THE FIFTH anniversary of the Marikana massacre, where 37 striking miners were gunned down by the police, was a turning point in the revolutionary struggles of the South African working class.
The strike at the platinum mine, owned by the British based Lonmin mining company, had been called by the AMCU union, a new union, unrecognised by the employer, formed by miners sickened by the refusal of the officially recognised National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) to lead any struggle against the appalling wages and housing conditions forced on them.
Conditions and pay that had been imposed under the apartheid regime had not been improved since the coming to power of the ANC. The strike, called to demand a wage of R12,500 a month, was met with increasing police violence – in the days running up to the massacre, on 16th August 2012, 10 miners had already been killed on the picket line.
The orders for this massacre came from the very top of the ANC leadership, a leadership that since the days of the liberation struggle has wholeheartedly embraced capitalism and enriched itself at the expense of the black working class.
Marikana exposed the lengths to which the ANC were prepared to go to protect the interests of the mine owners – they were prepared to encourage and sanction the murder of workers for the profits of the bosses, profits which had made these leaders multi-millionaires.
The prime example of this is Cyril Ramaphosa, one-time liberation fighter against white rule and leader of the NUM who sat on the board of Lonmin and is a multi-millionaire. He is also Deputy President of the ruling ANC and tipped to take over from Jacob Zuma as president.
Ramaphosa as a director of Lonmin did absolutely nothing to end the appalling wages and conditions of miners, instead lining his pockets out of the profits of their exploitation. He went out of his way to condemn the strike saying it was a ‘dastardly criminal act’ which required ‘concomitant action’ as it threatened the profits of Lonmin and other mine owners.
No one from the top of the ANC, the police who opened fire on unarmed strikers or the leadership of the trade union federation COSATU, who blamed the strikers themselves for being massacred, has been called to account. Meanwhile, the conditions for mineworkers have scarcely improved as all the promises of new housing and better conditions have evaporated.
COSATU at its conference in December 2016 even voted to back the hated Ramaphosa to take over from the heavily corrupted Zuma as leader of the ruling ANC. The Marikana massacre was a historic turning point in the South African revolution.
With the overthrow of the apartheid regime in 1994 the ANC, supported by COSATU and the Stalinist South African Communist Party (SACP), emerged as a bourgeois party dedicated to keeping capitalism thriving and keeping the working class firmly in its place, and quite prepared to use the brutal methods of the old apartheid regime to do so.
The role of COSATU union leaders has been to join the boards of companies while striving to police their members. The role of the SACP has been to provide a political cover for this reactionary conspiracy against the working class. Marikana changed all this as millions of workers and youth now understand the role being played by the ANC and its supporters. The demand now powering the working class forward is for an end to capitalism, whether it wears a white or black face.
The only lasting way to commemorate the Marikana massacre is to continue to drive forward to the South African socialist revolution, when workers in alliance with the rural poor bring down the ANC government and replace it with a workers’ government that will expropriate all the bosses and bankers and give the land to the people.
The South African socialist revolution will play a decisive role in Africa, inspiring workers across the continent to rise up and overthrow bankrupt capitalism to establish a Socialist United States of Africa. This pressing task demands the building of the revolutionary leadership of the Fourth International in every country in Africa to take the working class forward to victory.