President Mathunjwa's Speeches
Sixth commemoration of the Marikana massacre
16 August 2018
The past commemorations
Comrades, today marks the 6th Commemoration of the Marikana Massacre, where workers, who were also fathers to children, husbands to wives, sons to parents, and brothers to siblings, were mowed down by bloodthirsty police special forces.
The special forces were deployed from all provinces, with a mission to kill. Mortuary vehicles and rounds of ammunition were already prepared. This was nothing but premeditated murder. The facts are still being revealed but, in the end, the truth shall prevail.
Through the years, as we reflect on our collective memory, the sacrifice of Lonmin workers is reminiscent of our fallen comrades in the struggle against economic oppression.
This unwavering spirit of defiance, even to death, is synonymous with the late 34 Comrades who perished at the hands of the toxic collusion between Monopoly Capital and the Fascist State, at this kopje exactly 6 years ago.
In many of my previous commemoration addresses, I have pointed out that the State was culpable in the murder of its citizens. This was done to appease particular foreign direct investors, by showing visible action taken to protect their investments.
When I first mentioned this, many observers thought that this was a wild attack on the constitutional democracy. However, recent developments have vindicated this assertion, as commanders of the massacre are now facing prosecution for murder.
As we look back on these commemorations, we remember the general difficulty to accept that, what happened on 16 August 2012, was indeed a ‘massacre.’
At first people were afraid to concede that this was a massacre because they did not want to take responsibility for their actions. In the mining industry there is a standard in the Mine Health and Safety Act that, whenever there is a mine accident that claims more than five lives, it is declared a disaster. This will automatically trigger State intervention and bring attention to the specificity of the issues leading to the disaster.
However, it was difficult to acknowledge the Marikana incident as a massacre, since the perpetrator was the State security institutions that were actually meant to protect its citizens.
Once conceded, this could actually constitute a crime against humanity and would require that those who issued the command be brought before the International Criminal Court at the Hague in the Netherlands.
No wonder our government recently wanted to pull out as a member of the International Criminal Court! The expropriation of land without compensation has been classified as crime against humanity by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May. It is ironic that this is seen as a crime against humanity, but not the massacre!
How can the UK dictate to us when something is a crime against humanity, and when lives of innocent workers are lost? How can they compare a legal avenue to address restitution to the killing of innocent workers, who were exercising their legal right to protest for better living conditions? However, the day of the commanders is coming…
The legacy of this massacre will never go away until justice is served. Right now, the focus is on the line commanders who are taking the fall for the Security Cluster, and ultimately the then commander-in-chief.
Our journey has been a lone trek, trailblazing new avenues in the South African labour market, contributing to numerous changes in law and policies.
We have always been alive to the fact that you can’t change anything by mere compliance. As leaders, we have always reminded that [open quote] “fundamental change requires fundamental sacrifice” [close quote].
Our members continue to make sacrifices in order to transform their working lives. This was epitomised by the 2014 five-month strike led by AMCU. When everyone thought it was going to implode, the workers were steadfast in their demands.
This was the first real test by AMCU to Capital post democracy to remind all of us that, although South Africa achieved political freedom in 1994, the struggle was not yet over in terms of economic emancipation.
AMCU carried the radical message of economic emancipation. We demanded direct ownership of strategic assets by workers. During the platinum wage negotiations, we were able to raise the issue of ESOPs and demanded that they be transformed to Profit Sharing Schemes where workers will be represented in the declaration of profits.
Comrades, it is high time that we as workers can graduate to proper shareholders of the mines. We must move away from being abused without any prospects of enjoying the fruits of our labour. If we can be shareholders, it can be our own people who decide what is best for the mines, and what is best for us. Our Land, Our Country, Our Economy!
It was AMCU that brought the issue of ownership of mines to the fore. Already in 2014, we made presentations before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee of Mineral Resources. We indicated how workers should become owners of the mines.
Our slogan has always been ‘mawubuye’ uMnotho weAfrika’ because we were clear that our economic emancipation has been postponed and subdued to meaningless political freedoms. What is freedom when we have nothing in the land of plenty?
This spirit has transcended to other social debates around the land issue, where South Africans have been clear that they want their land back. However, the land issue should not be used for political populist posturing, but rather to counter the real socio-economic realities faced by the majority of South Africans. Our land must create jobs and create better living conditions for all. Our land, our future, our economy!
Still, this approach by AMCU has made us extremely unpopular with the Capitalists who want to retain their economic superiority, and also by the State which seem to place financial gain before their socio-economic mandate. For them to achieve their agenda, they have sponsored programmes to destabilise AMCU.
This persistent attack did not end with the massacre of Marikana workers in August 2012, but continued with the frivolous arrest of AMCU members, the murder of branch leaders such as Comrades Steve Mawethu, Bongani Mehlonkomo, Bhele Mzendane, and Comrade Biyela, to mention a few. I have always mentioned that this is a clear sign of the collusion between State and Capital.
These programmes included the formation and resourcing of rival trade unions to destabilise AMCU such as WAU and LUSA. However, as time will always show, we are now learning from court papers and public media that this was always a programme to destroy AMCU.
The same intensity has started with media attacks in the Mail and Guardian and some radio stations which give airtime to former AMCU employees, dismissed for misconduct including corruption, to create a narrative of abuse and leadership crisis.
As members of AMCU, assembled today, we need not forget how many rivers we have crossed, how many mountains we have climbed to reach where we are today.
We haven’t achieved the full economic emancipation, but we are in a full view of what still needs to be achieved. AMCU has always had many detractors, but we will remain steadfast to our cause for the sake of our children.
The detractors can continue to write and speak negatively about AMCU, but one thing, for sure, AMCU was never built by the media, and neither was it ever sponsored by Capital or the State. The true revolution is never televised!
We are not part of any partnership with Capital or any alliance with the State. AMCU has one ally, namely its members, and one parliament, namely mass meetings. We depend on our members and the mandate that guides us.
There are internal processes to deal with disputes, and anyone who is not satisfied with any outcome has recourse in law. Lest we forget, ours has been a struggle against numerous forces. We have seen the collusion between Capital, the State and our fellow Comrades in the Trade Union Federations, who wanted to get AMCU deregistered.
You will remember, Comrades, the signing of the Peace Accord and the Framework Agreement for a Sustainable Mining Sector in Pretoria. You will recall how these documents were clearly aimed at sustaining the narrative that AMCU is a violent organisation which should therefore be deregistered.
We refused to sign those accords because we had no mandate from our members … no mandate from YOU! Still, we were attacked by different formations of unions and federations for standing by our philosophy of always working with a mandate from the workers.
However, later, when there was a fallout within WAU and testimonies of how millions in taxpayer’s money were used to create parallel unions bent on destabilising AMCU, the facts exposed by the court papers vindicated us. This agenda and these programmes became clear for all to see…
While the agenda has remained the same, the focus has now changed from the establishment of rival unions to a programme of destabilising the Organisation from within.
We have countered these programmes, and we will continue to do so. We are confident that YOU, the membership of AMCU, will have no doubts about the decisions taken to protect your organisation and your interest.
2017 was another year where these programmes were unleashed against the branch leadership of AMCU. The Mail & Guardian newspaper was quick to vilify the national leadership of AMCU without following the ethics of journalism. Rather, they resorted to gutter journalism! The television channel, eNCA was also quick to criss-cross the country to interview faceless people making baseless allegations.
AMCU hired private investigators and issued a reward for the arrest and prosecution of perpetrators who attacked and killed AMCU leaders. The police acted on the leads of the AMCU investigators to trace killers back to the Eastern Cape and bring them to justice. Although the court case itself continues to be postponed, we hope that justice will be served soon.
In 2012 we adopted a mandate from the Lonmin workers for a minimum wage of R12 500 in the mining sector. We carried this mandate to the platinum wage negotiations in 2014 and we managed to achieve a phased-in approach.
Today we are happy to report that the majority of workers in the platinum industry have achieved R12 500. This struggle has gone beyond AMCU and has been adopted by other progressive unions. However, we now hear of a national minimum wage of R3500 to be implemented. This figure is a slap in the face of workers and it is way below the AMCU threshold.
Still, through our struggle we have been able to highlight the massive difference between a minimum wage and a living wage. We will continue saying that what South Africa needs, is not a bare minimum wage, but a living wage so that workers can live in basic human dignity. Even the advocates of a minimum wage accept that as fact.
Furthermore, the quick implementation of a minimum wage is clearly a way of turning away the attention of workers from the R12500 demand. It is an attempt to assure that they will now have leverage to pay lower wages than those demanded by AMCU.
AMCU has been able to elevate the struggle against the low wage regime in the economy to new heights. We have sought to improve our members’ lives in platinum, in coal – most significantly at Sasol Mining, as well as in the Sugar Industry, to mention a few.
Marikana Massacre to mark South African Workers’ Day
The Marikana Massacre is regarded by many academics, commentators and analysts as a turning point in South African labour relations and the markets. Surely this elevates this incident to be of significant importance in the national calendar.
When we started with these commemorations, we were accused of being attention-seekers. We were labelled people who did not want to forget a tragedy. There were many accusations around AMCU wanting to “piggyback” on the Massacre for political gain.
However, we have maintained that it was not possible to ignore this genocide unattended, as our slogan clearly calls: “The quest for truth and justice shall set us free”. Over the years, we have seen a growing appreciation of this commemoration.
From the onset, AMCU has emphasised that the Marikana Massacre must be declared as South African Workers Day. If you look carefully at the public holidays which appear in our national calendar, you will notice that most of them are linked to the specific significant days in our history and our struggle for liberation and independence.
➢ Human Rights Day is linked to the Sharpeville Massacre that took place on 21 March 1960;
➢ Youth Day is based on the Soweto Uprising that happened on 16 June 1976; and
➢ Women’s Day commemorates the march by more 20 000 women to the Union Buildings against the dompas. In actual fact, the starting point of the struggle of Lonmin workers was on 9 August 2012.
Celebrating Workers Day or May Day on 1 May every year, is a commemoration of international workers’ struggles with no direct link to South African history.
I have said before that this day is celebrated on different dates in different countries. For instance, the USA celebrates their Labour Day on the first Monday every September as a general holiday for the working class in America.
That is why we say that there should be nothing stopping South Africa from changing the date to honour the workers struggles which epitomised the Lonmin Massacre.
We continue to make this call and we will do everything in our power to sustain a campaign for a South African Workers Day that is relevant and responsive to our working class struggle here in South Africa.
This year we decided to commence with a defiance not to celebrate workers day on 1 May, but on 16 August every year. Even though we were clear that we respect the international trade union movement and the symbolism of May Day, we started actively campaigning for 16 August to be declared South African Workers Day.
We call on fellow progressive unions to also join us on 16 August to celebrate our own South African Workers Day. We also call on the authorities to amend the Public Holidays Act (Act No 36 of 1994). For once the argument of Capital and the State cannot be about lost production and less profits, as we would simply be exchanging the public holiday of 1 May with the new one on 16 August. To political parties that are campaigning for 2019, put the 16 August as Workers’ Day in your manifestos and we will consider voting for you.
Major milestones in the past year
Comrades, we have said that we have a long and eventful history. There are numerous milestones that we have marked in our journey to where we stand here, today.
In 2015 we had the Farlam Commission of Inquiry publishing its results. The report was expected to be a watershed moment that would hold all those culpable in the Marikana Massacre to account.
However, it was so underwhelming that it was quickly forgotten the moment after Judge Farlam put a full stop to the last page.
Throughout that process, we were consistent in calling it the “Commission of Omission” as it did not come up with concrete resolutions for holding people to account.
It found the Police Commissioner not fit for office. We expected a hard-hitting exposé about the trigger pullers and their commanders, but there was none. However, that has come to pass and there are new developments on this terrain.
We have also seen political actors wanting to come and meet with the widows of the massacre victims. Last year one of the presidential candidates was chased away from here, and our new State President was also warned not to use Marikana on his campaign trail.
Earlier this year, we heard a call by the State President in Parliament that he wants to apologise to the widows in Marikana. We released a media statement to indicate our willingness to cooperate with this process, but we warned that it should be done in the right manner.
However, to date nothing has materialised despite us writing a formal media statement as a response to the State of the Nation Address. There have been recent developments around the compensation for the victims of the Marikana Massacre. This is a welcome development although there was an arbitrary decision by the State to come up with a figure without consulting the parties.
We remain willing to work on the modalities of arriving at an acceptable compensation for all affected.
Health and Safety
Comrades, mineworkers are dying on a daily basis, and hence AMCU are continuously campaigning for amendments to the Mine Health and Safety Act.
➢ We are saying that the regulations and procedures to protect workers must be strengthened, so that mining bosses are forced to respect the lives of our comrades.
➢ We are saying that those mining bosses who carelessly kill our comrades while chasing hyper profits, must be prosecuted and held accountable.
➢ We are saying that the families of those killed and injured in mine accidents, must be paid maximum compensation. The education of their children must be fully paid, and they must receive their same salary until they reach pensionable age. Their dream of economic emancipation must not be destroyed by an accident!
We have seen the numerous disasters at operations of Sibanye-Stillwater this year alone, and this was followed by the tragic events at the Phalaborwa Mining Company where our comrades were burnt to death.
AMCU has appointed independent forensic investigators to look at the cause of the PMC fire, including Richard Spoor. At Lily Mine, three of our members are still underground. We hope and trust that we will get into the container, whereby our comrades can at last be reunited with their families so that they can have closure.
The road ahead
Comrades, there is a new war coming, which is facing the labour movement and seeks to transform the world of work as we know it today. It is an era that will change the way we do business, trade, buy and sell and even the way we work. There are jobs that will not be there in future and there are new jobs that will come which we do not have right now.
This is an era where machines seek to replace humans in the world of work. Capitalists prefer robots because they do not have wage demands and don’t need conditions of employment. This is in order to suffocate the human race for the sake hyper profits!
This has therefore made it easier for Capitalists to invest in mechanisation instead of investing in human resource development, complying with their Social Labour Plans and uplift the communities where they are mining.
As AMCU we say we will embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution on condition that workers will not be worse off. We say to you today, Comrades, let us go out there and ensure that these companies skill and re-skill us to face this head-on.
AMCU officials are hereby instructed that, as of today we will put the issue of human resource development at the centre of our programmes. There is no AMCU Comrade who will not be trained, as the future requires that we prepare for it today. The future is now. This will assist in ensuring a just transition so that workers are not the losers in this process.
Secondly, Comrades, we will push a policy to give social protection for all workers who have lost their jobs to machines. We will campaign for a policy that will compel all employers to share profits generated from machines with workers who lost their jobs to machines.
Comrades, the advent of atypical forms of work is upon us. Labour brokers are said to employ more than 4 million workers in the South African labour market.
In 2015 there were amendments to the LRA which introduced new protections to labour broker workers. The interpretations of these amendments have been further clarified in a recent Constitutional Court judgement.
In 2014, Dr Chinguno published a paper that analysed the volatility in the platinum belt as an intersection of flexibility and precariousness in Lonmin. There is evidence that over the years, companies have been outsourcing and subcontracting their functions to labour brokers in order to reduce their staff compliments and liability.
We need to start enforcing the LRA amendments and ensure that workers are fully protected. As AMCU we will ensure that subcontractors earn the same wages and enjoy the same benefits as the mines where they operate. 16
Let us also sign collective agreements that ban labour brokers in the companies where we are organised.
Last but not least, Comrades we are facing another attack from employers with heightened retrenchment notices that have been drummed up to regress the gains made by AMCU.
In 2012 workers demanded a R12 500 minimum wage, today Lonmin wants to retrench 12500 workers. We do not take this as a coincidence but well-calculated attack by the employer to hit back at AMCU.
We say to them: Bring it on! We are ready for you!
Impala has also indicated to us that they intend retrenching 13 000 workers in order to optimise their operations. We do not see these notices as responsible, considering that there are already close to 8 million people who cannot find jobs.
The industry has already lost 38 000 jobs since the beginning of the year. Any further job losses will put too much strain on the workers. We are therefore sensitising the employers to reconsider their positions, if they do not want to face a total shut down of the companies, including secondary strikes. There will not be a single ounce of platinum leaving the ground if they continue with their evil plans!
We need responsible and patriotic employers who are not bent on profiteering but are thinking of the nation as a whole.
We must agree that our unemployment rate is unacceptably high – especially here in the North West Province. It is said that there are more people here without jobs than those employed. That is shocking…
We must also admit that our unemployment is inherently self-inflicted by our government and its lacking policy interventions. We continue campaigning that:
➢ Government must address the issue of our borders being open to anybody to enter as they please. We must differentiate between asylum seekers who have a legitimate reason to flee their countries, and traders who come here for economic opportunities which could have been taken by our own people.
➢ Government must regulate SSMEs and give this sector much more attention. SMMEs are low-hanging fruit for our progress in the country, and research has proven that SMMEs can provide economic emancipation to many by creating job opportunities.
➢ Industrialisation is key to create employment. We will never create enough jobs if we don’t manufacture and add value to raw products. We must stop taking resources from the ground and shipping it off to other countries to make things and sell it back to us. Due to the shady trade deals struck under GEAR, we have let ourselves remain stuck in an economy which cannot add value. Research has shown that one mineworker in South Africa is creating three jobs in Europe. It is of paramount importance to build our economy, in order to address the issues of social justice. We must have an approach of South Africa first.
Comrades, I thank you for coming here today to commemorate the comrades who fell at this very place exactly six years ago. They died for standing up, not for illegal things, but for basic human dignity and economic emancipation. They died wanting a better life for their families. Let us never forget, Comrades, and let us continue with our struggle with new vigour!
Viva, AMCU! Viva!
Long live the spirit of the fallen comrades of Marikana, long live!