Sunday 21 July 2013

Solidarity with the South African mineworkers

The international news from South Africa is focusing on the poor health of Nelson Mandela.  Regrettably, for the overwhelming majority of South Africa's workers, youth and poor, today's ANC Government no longer stands for freedom but for corruption and continuing poverty.

The reality of today's South Africa was brought shockingly to the world's attention by the Marikana massacre of 36 striking miners shot down in cold blood by the police almost 12 months ago. This was a calculated attempt to break the Lonmin miners' resistance and to defend the super-profits of the mining companies - but they failed.

The miners maintained and spread their action across the mining industry and succeeded in winning a significant pay - rise.

That victory was based on the leadership offered by an unofficial national mineworkers' committee of representatives elected from each mine, organised independently of the official NUM union who are now seen as being a tool of the employers.

I had the chance to meet an organiser of that committee today at a meeting in Belgium. I was able to tell him about the £300 for the South African Miners Fund that I raised on my sponsored  solidarity cycle-ride to the event. It's a small contribution but one that was appreciated (and there's time to pledge more of course!)

Their struggle is far from over. 'Retrenchments' or cuts and redundancies are now being threatened despite the massive profits made by the mineowners from the labour of the workers who have to endure life in squatter camps with no electricity or sanitation.  This is in part a reflection of growing economic pressures as demand for raw materials shrinks from a world economy in crisis. It is also an opportunity for the bosses to try and seize back what they were forced to give to the miners and their families.

What's clear is that the economic and political struggles will continue. Abandoned by the ANC, the miners and other workers have also taken the initiative to launch their own party, WASP, the Workers and Socialist Party, to challenge the ANC in next year's General Election.

The heroism and determination of South African workers that attracted so much international support in the time of the struggles against apartheid have not gone away. Once again, trade unionists across the globe must give them our support and solidarity.

To donate, send cheques to 'South African Miners Fund' c/o Lewisham NUT Office, Town Hall, London, SE6 4RU.

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