Statement by General Secretary Blade Nzimande

Our condolences and sympathies to the Marikana and Pomeroy Victims.

Today the SACP joins millions of South Africans, especially the workers and the poor, in expressing our condolences and sympathies to all those who lost their loved ones and friends during the week of violence at Lonmin in the North-West, as well as all those who passed away from acts of violence in the week preceding this tragedy. Indeed thousands of our communist cadres will be participating in the various memorial services in different parts of the country, also in remembrance of those who perished in Pomeroy in KwaZulu-Natal.

The SACP once more wishes to acknowledge the leadership taken by the President, Cde Jacob Zuma, in appointing a Judicial Commission of Enquiry and a team of ministers to attend to the immediate needs of affected families and communities. The SACP plans to make its own submission to the Commission of Enquiry, as this is an opportunity for serious consideration and analyses of the nature of the mining industry in South Africa, and its vulnerability to produce this kind of violence.

In addition the SACP is also of the view that a closer study and analyses of living conditions in the mines and its surroundings will also go a long way in addressing the conditions of the working class and communities in the mining areas.

In all of the understandable fury, anger (about the unnecessary spilling of blood of the working class at Lonmins in Marikana), very few have pointed to the history and current trajectory of the mining industry in South Africa as the principal culprit in all this. This is not for purposes of laying blame for the sake of it, but to contribute towards a better understanding of the totality of the reasons behind this tragedy.

For instance the mining industry in South Africa has been prone to violence since the beginnings of its unionization over a century ago. Some of the major strikes by workers have historically been met with brutal violence, from the 1922 Rand Revolt, to the 1946 Great Mineworkers Strike and the 1987 NUM-led strike. We also have to look at the mining bosses history into using tribal and ethnic differences to try and fragment the working class in order to control it better.

The question of what are essentially backward beliefs and practices amongst sections of the working class is something that also as the SACP and the progressive trade union movement we will have to tackle as a matter of urgency and ongoing attention. Just how does a sangoma is today still able to convince sections of the working class that bullets turn into water if you have used ‘intelezi’, is something that we should no longer be talking about in a hush-hush manner but should openly engage, albeit sensitively. This requires enhanced strategies to raise the levels of class-consciousness amongst ordinary workers.

Indeed the above also requires that we undertake a serious analysis of some of the threats facing the working class in general and the progressive trade union movement in particular. This incident, as well as others before it in the recent period, should send a very clear message that there is a sustained attack and offensive against COSATU in particular. The SACP has also correctly warned that where our detractors and enemies sense some divisions amongst our ranks, then they always tend to go on the offensive. It might as well be important that these and other related matters needs to be discussed at the COSATU Congress next month, including frank analyses of the strengths and weaknesses of COSATU affiliates as well as some of the threats facing the federation as a whole. This discussion must not take the form of a lamentation or rhetoric, but must aim at concretely coming up with a program to defend and strengthen COSATU, within the context of deepening the unity of our Alliance. Such a discussion at COSATU Congress must also concretely explore the possible relationship between, Marikana, the current global capitalist crisis, the further decline in the profitability of capitalism, and a renewed offensive to weaken the working class to defend declining levels of profits. For example to what extent are theĀ  tensions in the platinum mine-belt connected to the decreasing demand of platinum in an economic zone like the EU which is a major consumer of platinum for catalytic converters?

The SACP also wishes to strongly condemn the cheap politicking by the parliamentary opposition in trying to lay the blame at the door of government and narrowly the police, without exploring (deliberately of course) some of the issues outlined above that require serious exploration and engagement. Some of the opposition parties have conveniently bought into the notion of ‘inter-union rivalry’ as the reasons for the violence in a manner that is no different from that of the apartheid regime’s attempt to try and cover its early 1990’s deadly war against our movement and our people as “black on black violence”. It was also instructive to listen to some of the opposition and other demagogues using the same rationale as that of all of the past apartheid regime’s stooges that “the NUM is the common denominator in all of the violence in the mines”; just like the UDF/Cosatu/ANC was described by the apartheid regime in the past as the common denominator in all of the violence directed against these very formations by the apartheid regime and its Bantustan tentacles.

Indeed attempts by the opposition to liken police reaction in Marikana to that of the apartheid regime is outrageous, no matter how unacceptable death is. The fact that government has taken the kind of action in response to this tragedy indicates that government is as equally concerned about these deaths. Of course
this does not and must not mean that we do not have a responsibility as a country to constantly focus on the transformation of the police and have serious and ongoing reflection on police methods and crowd control measures.

(This text was circulated by

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