Monday, September 3, 2012

Murder of 34 Striking Mine Workers in South Africa Exposes Deep Class Divisions in Post Apartheid Society

Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
The police arrested 270 miners after a deadly confrontation on Aug. 16 at an outcropping near the Marikana platinum mine. Prosecutors now say they plan to file charges against those miners.

Mourners attend the funeral of Andries Motlapula Ntsenyeho, one of 34 striking platinum mineworkers shot dead at Lonmin's Marikana mine, at his home town of Sasolburg in South Africa's Free State province yesterday. Mike Hutchings / Reuters

"After climbing a great hill one only finds that there are many more hills to climb"
--Nelson Mandela, 1994

"We thought we were different...We've been brought very firmly to the ground."
--Desmond Tutu, 2008

"‘Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it’.
--Frantz Fanon, 1961


What a horrible tragedy! But it's important to note that this is what inevitably always happens when in the midst of forming and sustaining a new government following a long and difficult struggle against the brutal history of colonial domination former revolutionary organizations like the African National Congress (ANC) decide to forgo genuine self determination--and thus true national independence--to slavishly kowtow to the global forces of Capital and thereby essentially sell out themselves, their people, and their political and moral legacy to their "former" imperialist/colonial enemies headquartered in London, Berlin, Paris, Lisbon, Amsterdam, and New York--all in the name of becoming the neocolonial political and economic elite whose own massive wealth on a local scale is a much smaller share of the huge profits derived from their own complicity in the further expansion of the ruthless exploitation and organized theft of the land, labor, and material resources of their own people by this national elite in collusion with their former masters. It's a very old and all too predictable pattern no less relevant for the ongoing venality that it reveals about the lethal consequences of not fiercely opposing, challenging, and defeating the structural and institutional rule of capitalism and racism in ALL of its many guises and dimensions in one's own country from Day One of ascending to power as the new administrative and political regime. Clearly, South Africa is headed toward a new civil war on the basis of profound class conflict within the national majority black population, aided and abetted by its various interracial/multiracial coalitions created as the heinous connections between corporate forces from within both South Africa and among their imperialist "friends" and partners abroad. In the meantime their political/military "protectors" consisting of the police, army, national security apparatus and national governmental bureaucracies made up of the comprador bourgeoisie recruited from the now corrupted cadre of the old ANC masquerading as a reliable source of "national unity" and political/constitutional sovereignty. Of course in reality nothing could be further from the truth than these transparently fraudulent claims. And it's crucial to note that no matter how oppressed, demoralized, and repressed the masses of citizens are under these corrupt regimes they are fully aware of this deception and knows very well who and what are directly responsible for it--just like those striking and exploited miners certainly knew and understood and were brutally murdered precisely because of their advanced consciousness and their willingness to struggle against these forces in the name of real social and economic justice. As the prophetic revolutionary Frantz Fanon so presciently pointed out in "The Pitfalls of National Consciousness" the pivotal third chapter of his now classic text The Wretched of the Earth (1961) on the neocolonial traps, corruptions, and delusions of the new national elite in the seemingly "postrevolutionary" period following the formal demise of colonialism:

"HISTORY teaches us clearly that the battle against colonialism does not run straight away along the lines of nationalism. For a very long time the native devotes his energies to ending certain definite abuses: forced labour, corporal punishment, inequality of salaries, limitation of political rights, etc. This fight for democracy against the oppression of mankind will slowly leave the confusion of neo-liberal universalism to emerge, sometimes laboriously, as a claim to nationhood. It so happens that the unpreparedness of the educated classes, the lack of practical links between them and the mass of the people, their laziness, and, let it be said, their cowardice at the decisive moment of the struggle will give rise to tragic mishaps. National consciousness, instead of being the all-embracing crystallization of the innermost hopes of the whole people, instead of being the immediate and most obvious result of the mobilization of the people, will be in any case only an empty shell, a crude and fragile travesty of what it might have been. The faults that we find in it are quite sufficient explanation of the facility with which, when dealing with young and independent nations, the nation is passed over for the race, and the tribe is preferred to the state. These are the cracks in the edifice which show the process of retrogression that is so harmful and prejudicial to national effort and national unity. We shall see that such retrograde steps with all the weaknesses and serious dangers that they entail are the historical result of the incapacity of the national middle class to rationalize popular action, that is to say their incapacity to see into the reasons for that action.

This traditional weakness, which is almost congenital to the national consciousness of under-developed countries, is not solely the result of the mutilation of the colonized people by the colonial regime. It is also the result of the intellectual laziness of the national middle class, of its spiritual penury, and of the profoundly cosmopolitan mould that its mind is set in. The national middle class which takes over power at the end of the colonial regime is an under-developed middle class. It has practically no economic power, and in any case it is in no way commensurate with the bourgeoisie of the mother country which it hopes to replace. In its wilful narcissism, the national middle class is easily convinced that it can advantageously replace the middle class of the mother country. But that same independence which literally drives it into a comer will give rise within its ranks to catastrophic reactions, and will oblige it to send out frenzied appeals for help to the former mother country. The university and merchant classes which make up the most enlightened section of the new state are in fact characterized by the smallness of their number and their being concentrated in the capital, and the type of activities in which they are engaged: business, agriculture and the liberal professions. Neither financiers nor industrial magnates are to be found within this national middle class. The national bourgeoisie of under-developed countries is not engaged in production, nor in invention, nor building, nor labour; it is completely canalized into activities of the intermediary type. Its innermost vocation seems to be to keep in the running and to be part of the racket. The psychology of the national bourgeoisie is that of the businessman, not that of a captain of industry; and it is only too true that the greed of the settlers and the system of embargoes set up by colonialism has hardly left them any other choice. Under the colonial system, a middle class which accumulates capital is an impossible phenomenon.

Now, precisely, it would seem that the historical vocation of an authentic national middle class in an under-developed country is to repudiate its own nature in so far as it is bourgeois, that is to say in so far as it is the tool of capitalism, and to make itself the willing slave of that revolutionary capital which is the people.
In an under-developed country an authentic national middle class ought to consider as its bounden duty to betray the calling fate has marked out for it, and to put itself to school with the people: in other words to put at the people’s disposal the intellectual and technical capital that it has snatched when going through the colonial universities. But unhappily we shall see that very often the national middle class does not follow this heroic, positive, fruitful and just path; rather, it disappears with its soul set at peace into the shocking ways — shocking because anti-national — of a traditional bourgeoisie, of a bourgeoisie which is stupidly, contemptibly, cynically bourgeois. The objective of nationalist parties as from a certain given period is, we have seen, strictly national. They mobilize the people with slogans of independence, and for the rest leave it to future events. When such parties are questioned on the economic programme of the state that they are clamouring for, or on the nature of the regime which they propose to install, they are incapable of replying, because, precisely, they are completely ignorant of the economy of their own country. This economy has always developed outside the limits of their knowledge. They have nothing more than an approximate, bookish acquaintance with the actual and potential resources of their country’s soil and mineral deposits; and therefore they can only speak of these resources on a general and abstract plane. After independence this under-developed middle class, reduced in numbers and without capital, which refuses to follow the path of revolution, will fall into deplorable stagnation. It is unable to give free rein to its genius, which formerly it was wont to lament, though rather too glibly, was held in check by colonial domination. The precariousness of its resources and the paucity of its managerial class forces it back for years into an artisan economy. From its point of view, which is inevitably a very limited one, a national economy is an economy based on what may be called local products. Long speeches will be made about the artisan class.

Since the middle classes find it impossible to set up factories that would be more profit-earning both for themselves and for the country as a whole, they will surround the artisan class with a chauvinistic tenderness in keeping with the new awareness of national dignity, and which moreover will bring them in quite a lot of money. This cult of local products and this incapability to seek out new systems of management will be equally manifested by the bogging down of the national middle class in the methods of agricultural production which were characteristic of the colonial period.
The national economy of the period of independence is not set on a new footing. It is still concerned with the ground-nut harvest, with the cocoa crop and the olive yield. In the same way there is no change in the marketing of basic products, and not a single industry is set up in the country. We go on sending out raw materials; we go on being Europe’s small farmers who specialize in unfinished products. Yet the national middle class constantly demands the nationalization of the economy and of the trading sectors. This is because, from their point of view, nationalization does not mean placing the whole economy at the service of the nation and deciding to satisfy the needs of the nation. For them, nationalization does not mean governing the state with regard to the new social relations whose growth it has been decided to encourage. To them, nationalization quite simply means the transfer into native hands of those unfair advantages which are a legacy of the colonial period. Since the middle class has neither sufficient material nor intellectual resources (by intellectual resources we mean engineers and technicians) it limits its claims to the taking over of business offices and commercial houses formerly occupied by the settlers. The national bourgeoisie steps into the shoes of the former European settlement: doctors, barristers, traders, commercial travellers, general agents and transport agents. It considers that the dignity of the country and its own welfare require that it should occupy all these posts. From now on it will insist that all the big foreign companies should pass through its hands, whether these companies wish to keep on their connexions with the country, or to open it up. The national middle class discovers its historic mission: that of intermediary. Seen through its eyes, its mission has nothing to do with transforming the nation; it consists, prosaically, of being the transmission line between the nation and a capitalism, rampant though camouflaged, which today puts on the masque of neocolonialism. The national bourgeoisie will be quite content with the role of the Western bourgeoisie’s business agent, and it will play its part without any complexes in a most dignified manner. But this same lucrative role, this cheap-jack’s function, this meanness of outlook and this absence of all ambition symbolize the incapability of the national middle class to fulfil its historic role of bourgeoisie. Here, the dynamic, pioneer aspect, the characteristics of the inventor and of the discoverer of new worlds which are found in all national bourgeoisies are lamentably absent.

In the colonial countries, the spirit of indulgence is dominant at the core of the bourgeoisie; and this is because the national bourgeoisie identifies itself with the Western bourgeoisie, from whom it has learnt its lessons. It follows the Western bourgeoisie along its path of negation and decadence without ever having emulated it in its first stages of exploration and invention, stages which are an acquisition of that Western bourgeoisie whatever the circumstances. In its beginnings, the national bourgeoisie of the colonial countries identifies itself with the decadence of the bourgeoisie of the West. We need not think that it is jumping ahead; it is in fact beginning at the end. It is already senile before it has come to know the petulance, the fearlessness or the will to succeed of youth."

This is the real challenge facing South Africa today and no empty platitudes about the "glorious revolutionary past" invoked by the current heavily compromised representatives of the ANC now running the government in that endlessly beleaguered country can possibly be seen by anyone as an adequate response to the deadly crisis of class warfare enveloping South Africa at this very moment.


In Police Shooting of Miners, South Africa Charges Miners

The police arrested 270 miners after a deadly confrontation on Aug. 16 at an outcropping near the Marikana platinum mine. Prosecutors now say they plan to file charges against those miners.

August 30, 2012

The National

LUANDA, Angola — Two weeks after the police opened fire on a crowd of 3,000 workers engaged in a wildcat strike at a platinum mine near Johannesburg, killing 34 people in the bloodiest labor unrest since the end of apartheid, prosecutors are bringing murder charges against a surprising set of suspects: the miners themselves.

Using an obscure legal doctrine frequently relied upon by the apartheid government in its dying days, prosecutors did not accuse the police officers who shot and killed the strikers as they surged forward, machetes in hand. Instead, officials said Thursday that they were pursuing murder charges against the 270 miners who were arrested after the dust settled and the shooting stopped.

It was the latest astonishing turn in a story that has gripped South Africa, unleashing a torrent of rage over deepening inequality, poverty and unemployment.

The shootings have fed a growing sense of betrayal at the country’s governing party, the venerable African National Congress, many of whose senior members have joined a wealthy elite a world away from the downtrodden masses whose votes brought them to power at the end of apartheid in 1994. Now the prosecutors’ decision to charge the miners in the killings threatens to intensify that rift.

Frank Lesenyego, a spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority, cited “34 counts of murder that have been laid against the 270 accused,” in connection with the killings of the 34 miners on Aug. 16. He said they were being charged under a law known as “common purpose,” in which members of a crowd when a crime is committed can be prosecuted as accomplices.

It was unclear whether the charges were simply a legal maneuver to keep the miners, who have been in jail for two weeks, under lock and key, or if prosecutors were intent on pursuing the murder charges in court. Legal experts were quick to say that the accusations were extreme.

“The charge is spurious,” said Pierre de Vos, a legal scholar at the University of Cape Town. “It will not fly. No court in South Africa on any set of facts will find the miners guilty through the common purpose doctrine.”

Patrick Craven, a spokesman for Cosatu, a federation of trade unions, criticized the murder charges. “This is pure intimidation,” Mr. Craven said. “The lawyers must really be very stupid if they think these charges will stick. The notion that these miners are responsible for the deaths of their own fellow workers is absurd.”

Several thousand workers at a platinum mine, in the town of Marikana, northwest of Johannesburg, went on strike this month, demanding a raise. The mine is owned by Lonmin, a company based in London. The men were members of a radical, breakaway union whose leaders were trying to drum up membership and had urged workers to strike to get higher pay and better working conditions. They occupied a rocky hill, armed themselves with machetes, spears and clubs, and chanted war songs and anthems from the struggle against apartheid.

For days, the authorities watched warily as the crowd grew more militant. Two police officers were hacked to death, and eight other people were killed in violent clashes. On Aug. 16, the police were given the order to move in. The police said that they tried to chase away the miners with rubber bullets and stun grenades, but that they were forced to resort to live ammunition when the miners surged at them. The police said they retrieved six guns from the scene, including one that belonged to one of the dead police officers.

The bloodshed, so reminiscent of the horror of the apartheid-era police force’s firing on protesters, stunned the nation. The government, trade unions and the opposition roundly condemned the violence, and President Jacob Zuma set up an independent commission to investigate the killings and gave it broad powers to subpoena testimony.

The police involved in the shooting could still face criminal charges as well. The inquiry set up by Mr. Zuma has the power to refer cases for prosecution, and it is expected to deliver a report in five months.

Journalists at the scene caught some of the shooting on video and in photographs. The police account, meticulously laid out in a multimedia presentation the day after the clash, has been questioned by witnesses and journalists who have examined the scene and concluded that at least some of the workers were killed in what appeared to be much more suspicious circumstances.

Some of the dead and 78 wounded were struck far from the scene of the strike or shot in the back, according to local news reports, suggesting that they were not directly involved in the confrontation or were fleeing it.

The common purpose doctrine used by prosecutors against the miners has its roots in English law, and it is not unlike laws that allow anyone associated with a crime to be charged as an accomplice, Professor de Vos said. But based on the known facts in this case, bringing the charge makes little sense, he said.

“They are conflating the possibility that the crowd might have provoked the police, which is something different from willing on the police to shoot and kill people,” Professor de Vos said. “If a court were to convict, it would be akin to a finding that they had the intention of killing themselves.”

The common purpose clause was widely abused in the last days of apartheid to jail protesters, and in a few cases people not directly involved in killing were sentenced to death under it. In the most famous case, six protesters were sentenced to be hanged for the killing of the deputy mayor of Sharpeville in 1984, though they did not directly participate in it.

The case drew international condemnation, and the accused were not executed because the death penalty was suspended in 1990 as the apartheid government began to weaken. The law was affirmed by the courts as recently as 2003, but the decision allowed it only under a very narrow set of circumstances, including when a defendant knows and intends that a killing will take place.

Miners killed by police in South Africa are buried
Agence France-Presse
September 2, 2012

MTHATHA, SOUTH AFRICA// South Africa yesterday buried most of the 34 miners killed by police last month during the worst crackdown on protests since apartheid

Twenty-six of the 34 miners were being buried this weekend.

Meanwhile, lawyers are demanding the release of 270 surviving miners who have been charged with their colleagues' murder under a law used by the former apartheid regime.

The miners were killed on August 16 when police fired into a crowd of miners on strike at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine.

The majority of the killed miners came from the Eastern Cape province. One funeral was held in Mdumazulu village for Phumzile Sokhanyile, a 48-year-old miner, and his mother, who collapsed and died on hearing the news of his death.

Glorious Mamkhuzeni- Sokhanyile, 79, who suffered from asthma and hypertension, had fainted when she learnt of the death of her son, two days after the killings, a family member said.

But it was watching video of the police opening fire on the miners shown a day later on a television news report that led her to her death, said the miner's aunt Thokozile Sokhanyile.

"She saw the images and went 'Ah! That's how my son was killed?' and she collapsed," she added.

Thousands of relatives, workmates and friends had gathered under a white tent yesterday to mourn their deaths.

Only the mother's coffin lay in front with a wreath on top. Phumzile was buried on Friday as soon it was received by the family, according to rites in cases where a person dies of unnatural causes.

The body was not allowed anywhere near his family home and was taken straight to a cemetery, in the belief that this would ward off bad omens.

South Africa mine dispute a symptom of 'intense poverty and inequality'
South Africa prepares memorials for mine deaths

South Africa mine dispute a symptom of 'intense poverty and inequality' by Richard Ferraris
August 22, 2012
The National

As head of a powerful mineworkers' union during the struggle against apartheid, Cyril Ramaphosa led a strike that erupted into clashes with police and left 11 people dead.

Mine violence shows lessons of apartheid still unheeded

Today, Mr Ramaphosa, one of the most venerable members of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), sits on the board of directors of the company that owns the Marikana mine, where 34 striking workers were killed by police last week.

The agitating outsider-turned-wealthy insider is now vilified by some South Africans in the same terms he once criticised the pillars of white minority rule.

It is this turn of the tables that illustrates the multitude of challenges South Africa still faces 18 years after the end of apartheid.

The violence that broke out at Marikana did not stem solely from grievances over wages and working conditions. It also reflected the black majority's disappointment that institutional reform has not kept pace with many people's expectations of what would come with the end of white minority rule.

Questions have also been raised about what unions are doing to protect workers' rights, as well as the black elite's comfortable relationship with big business, such as Mr Ramaphosa's relationship with Lonmin, the owner of the mine.

For the majority of black South Africans, including platinum miners at Marikana, life is a desperate struggle, and ambitions of joining the middle class are unlikely to be realised.

"The miners work hard, long hours," said Karin Labuschagne, a reporter for JacarandaFM News who covered the shooting. "Some are breadwinners with more than 10 dependents. The miners are fed up."

The police's reaction often compounds the problem. "We're heading towards a critical point both politically and economically. The public and private sector are under serious pressure to reduce inequality," said Murray Ingram, the director of the non-profit organisation Connect Community in Cape Town.

After 1994, the South African Police Force was renamed the South African Police Service, a subtle change to distance the institution from its brutal past. But Mr Ingram believes the police system is "a ticking time bomb".

As at Marikana, the police often respond to protests in a heavy-handed fashion.

"The police are seriously compromised by massive corruption and maladministration," said Mr Ingram. "Our police officers are also seriously underpaid and many encounter violence all too frequently."

The Marikana massacre underscored South Africa's compromised transition to democracy, which protected white business interests but installed some black entrepreneurs in influential private-sector positions.

The influential National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which Mr Ramaphosa once led, has been accused of aligning itself too closely with predominantly white mine owners.

The Democratic Alliance (DA), the ANC's biggest rival, said Marikana was "a symptom of intense poverty and inequality in South Africa".

"People need to be empowered with better education and skills development, but we also need to generate economic growth that creates opportunities. This will avert the kind of economic desperation that led to the Marikana tragedy," said Mmusi Maimane, the DA's spokesman.

But the government's attempts to institute police reform and narrow the income gap between rich and poor have been complicated by internal division within the ANC.

The deaths of 34 miners came four months before the ANC's policy conference in Mangaung, where Jacob Zuma will seek re-election as the leader of the party, which is the first step towards a second term as president of South Africa.

He said last week that "the nation is hard at work addressing the persistent challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality". He also took pains to allay global concern, noting South Africa's thriving relationship "with international investors and development partners".

For populists such as Julius Malema, the expelled former leader of the ANC's youth wing who was once touted as a future president, the ANC leadership's close relationship with big business is unacceptable. Marikana, he believes, offers further evidence that South Africa's economy needs a radical overhaul.

Mr Malema, who has been accused of benefiting financially from his ANC connections, addressed Lonmin miners at the weekend and repeated his call for the nationalisation of mines to spread the wealth.

He demanded that Mr Zuma resign over the shootings, accused the NUM of having a stake in mining companies and raged that "the miners were killed to protect the shares of Cyril Ramaphosa".

"This address, in a way, showed that he was still relevant, even though he no longer had a recognised political platform," said Ms Labuschagne. "Going to Mangaung, Malema will continue playing on his relevance in the hope of having his expulsion overturned."

The black elite, meanwhile, is accused of exploiting its links with the ANC, while the unions that ought to protect the poorest of the poor seem to operate at the behest of the wealthy classes.

And with the ANC hobbled by internecine strife, the opposition DA (although pooling a record 6 per cent of the black vote) greatly outgunned by the ruling party, it is ordinary black South Africans who remain marginalised.

"It's the poor who have been hung out to dry, there's no doubt about it," said Mr Ingram.

This article has been corrected since publication. Julius Malema, the former leader of the ANC’s youth wing, was most recently expelled, not suspended.