The massacre at the Marikana mine is a horrific tragedy that lays bare the reality of life in capitalist South Africa. An eyewitness account documents what really happened.
When the strikers refused to leave what has been called the “Hill of Horror,” the South African Police Force drew razor wire around the hill and surrounded it with Casspirs (armored cars) and water cannons. A small number of strikers went down near the wire, looking for a way out. The police opened fire on them with rubber bullets, and a number of them bolted towards a gap in the razor wire, where the police fired again, this time with live ammunition.
The video footage which has already been broadcast around the world shows what happened after the police started firing. But there is no footage of what happened on the hill about 300 meters in the other direction, where the largest number of strikers were slaughtered. There is also no footage of the workers who were killed as they ran across the fields, where they were chased down and shot from helicopters and mowed down by armored cars. By now, the police have cleaned up all the bullet and tear gas casings.
The National Police Commissioner, Riah Phiyega, grotesquely claimed that “This was the right thing to do,” and the General Secretary of the NUM (National Union of Miners), Frans Baleni, said “The police were patient, but these people were extremely armed with dangerous weapons.” How are men with machetes and clubs supposed to stand against police armed with automatic weapons? Did the miners have helicopters and armored cars? They did not attack the police. They were running after having been shot, like anybody would do, and the police hunted them down like animals.
In Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela's autobiography, we learn that under apartheid, 10 percent of the population, the Afrikaners, owned 87 percent of the land. The ANC has been in power now for 18 years, and in those 18 years they have turned over only 8 percent of the land to Black farmers.
The ANC is a capitalist party. When Mandela took power, they walked away from their own Freedom Charter, which promised land reform and nationalization of industry, and proceeded to impose IMF structural adjustment programs on the country. Redistribution has benefited only a tiny number of privileged ANC leaders like Cyril Ramaphosa, who was the head of the NUM, then ANC Secretary General and now sits on the board of Lonmin, which owns the Marikana mine.
The other partners in the South African government, the South African Communist Party and COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions), have also failed the miners. The South African Communist Party has officially called for the arrest of the leaders of the dissident union AMCU (Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union) without making any concrete accusations. A U.S. Stalinist, Jean Damu, recently wrote a piece in Counterpunch arguing that AMCU was “dual unionist” and should immediately liquidate itself into the NUM.
The logic behind this thinking is that no independent trade union should exist outside of those which already support the government. We make no judgment about the politics of AMCU, but we recognize that it is the target of vicious repression directed by the key players in the South African government and that it provides a limited expression of dissent against South African capitalism.
The South African workers rightfully seek social and economic equality. The end of apartheid did not give this to them because the ANC and its partners in the government accept the continuation of capitalism and Afrikaner economic domination. Meaningful equality can come only when the mines, the factories, the banks, transport, agribusiness and all production are expropriated and used to establish a planned economy in which production is geared to meeting human needs, not private profit.
We condemn the ANC and its partners who bind the workers to capitalist policies, and we have nothing in common with the nationalist policies of Julius Malema who supported the previous ANC government and aspires to replace the ANC leadership. We support the struggles of South African workers for economic equality. But to achieve this it is not enough to fight for vague demands like better wages and working conditions. This kind of reformist fightback approach was already tried by FOSATU (Federation of South African Trade Unions) in the 1980s and, although their militancy was admirable, it ended with their liquidation into the class-collaborationist COSATU.
To win, the South African working class must build a party based on a working class political program to seize power. And they can win, if they adopt an internationalist perspective that links their struggles with those of workers in neighboring countries.
Victory to the Marikana miners!
For a black-centered South African workers' government!