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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