PRESIDENT JOSEPH MATHUNJWA’S KEYNOTE ADDRESS AT THE 5TH MARIKANA MASSACRE COMMEMORATION

17 AUGUST 2017

INTRODUCTION

The dictionary defines a massacre as an indiscriminate and brutal slaughter of many people. What happened on 16 August 2012 at Marikana can therefore be seen as a massacre. It carries the same historical value as similar incidents at Sharpeville and Ilanga at the hands of the apartheid regime.

However, the Marikana Massacre is different because it happened under our constitutional democracy. It is shameful that the same people who claim to have liberated us and who condemn violence against protestors, were the same people who let police kill striking mineworkers

Comrades, I have said it many times and I will continue saying it:  Workers in Marikana

were used as cannon fodder to re-assure foreign investors that their interests were safe. The demands of Marikana workers were unsettling the status quo. It threatened to shift the collective bargaining landscape and turn it on its head.

Workers denounced ‘yellow’ trade unions that had been marshals of their oppression for many years and sought to confront monopoly capital head on. This was unparalleled confrontation and it struck fear into those who had power.

The R12 500 demand was coined by artisanal academics with no university degrees or formal education, yet it became a rallying point that divided opinions amongst renowned academics and schools of thought.

At the University of Witwatersrand there was a paper published by academics that this was a reasonable and achievable demand. They even went a step further through their actuarial assessment to determine that this demand could have been achieved as far back as 2005.

There were however others who labelled our approach ridiculous and unachievable. More often than not, this noise gained more traction and sought to redefine the moral high ground for the engagements.

For us as AMCU, the struggle of workers was ultimately aimed at radical economic emancipation. And, Comrades, we must know that the cruel events of this day in 2012 still mark an important milestone on our journey towards a living wage. It was a step closer to radical economic transformation in the lives of workers.

Those workers who assembled at this koppie five years ago were the real pioneers in the quest for radical economic transformation as we seek to define it today. They sought to challenge the apartheid slave wage system that has characterised our labour market for a long time.

Since the discovery of minerals in our country, mining bosses have chased profits based on the availability of cheap and unskilled labour, who were forced to move far from their loved ones to live in holes and scratch out a living. The wage system was characterised by everything that creates inequality – things like race, gender and job differentials which set the scene for job preservation.

In a profit-led economic model, this wage system is the anchor for monopoly capital and the root of the exploitation of workers. Marx calls on all of us as workers to develop class consciousness in order to challenge and defeat this capitalist system.

Consciousness is a state of being aware and alive to one’s environment and surroundings.

Other ideologies call for heightened levels of consciousness. Consciousness which goes beyond awareness to social action, that seeks to challenge and transform one’s status quo.

Lonmin workers did not require an invitation or to be organised to understand their situation at the hands of exploitative capitalists. They decided to withhold their labour and demand what was due to them. They challenged the boundaries of the Labour Relations Act and collective bargaining practices, which had led to the prolonged exploitation of workers for the benefit of Capital.

A wise man once said that you can’t change anything through conforming. For these workers to change their situation they had to think out of the box and act outside the system; they had to demand to negotiate directly with the employer, even though they belonged to trade unions.

This unprecedented action formed an important unit of analysis for the Farlam Commission of Inquiry which commissioned a research study leading to a report entitled, “Why Workers Bypass Unions”.

The findings of this study validate our own analysis that the pioneers of radical economic transformation understood that for them TO ACHIEVE FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE THEY HAD TO MAKE FUNDAMENTAL SACRIFICES. Lonmin workers laid the blueprint for working class struggles.

During the five months’ strike, the critics said that we were risking jobs, putting GDP growth at serious risk, and not being sensitive to the needs of the economy.

What AMCU can report, without fear of any contradiction, is that we were able to dismantle the solid apartheid foundation on which the salaries of black mineworkers were built upon. This foundation was made from inequality, exploitation of cheap labour, and a philosophy of profit at all cost. The gains for new recruits today is that, no one will ever again earn less than R10 000 on basic salary.

Amandla!

Viva, AMCU! Viva!

 

          

COMMEMORATING THE MARIKANA MASSACRE

Today, Comrades, we commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Marikana Massacre. It is an event that will always leave an indelible mark on the history of working class struggles in South Africa.

Today, Comrades, we remember the 34 workers who were killed in cold blood on that fateful afternoon. We remember the leadership of Comrade Mambush, who led from the front and was hit by more than 15 bullets for speaking truth to power.

We remember hundreds more who were injured, unfairly arrested and treated inhumanely at the hands of the authorities.

We remember many other comrades who were subsequently murdered in assassination style, in an attempt to intimidate workers against associating themselves with AMCU.

We remember comrades like the murdered Steve Mawethu, Ncedani Shado and

Mehlokomo.  These were comrades who lost their lives to fight injustice and inequality.

Comrades, today we remember the workers who were murdered in Northam, and we remember comrades who paid the ultimate price for freedom of association and their struggles to emancipate the black worker from the hands of capitalism.

 

WE REMEMBER LILY MINE WORKERS WHO ARE STILL UNDERGROUND IN THE BELLY OF THE EARTH AND HAVE YET TO BE REUNITED WITH THEIR FAMILIES FOR THEIR FINAL REST. 

We remember all the workers that have passed on through fatalities while at work.  We remember those comrades who were injured in the line of duty, and we remember those who have become casualties of the system through disease and other occupational hazards.

This commemoration is dedicated to all the workers who have been exposed to the brutality of capitalism and its tentacles in our socio-political system, past and present.

Through this commemoration, we present this ritual as a symbol of the struggles of comrades, your struggles, our struggles, my struggles – individually and collectively.

Comrades, one of the ways to remember what happened here, AMCU founded the Marikana Massacre AMCU Trust Fund. This fund seeks to build houses for families of victims of the massacre, including those that were mentioned in Farlam Commission.

We are proud to report that just about one month ago we could officially hand over the keys to the first house. The first beneficiary was the Noki Family who live in rural Eastern Cape. Comrades, this is the first step in a journey that will span the coming months and years.

Still, Comrades, we must agree that today’s fifth commemoration is a painful reminder of how long these families have been suffering. We must remember that their lives were changed forever – when they lost their loved ones and breadwinners.

As AMCU, we wish to thank all those who contributed their pledge toward this noble cause in a compassionate way to provide shelter for the families of victims of this gruesome attack.

MILESTONES SINCE 2012

A lot has happened since August 2012 which has transformed the labour market and the regulatory environment. Let us look at some achievements that were attained by workers during this timeline…

Comrades, you will remember how difficult it was for AMCU to gain recognition at Lonmin and other platinum companies. This process, although challenging, redefined the labour market.

Last week, Lonmin eventually decided to honour our recognition agreement by derecognising minority unions who collectively have less than 10% membership. This is a milestone, Comrades.

However, Lonmin has been disingenuous in their approach as they took a full five years to implement the agreement. They were hoping over the years that AMCU was going to weaken, but now they have realised that we are here to stay.

We thank our true comrades in Lonmin for their persistence and insistence that this agreement be implemented in full. The timing though, is suspicious, but time will tell.

Comrades, you will remember that, after the Marikana Massacre, the President of the Republic instituted a judiciary commission of inquiry chaired by retired Judge Farlam.

This commission went about its business for years and published a report in 2015 which pronounced findings on the events of 2012. Although the findings were underwhelming and even disappointing, at least it was some explanation of what happened here and who was to blame – either by commission or by omission. AMCU has studied the report and we pronounced our opinion on this report.

Ever since it was published the then Police Commissioner has been put through an inquiry to test her fitness to hold office. IPD submitted 72 names of police officers to be prosecuted, but the NPA has failed to act.

 

COMRADES, FIVE YEARS AFTER THESE MURDERS NOT ONE PERSON HAVE BEEN PUNISHED FOR THEIR ACTIONS.

Five years later our communities still suffer without proper housing and proper basic services. There is still a lot to be done, Comrades.

Aluta continua!

The journey may be long, Comrades, with many, many challenges to be overcome. However, nothing will deter us. This journey is one worth travelling in our quest for truth and justice. There is no amount of lies that can bury the truth. Your quest for truth shall set you free. Aluta!

Comrades, in 2013 we commenced with the platinum wage negotiations. These negotiations culminated in the 2014 five-month strike. We expected Lonmin, in honour of the Marikana Massacred workers to be the first to sign our wage agreement and prevent a strike. We embarked on a new journey to unchartered waters.

We took our fight to the “Little London” located in Marshalltown on the doorstep of Anglo American Platinum. We went to Rosebank and Melrose Arch, and our struggle peaked with a march to the Union Buildings in Tshwane.

Many people thought that the strike would break and workers would turn against AMCU. However, thanks to your steadfastness in our struggle for economic emancipation, you remained united and peaceful even when you were provoked.

The strike was eventually ended on the 4th of June 2014, when we signed an unprecedented wage agreement that took many workers beyond the R12500 wage demand. Even the lowest earners were taken to a new high of R8000. By the end of the three-year agreement many of the workers were at R12500.

Comrades, for the first time workers received a R1000 increase and this became the benchmark for the 2016 Agreement which was achieved without a strike.

In 2012 AMCU found the workers languishing at a mere basic salary of R5713 (UG). The current wage agreement which expires in 2018 will take a Cat4 (General Worker UG) to a Basic salary of R11 713. Surface Cat 4 employees will be at R10 921.

The 2012 Lonmin Massacre was for a living wage of R12 500. As AMCU we have pursued this mandate, so that those of our comrades whose blood was spilled for this just cause of radically changing the economic benefits of the workers in platinum would not be in vain.

Next year RDOs will earn R12 296 basic plus a skills allowance of R1017.60, which will immediately take them to R13 273.60!

We want to thank you for your support and standing behind us as we engage with employers in pursuit of your mandate.

There have been numerous efforts from within and other quarters trying to destabilise AMCU. During the platinum strike, there was the emergence of a union called WAU which sought to divide workers and destabilise the strike. It was since proved that this union was funded by our ruling party.

This year again, two unions have been formed. Their names are LUSA and NAWU and their purpose is exactly the same as that of WAU in 2014. We warn members not to be misled by these dark forces.

AMCU is a strong and grounded organisation, with workers who love their organization. Imisebenzi yethu iyasikhulumela!

 

EVALUATING THE LABOUR MARKET IN THE PAST 5 YEARS

There have been numerous developments in the labour market since the Marikana Massacre. However, there are still attendant challenges in the employer – employee relations field. The South African economy is still faced with the triple challenge of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

The unemployment rate is still high at 27.7% in the narrow definition. The South African economy in the preceding years to 2017 avoided numerous reviews of downgrades until the first quarter of 2017, when it was downgraded to junk status. The economy finally went into recession in the second quarter of the year.

The structural challenges facing the South African economy include a trade deficit influenced by imbalanced trade arrangements where we import more than export. This is due to our economy lacking a manufacturing base to stimulate local demand and support our industries. The economy is failing to create demand for jobs, and this makes unemployment even worse.

With the fourth industrial revolution approaching, mechanisation has become a reality. Mineworkers need to be vigilant and build skills for the future. We need to ensure that we are properly trained and that we are ready for new technology.

Comrades, it is sad that today, as we remember the Marikana Massacre, we are in the middle of a jobs blood bath in the Gold sector. Anglo Gold Ashanti and Sibanye Gold have said they want to cut almost 20 000 jobs.

Although the gold price has been very high, there is a concerted effort from companies to terminate thousands of jobs. We will continue to defend our members in an attempt to save jobs in the sector.

Many academics have theorised around the process of modernisation, world systems, dependency and under development in an attempt to understand how societies develop. The South African economy has been heavily reliant on declining primary resources in the mining sector which have sustained economic growth over the years.

However, this growth, particularly during the commodity boom between 2000 – 2005 has not facilitated development through the redistribution of wealth espoused in increasing employment numbers. The country remained with narrow employment opportunities.

The Industry Policy Action Plan, also known as IPAP, tried to provide some kind of blueprint for industrialisation, based on plans for diversification and beneficiation. IPAP failed, however, and the failure was attributed to high electricity prices and labour costs.

It became easy for policy makers to use labour costs as a scapegoat. However, they forgot to take into account issues like wage inequality and the obscene salaries paid to executives and senior managers.

Do you know, Comrades, that a CEO in South Africa earns in 7,5 hours what the average worker earns in a whole year?  That is unacceptable!

AMCU continues to say that these structural barriers limit the manufacturing base, and this reduces the production sector. Production is labour intensive and provides household incomes that increase consumption levels in economy.

In 2014 after the five-month strike, social partners at Nedlac engaged in a protracted engagement to review the labour market. This culminated in the Ekurhuleni Declaration that provided the premise for reviewing the labour market to strengthen legislation and discuss modalities to introduce a National Minimum Wage.

The problem statement for engagement at Nedlac from the Department of Labor wanted to limit the duration of strikes to five days, to introduce compulsory interest arbitration for strikes of ‘national interest’ to hold unions liable for violence of members during strikes and introduce stringent measures to limit the right to strike.

There were engagements through our Federation NACTU where these were negotiated and most were not accepted. Social partners resolved on more moderate proposition that do not impose further restrictions to the right to strike as this is a constitutional right. During this process, there were parallel engagements to have the National Minimum Wage introduced.

AMCU was opposed to the National Minimum Wage as it was a regression from the fight for a living wage. Even countries that were using the doctrine of minimum wages are moving away from this dispensation to living wages. Our assessment was that the minimum wage was not necessary considering that we have sectoral determinations which are sector minimum wages.

We further thought that a national minimum wage has the potential to draw wages down as employers may use it as a bargaining chip to give low wage increments.

However, this was passed by Nedlac social partners and will be in effect from the 1st of April 2018. We will continue to monitor its impact on the work of AMCU and seek to develop programs to strength our pursuit for living wages for all our members.

In 2016, we received a Constitutional Court Judgement by Justice Cameron related to an application by AMCU in the gold sector. In the Gold sector, the union was engaged in litigation against the Chamber of Mines who wanted to extend a collective agreement to non-parties.

This matter culminated in the constitutional court which admitted the AMCU application. Although the Justice Cameron judgement dismissed the AMCU application it recognized that there was a test to the constitutionality of s23 of the Labor Relations Act application and sought to clarify the definition of a workplace.

This is a contribution to the jurisprudence of this country at the behest of AMCU. I can confirm to our members that we intend to review this Constitutional Court Judgement with the ILO to motivate for a review of international conventions and recommendations.

CONCLUSION

Comrades, we are here to recognize the struggles of our members as they toil in the belly of the earth to for a living. The Marikana Massacre is a tipping point in the South African socio-economic and political landscape. It remains a beacon and point of reference in emergent developments. Some would love to apologise but they do not know how.

We know that this has been a long journey however this commemoration is growing in stature. We still make a clarion call to those heading our state to make this day a public holiday in honour of the workers.

These workers fought for radical economic emancipation which is now the rallying point for the incumbent Government. To recognize the efforts of its pioneers we need to do something to honour this day and give it a public status. We will continue to engage the powers that be through the channels afforded to us to influence on them to institute these changes.

Comrades, in conclusion, as AMCU:

  • We demand that the criminal cases against our arrested and injured members are immediately dropped!
  • We demand that government immediately pays the compensation claims due to the victims of the Marikana Massacre!
  • We demand that those who were involved in the killings of innocent members are brought to book and that they face the full might of the law!
  • We demand that this day, 16 August, is made a national public holiday, so that we can continue to remember what happened, and so that it may never, ever happen again!

Amandlaaa!

Yours in Social Justice

JV Mathunjwa

AMCU President