#!/McEwansholic Guinnessholic

      Tofo.

      South Africa’s ranking in various mineral outputs has less to do with labor productivity, and more to do with availability and accessability. And you have completely failed to address the question of South African labour productivity with your pathetic examples, especially when it comes to manufacturing or construction. You simply cannot and do not compete at any level. The numbers bear this out, although I suspect you aren’t capable of reading them.

      (I didn’t even want to address your laughable ‘wool’ example for fear I’d cause you an injury).

      When it comes to assessing SAns decline in productivity, you CANNOT dismiss the numbers and huge cost that comes with dealing with SA labour. They are EXTREMELY unproductive, highly expensive (yes, they are) and demand high management resources. The numbers bear this fact out, and you cannot dismiss them, nor can you fudge them ala ANC, or simply Affirmatively Actionise them to make them ‘feel’ or ‘sound’ better.

      Live with these uncomfortable truths. I don’t have to anymore.

    • Tofolux

      @Guines, how does raw materials in/on the ground become available to the various markets? Is it not the very labour that you dismiss, that extracts the materials? If by your logic raw materials equates to availability and accessability, then how? I cannot believe that I am engaging on this level simply because sheer logic must acknowledge that certain rankings equates to competitiveness and equates to the quality of product etc. We are not the only suppliers of these products and despite your logic we are outperforming the mother countries with first economies. It is quite shocking that because some of us hate the ruling party so intensely, simple common sense takes flight. No wonder the concept of hatred under the apartheid system was so successful because sheer logic says that no normal person with common sense would support a system as barbaric as it was.

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