‘Marikana massacre demonstrated the class character of the ANC’ says South African Federation of Trade Unions

SAFTU poster depicts the victims of the massacre at Lonmin’s Marikana mine

‘WILL VICTIMS of Marikana ever get justice under the ANC (African National Congress) government?’ asked the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) on Monday.

On 16 August 2012, striking mineworkers at Lonmin in Marikana were mowed down in a bloody massacre, leaving 34 miners dead and about 78 injured. This massacre represented a qualitative turning point politically in the country.
The massacre succeeded in sharpening the contradictions within the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). The mineworkers, organising themselves into strike committees, conducted an open rebellion against the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) leadership, accusing it of being ‘captured’ by mine management.
The massacre, combined with the initial complaint of the sell-out allegations against the NUM leadership, took this debate to its logical conclusions in COSATU, and put centre-stage, the relevance of the tripartite alliance.
These debates on the relevance of the alliance in the context of ANC’s talk-left walk-right gave birth to sinister plans to drive out of COSATU, the biggest affiliate, NUMSA, and the now General Secretary of SAFTU, Cde Zwelinzima Vavi, (then GS of COSATU).
On this basis, Marikana massacre partially catalysed the birth of SAFTU.
Further, the Marikana massacre demonstrated more clearly the class character of the ANC to the rest of the working masses. Until then, the working people had illusions that, despite its policy direction since 1996, it would not massacre people in defence of capital.
The Marikana massacre tore that illusion apart.
Having started with Andries Tatane in 2011, the Marikana massacre in 2012, the ANC government proceeded to brutalise students and workers in FeesMustFall and OutsourcingMustFall, and community activists in service delivery protests, thus cementing its character as biased to business and not the people.
Ironically, these series of brutalisations took place under Jacob Zuma’s administration, proving that, contrary to what his desperate supporters would like us to believe today with rhetoric of him being progressive and revolutionary, he is as much a pro- capitalist as president Cyril Ramaphosa.
Political players in the massacre
Neither Zuma, who presided over the state then, nor Ramaphosa, who was a non-executive director of (mining company) Lonmin and had sent an email that pressured police minister, Nathi Mthethwa, to act ‘concomitantly’ against the striking mineworkers, have been held responsible for this massacre.
Instead, Nathi Mthethwa has been rewarded for taking that ‘concomitant action’ on the 16th of August 2012 with a seat in Ramaphosa’s cabinet as the Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture.
Ramaphosa was given a deputy presidential position of the ANC in December 2012, and today, is the sitting president of both the ruling party and the country.
Zuma is in prison for matters unrelated to the Marikana massacre, and his pretentions to be pro-worker have been disproved by this massacre that tore families and snatched breadwinners, leaving them in untold poverty and their children despondent.
The Farlam Commission recommended the establishment of a panel of experts to examine and make recommendations on policing and crowd management.
The unfortunate consequence of this recommendation is that it has been used to relegate the deliberate orchestration of the massacre to the incompetency of the police. But that is not true.
The massacre of Lonmin mineworkers in Marikana was a predetermined ‘concomitant action’, not the incompetence of police in crowd management.
The real role players are the political officers at the time: President of the country, Minister of Police, and the National and Provincial police commissioners of the time, including Ramaphosa. The massacre should not be relegated to the police force on the ground as such. The suggestion that they acted incompetently scapegoat the instructions of the political leadership.
Justice for the slain mineworkers
In a seminar last year, some of the children of the slain mineworkers considered dropping out of school to look for work to assist their families. Should they drop, they will be joining 40% of learners who drop out of the schooling system before reaching matriculation in South Africa.
The ultimate result is a trap in perpetually low-skilled and precarious jobs that pay slave wages.
SAFTU reiterates that the following role-players should be charged for premeditating and ordering the cold murder of the mineworkers in Marikana:

  • The then Minister of Minerals Suzan Shabangu, who is also a former unionist, clearly collaborated with Ramaphosa in ensuring that the state killed those mine workers. She also didn’t use her experience to facilitate a peaceful settlement but instead piled pressure on the Minister of Police to act in support of the mine bosses.
  • The Minister of Police at the time, Nathi Mthethwa, who cannot for a minute claim he did not know that the police had decided that 16 August 2019 was the ‘D–Day’. The massacre is probably the result of the ‘concomitant action’ that he took on the instruction of Cyril Ramaphosa, then a heavy business magnate and a senior leading member of the ANC
  • The President at the time, Jacob Zuma. Zuma cannot claim that he did not know what his Ministers were doing – to aid the capitalist class by refusing to pay workers a decent wage – is as guilty as Cyril Ramaphosa. He has dogged taking political responsibility over the massacre.
  • Cyril Ramaphosa, who was a non-executive director of Lonmin, pressured Nathi Mthethwa to take ‘concomitant action’ against the Marikana mineworkers. He also referred to them as ‘plainly dastardly criminals’.

Instead of using his skills as a trade union leader to bring the parties to a negotiating table, he used his influence in the ANC to get the state to act so brutally against the mineworkers.
A shameful presidential performance that
forever stains Cyril Ramaphosa’s integrity
Martin Luther King Jr once said: ‘The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbour will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others.’
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s August 11-12 testimony to the Zondo Commission on State Capture was little short of farcical.
The very confession he made delegitimises our President on the grounds of basic competence: ‘Were we complicit? The answer is no. Could we be said to be negligent? It could well be, but complicit we were not.’
Whether negligent or purposeful, his complicity with Zuma-era state capture – so he could ‘stay in the ring’ by not whistle-blowing through even the worst incidents, such as Eskom’s looting – indicates Ramaphosa’s assimilation into what can now be considered RamaZupta rule.
Today, not even his loyal supporters in big business can defend a man so utterly compromised.
His regular giggling during testimony was accompanied by opaque phraseology meant to deflect instead of grapple with the truth.
This level of wilful ignorance – or strategic amnesia as one analyst calls it – defines the era when he was serving as Deputy President of the ANC (2012-17) and of the country (2014-18).
The country is left stunned and despondent, not knowing whether the wily strategist couldn’t, after all, ‘connect the dots’ – or whether he is just a shameless liar. Either way, his time has come and gone.
The workers of South Africa are furious about Ramaphosa’s testimony. We would not be so angry if we saw a renewal! But from paying delegates bribes at ANC conferences to prioritising his own factional intra-ANC warfare by making further sleazy deals, and last week when given an opportunity to reshuffle cabinet, to renewing mandates for corrupt politicians – including retaining Arthur Fraser and David Mahlobo – all together these represent continuity from RamaZupta times to today.
To have leading ANC figures from the 2007-18 period retaining enormous power in 2021 – in Cabinet and the ANC’s National Working Committee – is sickening.
Ramaphosa’s lack of will to counter corruption is evident, for instance, in not calling for an investigation into allegations levelled against Minister Blade Nzimande – his trusted Lieutenant – by his suspended Director General, Gwebinkundla Qonde.
The SAFTU General Secretary and a handful of others have offered countless apologies when it comes to participating in Jacob Zuma’s rise to power in 2007 at the ANC’s Polokwane conference.