South African mine workers as agents of a revolution

Workers’ struggle is an ongoing phenomenon since the earliest historical account. The availability of jobs, better wages and our human rights problem have always been a contentious issue.

During the unlikely times of injustices ,inequality and division, mine workers have dedicated strong connection and commitment towards fighting for their own labour rights. By the mid-1940’s, protests were taking place against the unjust and unfair system of jobs ,wages and poor working conditions. In 1946, workers from Witwatersrand took to the streets to demand better wages and improved working conditions. More than sixty thousand miners refused to work on minimum pay and bad working conditions. This demonstration has provided insight into how apartheid acted as an instrument to reinforce the capitalistic system of production.

The initial protest eventually changed radically and was linked to a greater awareness of labor and social change by tackling the standards for keeping migrant workers cheap. The police mobilized and carried out violent tactics in order to break down the strike. Nine miners were killed and more than 1,248 miners were critically wounded. The strike by miners in 1946 constantly reminds the difficulty faced by African workers and their families by the injustices of the mining sector in South Africa. This mining strike was the beginning of the shift in social consciousness and the apartheid movement.

Yet again, In 2012, More than three thousand Marikana miners went on strike to demand better living wages. The mine workers negotiated together with the mining directors to seek a decent minimum living wage outside the boundaries of the uproar that was fair and justifiable. It was also feasible beyond the code that regulates basic human rights. When their talks were on a standpoint and their demands fell on the deaf ears of the mining executive, they resorted to a protest action. That was the only way to get the attention of the mining executive who seem not to care about the experiences of poor black miners.

The administration of Lonmin refused to negotiate with the striking miners, instead pressing the current government to force the police to stop the strike. The incident caused unstable socio-economic and emotional wounds with the shooting which smashed and cruelly killed 34 mine workers and injured numerous others during a clash between the police and the the two surpassing mine unions which is NUM and AMCU after a lengthy wage strike at the Platinum Mine in Lonmin.

The killing in Marikana rocked the political pillars in South Africa and spread throughout the globe. The sorrow is still felt of the tragic incident of 2012.Although the dust has been settled but political instability and wage disputes, as well as declining stock in mining industries are occurring on a daily basis following the accident.

The incident poses huge challenges not only for the population of South Africa, but worldwide. This horrendous shooting shocked the country and made some comparisons with the massacre in Sharpeville in 1960 and the 1976 massacre of Soweto. Similarly, the armed police officers fired poor black miners who were rising up for their rights and protesting. The survivors and miners in detention said they were tortured and brutalized by the police. People were brutally killed even before and after that date. The police murder of mine workers is actually a toxic mix of state and mining business. Marikana started with a broad stage in the creation of a new, neo-colonial and neo-liberal system, a political and cultural industry that extends beyond disillusionment . Trade unions has been committed to preserving the resilience of the mine workers.

By Sanele Thwala

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