‘Don’t use Marikana victims for political gain’ says AMCU


The victims of the Marikana massacre should not be used to mend relations between the ANC and the Economic freedom Fighters (EFF), Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) president Joseph Mathunjwa said on Monday.

‘We were unpleasantly surprised in the recent address at the funeral of our struggle icon and heroine Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela that the state president has courted the leadership of the EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) to nicodemusly (secretly) go and apologise to the widows of the Marikana massacre,’ Mathunjwa said in an open letter.

This was after ANC (African National Congress) president Cyril Ramaphosa said at Madikizela-Mandela’s funeral at the weekend that he would take EFF leader Julius Malema with him ‘to heal the wounds of those in Marikana’. Ramaphosa said Madikizela-Mandela had promised that she would take him to Marikana to formally apologise to the widows of the 34 miners who were killed. ‘I am going to go to Marikana without you, but I will be guided by your spirit,’ Ramaphosa said at the funeral service.

Before Ramaphosa delivered his eulogy, Malema first lauded the president and then hit out at him, without mentioning his name, over the killing of striking mineworkers in the North West’s Marikana Massacre on 16th August 2012. Mathunjwa said AMCU was not interested in this ‘marriage of convenience’.

‘Close to 30,000 Lonmin workers, who are today members of AMCU, were touched by this incident one way or the other. ‘It is therefore short-sighted for the leadership of both political parties to think that they can approach the widows of the Marikana Massacre as a wholesome extension of the olive branch.’

AMCU had welcomed Ramaphosa’s stance in his reply to the debate on his State of the Nation Address earlier this year that he would play whatever role he could in the process of healing and atonement. ‘We believe that the approach taken by the president’s pronouncement (at the weekend) is narrow and does not meet the expectations of AMCU in its current format.’ Mathunjwa said the union was apolitical.

‘We are worried therefore by this narrative which seeks to project the EFF as closer to AMCU than any other political party. ‘The suggestion that the EFF leadership can provide access to the widows of the Marikana victims is misleading and an underhand attempt to undermine AMCU in this reconciliation process.

‘We view the process initiated by the president in a serious light as a stepping stone to reconciliation and finding closure to this matter. ‘Our members have been persecuted, victimised and vilified because of the Marikana massacre.

‘To pay lip service to this process by opening old wounds with no intention to genuinely close them will be inhumane to say the least. ‘We therefore commit to work with the president if he is serious about embarking on a healing process.’

The union emphasised that it did not need the EFF or any other political party to mediate.

Meanwhile, the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) is shocked by the report that government spending on basic education per learner over the past seven years has declined by 8% in real terms.

Total expenditure on education, in money terms, over the last seven years has increased by the rate of inflation, about 7% a year, but in this period there was a big increase in the number of new learners, as a result of a sharp rise in the birth-rate between 2003 and 2005, which only came down slightly in 2008.

As a result of this increase, grade 1 enrolments showed a similar rise five years later, from 2008 onwards, as the extra children started school. The consequence of this increase (plus higher retention in the schooling system) has meant that there were about 670,000 more pupils in 2016 than there were in 2010.

That led to larger classes, fewer books and fewer teachers per child, because of this increasing number of learners, but without in an equivalent increase in income between 2010 and 2017, but on the contrary an 8% decline.

In 2010, government spent an average of R17,822 per child, (based on the value of the rand in 2017), but this dropped to R16,435 in 2017 and it is projected to decrease further to R15,963 by 2019. This will mean a 10% decline in funding per pupil in the 10 years, from 2010 to 2019. The traditional inflation rate, measured by the Consumer Price Index, is inappropriate for education, because it does not reflect how much it would cost in 2018 to buy the same basket of education goods – salaries, books, school maintenance, etc that were bought in 2010.

This fall in state funding helps to explain the declines in the quality of basic education which the Progress in International Reading and Literacy Study (Pirls) revealed. It showed that 78% of grade 4s cannot read for meaning and 66% of grade 5s cannot do basic maths. The study also showed that the average class size of grade 4 classes in SA was 40 in 2011, but increased to 45 in 2016. This average however hides the reality that the largest increases occurred in the poorest schools.

Class sizes increased in the schools with 60% of the poorest learners from 41 to 48 per class over the same period. In the schools attended by the richest 10% of pupils, class sizes only increased from 33 to 35 per class.

These findings cannot be unrelated to the drop in spending per pupil over the same period, and this will get even worse after the recent austerity budget which shifted increases from basic to higher education budget allocations, following Jacob Zuma’s new policy of free higher education for poor and working-class families, which was confirmed by President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2018.

As a result the budget raised spending on higher education by R57bn over the next three years.

SAFTU fully supports this increase and for the call for free higher education for all, but this must not be done at the expense of increases for basic education, which is no less vital.

The poor will never be able to get free higher education if primary and secondary education is so underfunded and inadequate that learners do not have the basic foundation of skills and knowledge to be able to move to the tertiary level. The federation demands that the government urgently increase the budget for basic education to take account of these cuts in spending in real terms.

When campaigning against South Africa’s terrible levels of poverty and inequality, SAFTU has never looked only at the incomes, or lack of incomes, received by workers, but always also at the decline of the social wage. This is the proportion of public expenditure going to improve vital services like education, housing, healthcare, social grants and public transport.

We now have clear evidence that in basic education the social wage is in decline. SAFTU demands that similar studies be urgently undertaken of all public services to compare the overall amount of money spent with the amount per person benefitting from those services, e.g. the number of patients in state hospitals. If similar findings emerge as in basic education – that spending per person is falling – there should also be revised budget and extra funds released to make up the shortfall, so that the budget is based on the cost per user of the service.

SAFTU says that this new report provides further evidence of the extent and depth of the economic and social crisis we face. Everyone across the social and political spectrum says how crucial education is in promoting economic growth and creating jobs, yet here is evidence that we are not serious, by allowing a decline in this investment in the future when we should be increasing it.

• Authorities raided the Guptas’ Saxonwold compound on Monday afternoon to seize assets from those implicated in the Vrede dairy farm case, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said.

The order was the result of criminal investigations by the Hawks (South Africa’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation), which led to the arrest and institution of criminal prosecution against several people. Around 20 officials entered the gates of the compound earlier on Monday, while police officers stood outside.

Eight people were arrested by the Hawks during raids at a number of Gupta compounds, including their Saxonwold home and one of their offices in Sandton in February. The eight were Estina director Kamal Vasram, several former directors at the Gupta’s holding company Oakbay – Varun Gupta, Ronica Ragavan, Nazeem Howa and Ashu Chawla, and Free State officials Peter Thabethe, Sylvia Dlamini and Takisi Masiteng.

In January, the Hawks conducted search and seizure operations at Free State Premier Ace Magashule’s offices and the provincial office of the department of agriculture. An affidavit revealed that Free State’s agricultural department – which was then under the leadership of former mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane – allegedly paid R220m to the Guptas and some of their associates in what the Asset Forfeiture Unit calls a ‘scheme designed to defraud and steal monies from the department’.