Nationalise Lonmin – forward with South African socialist revolution


The massacre of 34 striking miners at the hands of the ANC government’s police last Thursday marked a decisive point in the development of the South African revolution.

Despite all the phony tears from ANC president Jacob Zuma, who has announced a week of national mourning for the dead, it is clear that the murderous activities of the police are not going to hamper the re-opening of the platinum mine as far as either the owners, the government or COSATU are concerned.

This was driven home on Sunday when Lonmin issued an ultimatum to striking platinum miners to return to work on Monday (yesterday) or face the sack.

It was the same ultimatum to return to work or face dismissal by last Friday that provided the immediate backdrop to the police opening fire on strikers.

The loss of 34 lives as far as Lonmin is concerned only merits a two-day stay of execution, their sole concern being to get production started and keep the profits rolling in – since 3,000 rock drill operators walked out over a week ago 15% of the company’s value has been wiped out on the stock exchange.

Demanding a return to work with no concessions on pay or conditions, a spokesperson from Lonmin stated: ‘a stable mining sector is vital to the economic future of this country.’

This is a view held not just by Lonmin but by the ANC government, the leadership of COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions) and the Stalinist South African Communist Party.

All of them have lined up over the weekend to lay the blame for the massacre firmly at the door of the AMCU (Association of Miners and Construction Union) which has recruited extensively amongst the miners, winning thousands of members from the traditional NUM which is closely identified with not just the ANC but also with the mine owners themselves.

The NUM stands accused in the eyes of miners of accepting pay agreements that tie miners performing the most dangerous jobs underground into years of meagre increases, while the well-paid secretary of the NUM, Frans Baleni, is regarded as a more strident critic of nationalisation of the mines than some business leaders.

Baleni is reported in the New York Times as exonerating the police and blaming the mine workers saying ‘The police were patient but these people were extremely armed with dangerous weapons.’

This line, that it was the strikers to blame, that the police opened fire with automatic weapons because they had been threatened with spears, is identical to the justification wheeled out by the apartheid state after the Sharpeville massacre in 1960.

The cosy relationship between the NUM and the mine owners is typified by one of the founders of the NUM, Cyril Ramaphosa, who has become a millionaire businessman since the end of apartheid and sits on the NEC of the ANC.

Whether or not Ramaphosa has actual shares in the company there can be no denying the close relationship between the ANC, the unions and the Stalinists, a relationship so close that it is now cemented with the blood of workers.

The ultimatum for strikers to return to work by yesterday has been met with a resounding refusal to be intimidated. by the deadline, only one quarter of miners had reported for work with the company themselves being forced to admit that none of them appeared to be from the 3,000 striking drill workers, leading to a one more day extension of the company ultimatum.

There can be only one way forward for the working class and impoverished masses in South Africa and that is to carry out a socialist revolution that will put an end to capitalism, whether it carries a black or white face.