South African Students Congress

Statement on the preponderant crisis in the Platinum Belt

An Injustice of capitalism haunts Marikana Again: Solidarity or Death!

21 May 2014

It has been four months since the protracted strike in the platinum mines of North West at Marikana. About 70 000 workers have downed tools in a legitimate demand for a better wage of R12 500 monthly only. Our mothers and fathers have been exploited for more than a century by capital in the mining sector. The South African mining sector has for years benefitted from cheap labour, rendering our parents employed yet poor and highly indebted. This we view as the inherent injustice posed by the capitalist system on the working class and poor. Mining capital in South Africa has benefitted enormously and unjustifiable from the mineral wealth that belongs to our people. Even so, they refuse to accede to the justifiable and legitimate demand of workers of decent wages for decent work.

It is an expression of the worst form of opulence at a grand scale when mining executives of Impala Platinum, Lonmin PLC and Anglo American Platinum received salaries that are more than 200 times more than the lowest paid worker. Such is the expression of the worst characteristics of capitalism. These levels of income inequality seek to preserve the Apartheid structure of our economy and ensure that the African working class never enjoys the true fruits of their struggles of many centuries. We can never accept the claims by the mining capital in South Africa that the wage demand is unaffordable, when they continue to rake super profits from our mineral wealth and reward themselves with super bonuses and salaries. Whilst our parents and families starve for the past four months and endure the sufferings of a poverty wage in the years preceding this date, AMPlats CEO Chris Griffith and 11 of his executives took home R25.3 million in bonuses and share schemes. They are expected to receive a further R51.8 million as further awards. This is disgusting to say the least at the face of poverty, unemployment and deepening inequalities in our country. The very claim by Chris Griffith that mine workers are demanding what they are not worth is evidence of the arrogance of mining capital. This statement exposes the listless attitude of capital to socio-economic transformation in our country and their total disregard for the plight of our people. On behalf of our parents we do not accept Griffith's apology and or any other apology from capital, we demand our minerals and the wealth derived thereof.

The situation of workers world over has been worsened by the global capitalist crisis, with capital having displaced the effects of its crisis in the working class. Mine workers in South Africa are highly indebted to legal credit providers and loan sharks. The South African Institute of International Affairs recently released research suggesting that the dependency ratio for mining jobs is 10:1. This means that this protracted strike is directly affecting some 700 000 people, who struggle to make ends meet in the past four months.

We have noted with utter disgust the tendency of the media and liberal columnists who blame the workers for the lost to the economy resulting from this strike. The narrowly serve the interests of the ruling class and see no fault in an inherently corrupt system of capitalism. They are combat ready to dismiss any enquiry on the skewed ownership and control of the South African Economy. They spare no punches on those who like us dare call for the nationalization of the commanding heights of our economy.

Engels in his Principles of Communism observed that: "Democracy would be quite useless to the proletariat if it were not immediately utilized as a means of accomplishing further measures directly attacking private ownership and securing the existence of the proletariat..." This will only be realized through united action of the working class engaged in the class struggle. The Freedom Charter states; "The national wealth of our country, the heritage of South Africans, shall be restored to the people; the mineral wealth beneath the soil, the Banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole; all other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the well being of the people."

Students argue that it is not enough that the Minerals Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) places all minerals beneath the soil at the hands of the state. We are not satisfied the suggestion that this complies with the assertions of the Freedom Charter. The Charter goes beyond and calls for monopoly industry to be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole. The mining sector amongst others is clearly a monopoly. The production of Platinum Group Metals is dominated by the very three companies that have caused this crisis in Marikana. Over and above this, the processing and further manipulation of the Platinum Group Metals is owned and controlled by three companies globally, which do not have South African ownership, yet we produce more than 80% of the world platinum.

South African students reiterate their call to the ANC led government to ignore the disastrous economic proposals of the National Development Plan, and to strategically nationalize key sectors of the economy including Platinum Group Metals. We urge our government to re-industrialize our economy through the beneficiation of our minerals in order to expand job creation and decent work. We remind our leadership on what they said in 1969 at the ANC Morogoro Conference; "We do not understand the complexities which will face a people's government during the transformation period nor the enormity of the problems of meeting the basic needs of the masses of the oppressed people. But one thing is certain, in our land this cannot be effectively tackled unless the basic wealth and the basic resources are at the disposal of the people as a whole and are not manipulated by the sections or individuals be they White or Black."

As Marxist-Leninist students we will always be found in the trenches supporting our parents, the working class, in their pursuit of a living wage and with them at all times in the class struggle. Our solidarity is with the workers and not the vigilantes who seek to hijack genuine worker struggles for self enrichment and political mileage. We wish to warn our parents in Marikana against those who claim to be their representatives but actually represent their own myopic interest. Not everyone who shouts Amandla, and calls for R12 500 is a friend of the workers. Friends of workers care about the lives of workers, no union that encourages and coordinates the assassinations of workers by other workers is a true representative of worker interests. Can a friend of the workers or worse its representative forget the principle of workers solidarity and unity? Only those who wish only to use workers will lead them to the verge of losing their employment and to careless about their families and future. We call on mine workers to disown vigilante unions like AMCU and to rid themselves of business unionist like Joseph Mathunjwa and the lot.

Students call on workers to rebuild their fighting force the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which they built for many years through sweat and blood. We urge our parents to refuse leadership that instigates them to kill one another, because killing each other does not weaken our primary enemy which is the bourgeoisie, it only aids to weaken worker unity and consolidate the interest of capital. We extend our solidarity with NUM which has seen many of its members killed during the period prefacing the Marikana massacre. SASCO calls on NUM to be courageous during this period and rise to once again win the hearts and minds of mine workers, especially in the platinum belt.

Students warn security agencies deployed to maintain peace in the area, the police and army, not to use brutal force at the slightest provocation against our parents. No worker must die at the hands of police, army or another worker. We call on all South Africans never to blame the workers for this imploding crisis but to correctly blame the mining bosses and their agents who masquerade as representatives of workers interests.

We send a word of solidarity to COSATU as it faces organizational and political difficulties. Students wish to remind the leadership that they have no option but to succeed in uniting workers for the opposite will only serve the interests of capital. We are convinced that only a strong and cohesive COSATU can truly champion the interests of South African workers in the shop-floor. All other suggested alternatives we view as adventurous, opportunistic and only directed at serving the political egos of individual leaders. A united COSATU could best champion the interests of the mine workers, its disunity has exposed them to vicious vigilantes. History shall judge us harshly, yet we have this moment to make amend.

An injury to one is an injury to all!
Forward with worker unity and solidarity!
Qina Msebenzi Qina!
Forward with Socialism
Aluta Continua

Issued by the NEC of SASCO

For more information contact

Ntuthuko Makhombothi (SASCO President); 0718752209
Luzuko Buku ( SASCO SG); 0718793258