Category Archives: South Africa

Drones, Kill Lists and Machiavelli

By DESMOND M. TUTU
February 14, 2013 “NY Times” — I am deeply, deeply disturbed at the suggestion in “A Court to Vet Kill Lists” (news analysis, front page, Feb. 9) that possible judicial review of President Obama’s decisions to approve the targeted killing of suspected terrorists might be limited to the killings of American citizens.
Do the United States and its people really want to tell those of us who live in the rest of the world that our lives are not of the same value as yours? That President Obama can sign off on a decision to kill us with less worry about judicial scrutiny than if the target is an American? Would your Supreme Court really want to tell humankind that we, like the slave Dred Scott in the 19th century, are not as human as you are? I cannot believe it.
I used to say of apartheid that it dehumanized its perpetrators as much as, if not more than, its victims. Your response as a society to Osama bin Laden and his followers threatens to undermine your moral standards and your humanity.
DESMOND M. TUTU
Aboard MV Explorer, near Hong Kong Feb. 11, 2013
The writer, winner of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize, is archbishop emeritus of Cape Town.

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Striking South African miners oppose rally called by official unions

By Julie Hyland 
29 October 2012
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) called a rally and march Saturday at the Olympia Stadium, Rustenburg in what was meant to be a show of strength. COSATU General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi had vowed to “reclaim the Rustenburg area from the forces of counterrevolution.”
Vavi was to appear before an audience bussed in from surrounding areas, alongside Blade Nzimande, South African Communist Party (SACP) general secretary and minister in the African National Congress (ANC)-dominated Tripartite Alliance, and National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) General Secretary Frans Baleni.
Instead, the protest demonstrated how eviscerated these organisations have become and the hostility of broad masses of workers towards them.
The so-called “forces of counterrevolution” identified by Vavi are tens of thousands of striking miners who have rebelled against backbreaking exploitation and poverty wages and against the NUM, which functions as a house union for the mining companies.
Rustenburg has been at the centre of a wildcat insurgency that began in August at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana and spread across the mining sector to involve some 100,000 workers at its peak.
On Saturday, over 1,000 striking Amplats miners arrived early at the Olympia Stadium and occupied the venue. Wearing black T-shirts with the slogan “Remember the Slain of Marikana” and “Forward with Living Wage —R12500”, they carried placards reading, “Don’t Let Police Get Away with Murder” and “We Are Here to Bury NUM.”
The Sapa news agency cited Tshepang Moloi from the Rustenburg branch of the National Striking Committee stating, “We have a message for Zwelinzima Vavi: We are not going back to work until our demands are met”. Another striker shouted, “We are dying underground while you sit on chairs above and earn money!”
As the strikers marched into the stadium, NUM officials fled. The workers burnt ANC and COSATU T-shirts and then left to sing and shout slogans outside the gates, which were padlocked by police.
In his account of events for the Daily Maverick, Greg Marinovich noted, “Police have banned most marches by Marikana miners and even women’s marches as a threat to public safety. Yet, despite it being clear that large-scale clashes would erupt if COSATU insisted on holding the rally at the stadium, police opted to heed COSATU’s desires and moved in to clear the miners.”
Three COSATU officials were assaulted. Marinovich recounts that government and union officials watched as COSATU members beat and stripped Rehad Desai from the Marikana solidarity campaign. Police then began firing stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets and chased the strikers into the neighbouring streets. The shooting lasted for over an hour.
Inside the stadium, SACP General Secretary Nzimande praised the police action and told the audience that the SACP would never allow the destruction of the NUM. “NUM is the best capable union to represent mineworkers in South Africa”, he said.
But Nzimande was addressing a rally attended by just 500 to 1,000 people, according to varying reports. The NUM has all but disintegrated and is kept going only because of its key role in the government and state apparatus.
As Marinovich concluded, “What happened at Olympia stadium is the start of open competition and conflict between organised labour with links to the ruling party (with the support of the organs of state), and an increasingly disempowered and frustrated workforce, who were once the vanguard of the Alliance.
“The ANC-linked union federation is determined to keep their mineworker union in power at the mines, knowing well that without it, they will shrivel and die. The war has now well and truly started and, should the solution not be soon found, there will [be] much more blood and tears spilt.”
Thirty-four striking miners were slain by police at the Lonmin mine on August 16. This action was endorsed by the NUM, COSATU and the SACP, with Dominic Tweedie of the SACP and COSATU declaring, “We should be happy. The police were admirable.”
Last week, at the ANC-appointed inquiry into the Marikana massacre, it was revealed that in an email exchange with Lonmin management, government ministers and the police, former NUM general secretary-turned millionaire businessman Cyril Ramaphosa had called for “concomitant action” to address the “criminal acts” of the striking miners just 24-hours before the police massacre.
The workers’ “crime” is to reject the NUM and wage a militant struggle to increase their wages. Their actions have exposed the project of “Black economic empowerment”, by which ANC and union representatives have become millionaires, while the exploitation and poverty of the majority of workers have, if anything, grown worse.
In a bid to restore credibility, Vavi had billed the Rustenburg rally as a “fight against the subversive forces threatening NUM’s dominance in the platinum belt”. Its aim was to “strengthen COSATU”. In a bid to placate the workers, Vavi said COSATU and the NUM were demanding the reinstatement of thousands of mineworkers laid off for taking wildcat action.
On Thursday, it was announced that the NUM and the Chamber of Mines had reached agreement on a pay rise with AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony, and Gold Fields. Just ahead of Saturday’s rally, the NUM again announced that Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) had agreed to rehire the 12,000 workers it had dismissed for involvement in a six-week strike.
The announced deals met with an angry response from many strikers, who rightly regarded them as an attempt by management and the union to wind down their action and then pick them off mine by mine.
The revised pay structure for the gold sector amounts to a maximum rise in monthly salaries of just R500 ($57.8), under conditions where workers were demanding an increase from their current 4,000 rand salary to R16,000. The agreement does nothing for the thousands of gold miners who have been dismissed.
As for Amplats, the company has given dismissed employees a deadline of Tuesday to return to work, with the paltry offer of a one-off hardship payment of R2,000 ($230).

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South Africa’s unions use mass sackings and murder to suppress miners

By Chris Marsden 
26 October 2012
The National Union of Mineworkers is seeking to impose a sell-out deal on gold miners that will leave tens of thousands of workers sacked throughout the platinum, gold and coal sectors.
AngloGold Ashanti, South Africa’s biggest producer, sacked half of its 24,000-strong local workforce Wednesday, and Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) has already sacked 12,000.
An agreement was announced yesterday after talks between the NUM, AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony, Gold Fields and the Chamber of Mines that appears virtually identical to demands already put forward by the gold companies and previously rejected by strikers.
It is too early to say whether the sell-out will be successful. At least 12,000 gold and 20,000 platinum miners were still on strike yesterday. But whatever happens, the NUM and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) stand condemned as strike-breakers and accomplices to mass sackings, police intimidation, brutality and murder.
COSATU this week issued a demagogic statement threatening to mobilise its 2.2 million members to protest against the mass dismissal of mine workers, warning that “the totality of the capitalist class will face the full might of organised workers and also will face stiff resistance in every corner of the economy.”
Its pose is hypocrisy on an epic scale—a ruse to conceal the trade union bureaucracy’s collusion with management in suppressing wildcat strikes by more than 100,000 workers. The NUM has worked against the strikers from the very beginning. It has blood on its hands.
Evidence has emerged of the collusion of the NUM and of COSATU in preparing the way for the police massacre of 36 and the injury of 72 miners striking against Lonmin at its Marikana platinum mine on August 16.
An October 12 report by Daily Maverick journalist Jared Sacks states that the violence at Marikana began due to the murder of two strikers by top NUM officials in the area. He reports from numerous interviews the “near-complete hatred that all residents, regardless of their connection to the strike, had towards the National Union of Mineworkers” and that “every single person that I spoke to, without fail, blamed NUM for starting the violence…”
On August 8, some rock drill operators (RDOs) held a mass meeting demanding a significant salary increase, a demand the NUM refused to support.
On August 9, a mass meeting of NUM members agreed to bypass the union and put their demands directly to Lonmin. The next day they marched to the company’s offices. The company fetched the NUM leaders, who then reprimanded their members. The wildcat strike by 3,000 RDOs began as a result.
On August 11, the strikers marched to the local NUM headquarters demanding their support for the strike. It was then that the “top five” NUM leaders “and other shop stewards, between 15 and 20 in all, came out of the office and began shooting at the protesting strikers … without warning or provocation.”
Two RDOs were killed, named by one person as S. Gwadidi from the Roeland Shaft and Tobias Tshivilika from New Mine Shaft. Both were NUM members.
“The police did nothing in response to the two deaths on 11 August. No one was arrested that day, nor was anyone interrogated,” Sacks writes. It was this that sparked revenge killings by strikers of NUM officials, as well as police officers and security guards.
Evidence submitted to the official Farlam Commission into the Marikana massacre by lawyers representing the victims of police violence shows that the NUM’s response, backed by COSATU and the African National Congress (ANC), was to call for a crackdown on the strike.
A statement issued by NUM General Secretary Frans Baleni on August 13 declared, “The NUM is alarmed that the situation in the platinum mines and its escalating violence has been allowed to continue unabated by the law enforcement agencies in that area in North West Province… We call for the deployment of a special task force or the SANDF [South African National Defence Force] to deal decisively with the criminal elements in Rustenburg and its surrounding mines.”
The most despicable role has been played by former NUM leader, and now millionaire businessman, Cyril Ramaphosa. On Tuesday, the inquiry into the Marikana massacre was shown numerous emails he had written.
Ramaphosa, a member of the ANC’s executive and reportedly COSATU’s favoured presidential candidate, wrote an email to Lonmin’s chief commercial officer Albert Jamieson, stating, “The terrible events that have unfolded cannot be described as a labour dispute. They are plainly dastardly criminal and must be characterised as such. There needs to be concomitant action to address this situation.”
In an email entitled “Security Situation”, Ramaphosa says, “You are absolutely correct in insisting that the minister [Susan Shabangu] and indeed all government officials need to understand that we are essentially dealing with a criminal act. I have said as much to the minister of safety and security.”
Ramaphosa is reported to have warned Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa to clamp down on striking miners in response to lobbying by Lonmin that also urged him to “influence” ANC mineral resources minister Susan Shabangu. He warned her that the Marikana strike was “not a labour dispute but a criminal act” and that “silence and inaction” were “bad for her and government.” He is also said to have held discussions with ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe and NUM President Senzeni Zokwana.
Advocate Dali Mpofu, representing injured mineworkers and more than 200 who were arrested, said that Ramaphosa’s email to Jamieson, addressed to “Dear Albert of Lonmin,” was an example of “toxic collusion.” It took place “exactly 24 hours before the people were mowed down on that mountain… It is clear Ramaphosa was directly involved by advising what was to be done to address these ‘dastardly criminal actions,’ which he says must be characterised as such and dealt with effectively.”
His intervention had culminated in the “premeditated murder of defenceless people.”
Ramaphosa is only one of the more successful of the grasping layer of new bourgeoisie that has emerged from the ranks of COSATU and the ANC and grown rich through the policy of Black Economic Empowerment. His investment holding company Shanduka Group owns 9 percent of Lonmin as its favoured BEE partner, and he sits on the board of directors
In a radio interview in September, Ramaphosa had issued a pro-forma apology for Marikana, stating that “I think a lot of us as stakeholders are to blame.” In an outburst of self-pity, he then complained that his 300 million rand (US$36 million) investment in Lonmin was “completely underwater … almost lost.”

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South African miners defy repression

By Chris Marsden 
20 October 2012
On Friday, Gold Fields boasted that threats of mass sackings had succeeded in forcing the 9,000 workers at its Beatrix mine and 90 percent of the 14,300 workers at KDC West back to work. But a new strike by platinum miners at Lonmin’s operation in Marikana delivered a blow to efforts to stem the working class upsurge, with tens of thousands of workers remaining in struggle.
Marikana workers struck Thursday in defence of colleagues subjected to police persecution and arrest. Miners in Marikana began the present strike wave in August and refused to return to work after police killed 34 strikers and wounded 78. The strikes spread after Lonmin agreed a 22 percent pay hike to settle the Marikana dispute, fuelling demands for similar rises throughout the mining industry. Reports are unclear, but it is believed that between 80,000 and 100,000 miners have been on strike at various points.
In the most detailed account of recent events, the Daily Maverick notes that just one week before an official inquiry into the Marikana massacre, police have embarked on a wave of arrests of militants and strike leaders.
On October 15, workers at the Marikana mine managed to prevent the arrest by security guards of strike leader “Rasta” Thembele Sohadi when he clocked in at Three Shaft. The police were waiting outside the main entrance. On October 17, Xolani Nzuza, a leader of the ad hoc strike committee, and a striker known as Mzet were arrested and held at an unknown location. They are reportedly to be charged with two murders, including of an official from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
Several other miners, witnesses to what happened at the August 16 massacre, are among those arrested. The Daily Maverick focuses on the case of Bangile Mpotye, who was arrested October 14 on charges of fraud, even though no charges have been officially laid by Lonmin.
Mpotye was first arrested August 20 and accused of shooting and killing a police officer. Four days of beating and torture followed before he was released.
“What is astonishing is that Mpotye claims the police transported him to Lonmin mine every day, and his beatings happened at Lonmin,” the Daily Maverick reports. “A lawyer working on Marikana cases says it is obvious that this is a wave of terror to intimidate witnesses who would otherwise give evidence at the Farlam Commission.”
The intimidation at Marikana is the most blatant example of a broad campaign involving tens of thousands being sacked or threatened with the sack, as well as mass arrests and police violence.
Gold Fields, the world’s fourth-largest bullion producer, has also threatened to sack 8,500 strikers at its KDC East facility. A spokesman for the company declared, “The raiding of hostels and disarming of strikers gave workers the confidence to return to work.”
Anglo American Platinum Ltd (Amplats) said it intended to go ahead with the sacking of 12,000 miners at its Rustenburg facility, but would discuss their status with recognised trade unions. It reported only 20 percent attendance at its facilities.
Atlatsa Resources fired 3,000 employees at its Bokoni platinum mine.
The Mail & Guardian described October 18 how striking workers at Kumba Iron Ore’s Sishen mine gathered near the Kathu Magistrate’s Court in solidarity with 47 workers arrested two days earlier. The detained workers’ appeal for bail was denied by the court and a second hearing was delayed until October 26 in violation of a law preventing anyone being held for more than 48 hours without charge.
Strikes have hit Lonmin, Aquarius, Impala, Anglo American Platinum, Royal Bafokeng Platinum, Xstrata, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Gold One, Harmony Gold, Kumba Iron Ore, Petra Diaminds, Forbes, Manhattan Coal and Samancor. In addition to miners, 180,000 municipal workers and bus drivers are beginning strike action this week. Toyota halted production at its Durban facility Wednesday due to a strike at a parts supplier.
The mood in mining areas has an insurgent character, with mine buildings, scabs, police officers and police stations coming under attack. Mini-buses and taxis carrying scabs have been torched.
The unrest is directed in particular against the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which is viewed as the labour police force for the companies. NUM General Secretary Frans Baleni recently boasted that his organisation has spent one million rand on a campaign to end wildcat strikes. This was “money well spent” to “get people to understand the risk they’re putting themselves and the country in,” he said, denouncing “people who are organising anarchy and economic sabotage”.
“You need just one mine to break this strike,” he added.
The Mail & Guardian writes of an organisation suffering a “slow, sure, violent implosion”. It notes that the NUM claims that so far this year 13 of its local officials have been killed by strikers, and hundreds of Amplats workers marched on the NUM’s regional headquarters in Rustenburg this month demanding the immediate cancellation of their union membership.
At Lonmin and Implats, the NUM has lost at least 20,000 members. NUM membership at Implats has now dropped from 70 percent to 13 percent and the real figure could be even lower because workers neglect to officially leave. The union is rapidly approaching extinction.
Reporters from the Daily Maverick visited Gold Fields KDC West mine in Carletonville prior to the end of the strike there. Strikers explained that some 1,500 of them had not returned to work Thursday because they had been waiting for NUM President Senzeni Zokwana to formally move the offer made by the Chamber of Mines, as promised when he visited the mine on Wednesday. They then found out they had been sacked.
Jeffrey Mphahlele, general secretary of the breakaway Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), stepped in to convince workers to return to work on Friday while ripping up their NUM cards and switching to the new union. The workers are now demanding, in addition to equalisation of pay and the withdrawal of all sackings, that NUM leaders at KDC West resign. They are threatening to resume their strike if these demands are not met.
The AMCU was also reportedly instrumental in stopping the strike at Marikana developing into an indefinite wildcat action. According to anotherDaily Maverick report, an “AMCU representative and the union’s lawyer managed to convince the people that another strike wasn’t the sensible way to reach their objectives.”
AMCU membership is near the 50 percent-plus level at both Implats and Lonmin that is required for the AMCU to be recognised as the official negotiating body. It is benefiting from the widespread hatred of the NUM, but using the confidence placed in it to restore order. Many strikes, however, are being led by ad-hoc strike committees.

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Apartheid never died in South Africa. It inspired a world order upheld by force and illusion

By John Pilger

September 21, 2012 “Information Clearing House” – The murder of 34 miners by the South African police, most of them shot in the back, puts paid to the illusion of post-apartheid democracy and illuminates the new worldwide apartheid of which South Africa is both an historic and contemporary model.
In 1894, long before the infamous Afrikaans word foretold “separate development” for the majority people of South Africa, an Englishman, Cecil John Rhodes, oversaw the Glen Grey Act in what was then the Cape Colony. This was designed to force blacks from agriculture into an army of cheap labour, principally for the mining of newly discovered gold and other precious minerals. As a result of this social Darwinism, Rhodes’ own De Beers company quickly developed into a world monopoly, making him fabulously rich. In keeping with liberalism in Britain and the United States, he was celebrated as a philanthropist supporting high-minded causes.
Today, the Rhodes scholarship at Oxford University is prized among liberal elites. Successful Rhodes scholars must demonstrate “moral force of character” and “sympathy for and protection of the weak, and unselfishness, kindliness and fellowship”. The former president Bill Clinton is one, General Wesley Clark, who led the Nato attack on Yugoslavia, is another. The wall known as apartheid was built for the benefit of the few, not least the most ambitious of the bourgeoisie.
This was something of a taboo during the years of racial apartheid. South Africans of British descent could indulge an apparent opposition to the Boers’ obsession with race, and their contempt for the Boers themselves, while providing the facades behind which an inhumane system guaranteed privileges based on race and, more importantly, on class.
The new black elite in South Africa, whose numbers and influence had been growing steadily during the latter racial apartheid years, understood the part they would play following “liberation”. Their “historic mission”, wrote Frantz Fanon in his prescient classic The Wretched of the Earth, “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”.
This applied to leading figures in the African National Congress, such as Cyril Ramaphosa, head of the National Union of Mineworkers, now a corporate multi-millionaire, who negotiated a power-sharing “deal” with the regime of de F.W. Klerk, and Nelson Mandela himself, whose devotion to an “historic compromise” meant that freedom for the majority from poverty and inequity was a freedom too far. This became clear as early as 1985 when a group of South African industrialists led by Gavin Reilly, chairman of the Anglo-American mining company, met prominent ANC officials in Zambia and both sides agreed, in effect, that racial apartheid would be replaced by economic apartheid, known as the “free market”.
Secret meetings subsequently took place in a stately home in England, Mells Park House, at which a future president of liberated South Africa, Tabo Mbeki, supped malt whisky with the heads of corporations that had shored up racial apartheid. The British giant Consolidated Goldfields supplied the venue and the whisky. The aim was to divide the “moderates” – the likes of Mbeki and Mandela – from an increasingly revolutionary multitude in the townships who evoked memories of uprisings following the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960 and at Soweto in 1976 – without ANC help.
Once Mandela was released from prison in 1990, the ANC’s “unbreakable promise” to take over monopoly capital was seldom heard again. On his triumphant tour of the US, Mandela said in New York: “The ANC will re-introduce the market to South Africa.” When I interviewed Mandela in 1997 – he was then president – and reminded him of the unbreakable promise, I was told in no uncertain terms that “the policy of the ANC is privatisation”.
Enveloped in the hot air of corporate-speak, the Mandela and Mbeki governments took their cues from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. While the gap between the majority living beneath tin roofs without running water and the newly wealthy black elite in their gated estates became a chasm, finance minister Trevor Manuel was lauded in Washington for his “macro-economic achievements”. South Africa, noted George Soros in 2001, had been delivered into “the hands of international capital”.
Shortly before the massacre of miners employed for a pittance in a dangerous, British-registered platinum mine, the erosion of South Africa’s economic independence was demonstrated when the ANC government of Jacob Zuma stopped importing 42 per cent of its oil from Iran under intense pressure from Washington. The price of petrol has already risen sharply, further impoverishing people.
This economic apartheid is now replicated across the world as poor countries comply with the demands of western “interests” as opposed to their own. The arrival of China as a contender for the resources of Africa, though without the economic and military threats of America, has provided further excuse for American military expansion, and the possibility of world war, as demonstrated by President Barack Obama’s recent arms and military budget of $737.5 billion, the biggest ever. The first African-American president of the land of slavery presides over a perpetual war economy, mass unemployment and abandoned civil liberties: a system that has no objection to black or brown people as long as they serve the right class. Those who do not comply are likely to be incarcerated.
This is the South African and American way, of which Obama, son of Africa, is the embodiment. Liberal hysteria that the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is more extreme than Obama is no more than a familiar promotion of “lesser evilism” and changes nothing. Ironically, the election of Romney to the White House is likely to reawaken mass dissent in the US, whose demise is Obama’s singular achievement.
Although Mandela and Obama cannot be compared – one is a figure of personal strength and courage, the other a pseudo political creation — the illusion that both beckoned a new world of social justice is similar. It belongs to a grand illusion that relegates all human endeavour to a material value, and confuses media with information and military conquest with humanitarian purpose. Only when we surrender these fantasies shall we begin to end apartheid across the world.

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South Africa: ANC orders security clampdown against miners’ revolt

By Julie Hyland 
17 September 2012
A march by hundreds of striking miners in South Africa’s platinum mining belt was blocked and dispersed by police on Sunday.
The march was in protest against the state clampdown on wildcat strikes over conditions of backbreaking exploitation imposed by the major transnational corporations in league with the African National Congress (ANC) government and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
Earlier, some 1,000 soldiers and 500 police officers were deployed against “illegal gatherings” in the mining area. The raid followed an announcement by South African President Jacob Zuma on Friday banning assemblies of the workers.
The protest marked one month since the August 16 massacre of 34 striking rock drillers at the Lonmin-owned platinum mine in Marikana, near Johannesburg. The deadly assault on the strikers was authorized by the ANC and supported by the NUM. The miners had broken from the NUM, which has for years collaborated closely with the mining companies, and joined the rival Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).
The strikers have not been cowed, however, and unrest has spread. More than 40,000 workers are now on strike, forcing three leading platinum and gold producers to halt their operations.
The security clampdown came as strikers at Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) in Rustenburg, northwest of Johannesburg, called for a general strike. The same day, workers at Lonmin rejected the company’s latest pay offer as an insult. The workers, who are currently paid between 4,000 and 5,000 rand ($488 to $610) a month, are demanding 12,500 rand. The company had offered just 1,000 rand extra.
At a press conference, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe refused to rule out the use of live ammunition against the spreading unrest. While the government stopped short of declaring an official state of emergency, one exists de facto. The South African army was placed on a state of alert last week.
“It appears now that the mining industry is at stake,” Radebe said, warning that those involved “are going to be dealt with very swiftly, without any delay.”
Hours after his announcement, police used tear gas against miners striking the Aquarius Platinum mine near Rustenburg, arresting seven.
On Saturday morning, a special squad raided miners’ hostels in the Marikana area to confiscate machetes and other weapons. Military helicopters and armoured vehicles were deployed in the assault. As residents set up barricades of burning tyres, police used tear gas and rubber bullets in the shantytown near the Lonmin mine.
The Marikana massacre was the worst act of police brutality since the days of apartheid. Some 270 miners arrested during the assault were then charged with complicity in the deaths of their 34 colleagues under the notorious apartheid-era “common purpose law”.
Although the charges have been dropped for now, the latest operation has underscored that the interests of the same multinational and South African firms that profited under apartheid remain intact. The Regulation of Gatherings Act now being enforced by the ANC was notoriously employed by the apartheid government.
This has led to complaints that the ANC’s police actions are only fuelling the revolt. Bishop Jo Seoka, president of the South African Council of Churches, said the “government must be crazy believing that, what to me resembles an apartheid-era crackdown, can succeed.” He warned, “We must not forget that such crackdowns in the past led to more resistance.”
Increasingly, however, the ANC and its partners in the NUM and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) have as little legitimacy as the white minority regime the ANC replaced 18 years before.
Comprising a thin layer of wealthy and corrupt black officials, they have been the sole beneficiaries of the post-apartheid policy of “black economic empowerment”. Leading members of the ANC and the trade unions own significant shares in multi-billion-rand corporate ventures and profit directly from the super-exploitation of their workforces, which they are acting ruthlessly to continue.
Anger at this state of affairs has led to a situation where, as the news agency Reuters noted, “The wave of labour unrest in Africa’s biggest economy has spiralled beyond the control of the government and unions into a grass-roots rebellion by black South Africans who have seen little improvement in their lives since apartheid ended…”
Last week, ANC members of the parliamentary Mineral Resources Committee refused to visit Lonmin to attempt to placate the miners. “We can’t go and talk to a crowd with suicidal tendencies,” ANC member Rose Sonto said.
In the mining areas, NUM officials can barely appear in public, as the unrest is directed as much against the union as the companies it is protecting. The NUM supported the weekend crackdown in Marikana, while the Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) called on Zuma to declare a state of emergency in the mining sector to prevent “anarchy.”
The ANC and its partners justify the state brutality as a necessary response to labour unrest caused by “violent criminals” and an inter-union rivalry involving the break-away Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union.
But as Businessday warned gloomily, the AMCU “seems not to have any control over the situation.” AMCU leader Joseph Mathunjwa “sounds as desperate as” NUM leaders, it wrote, “and has been reduced to calling for President Jacob Zuma to take the lead in resolving the situation.”
Comparing the revolt to a “veld fire that is threatening to run out of control”, it complained that “instead of trying to get a team of firefighters into action, the trade unions, the government and the mining industry appear to be mere bystanders, looking on aghast at the spreading crisis.”
Demands are now being made for unspecified “action” against expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, who has toured mining areas denouncing Zuma and the mining corporations.
Last week he addressed a group of 40 disaffected soldiers in Johannesburg who were subject to internal disciplinary proceedings after they participated in a wage protest in August 2009.
The small gathering led to hysterical claims that a “mutiny” was being prepared, which was then used as the pretext for last week’s state of alert and the ensuing security clampdown.
South Africa Security Forces Union president Bheki Mvovo claimed that Malema was ready to sponsor an “Arab Spring-style uprising.”
In fact, Malema—an inveterate opportunist who has made millions through government-contracts awarded to his companies—has made clear that the opposite is the case.
While denouncing Zuma and other individuals, Malema is careful not to indict the ANC itself, so as to leave the door open for his re-admittance to the organisation. Referring to the grassroots unrest, Malema told the Mail and Globe, “There was a political vacuum and we occupied that space. If we failed to do that the wrong elements would have taken that space.”
Gareth Newham, head of the Crime and Justice programme at the Institute for Security Studies, said Malema’s meetings with the soldiers were intended to signal that “he is more dangerous outside the ANC than he is in the ANC.”

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South African Miners Strike a Challenge to ANC

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South Africa Robbed of Independence Again:

By Danny Schechter
September 08, 2012 “Information Clearing House” – – After months of covert pressure, lobbying, bullying and offering various “incentives,” South Africa has now cut its imports of Iranian Oil. The US campaign forced South Africa to compromise its own independence.
South Africa stopped all imports of Iranian oil as of July 2012 even though Iran traditionally was one of its biggest suppliers. Trade statistics showed that South Africa bought 42% of its oil from Iran a year ago. Now the oil is flowing in from Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Angola. (South Africa also announced that gas prices will be going up by 97 cents per gallon, a development that may or may not be linked. 
Changes in trade practices like this just don’t happen; they are well organized externally. 
This may be more evidence of the analysis offered by South African economist Sampie Terreblance in his new book Lost in Transformation, arguing that South Africa’s economy has now been “Americanized” and integrated into an American-led neo-liberal global order. 
There has been a debate here on what its proper relationship should be with Iran. In an essay on the Voice of the Cape website, Iqbal Jassat of the Media Review Network, suggests that there has been CIA pressure on South Africa to be more hostile to Iran. 
He writes, “instead of being alarmed or at the least being curious, media seem to have ignored the questionable role of America’s spooks in South Africa. The foremost question that requires probing is the timing of leaks in relation to an Israeli-inspired frenzy led by the Obama administration to impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran. 
As this scandal allegedly centers on so-called “sanctions busting”, it is entirely inappropriate to accept a narrative framed by the American government that would have South Africa believe it is guilty of a heinous crime by doing business with Iran. Quite distinct from the basis of this new round of sensational reports which are quite damning if true for they reveal the nature of deals constructed by being close or connected to political heavyweights, concerns raised by me relate to the ability of foreign entities to attack South Africa’s economy! 
So by setting aside allegations of fraud and corruption as a matter for investigation by the office of the Public Protector, a challenge facing media is to investigate the role of foreign agencies allied to American/Israeli interests intent on undermining South Africa’s legitimate trade ties with Iran.”
Even as the Associated Press reports that this has been the first Republican convention since 1952 in which speakers did not openly advocate foreign wars. Vice President Joe Biden charged Sunday night that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is pressing for a war with Syria and Iran. 
Iran may not have been a major theme at the Tampa convention, but it was discussed even as the event was dominated by talk of tax cuts, cuts of government programs, and justifications of rule by the rich. 
Iran was not far from the minds of many, according to Dan Froomkin, writing in the Huffington Post: 
“Bob Merry, the editor of the National Interest and author of “Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians,” said ‘I think America is going to have a relatively bellicose foreign policy, and that may not necessarily be in the best interest of America.’ 
Merry argues that the U.S. is already on the path to war with Iran. Romney is less likely than Obama to change that course, he said. 
Now, there’s also a highly visible and politicized Republican-led US based network trying to mobilize public pressure on Iran, calling for a boycott of the South Africa-based cellphone company for trading with Iran. 
The group calls itself “United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI).” Its CEO is Ambassador Mark D. Wallace. Wallace worked for Governor Jeb Bush in Florida where he became an operative in the controversial George W Bush Campaign in 2000 that was accused of suppressing black participation, if not stealing the vote. 
President Bush then rewarded him with a post at the UN. He opposed the UN’s Review of the World Conference on Racism held in South Africa -the so-called Durban 2 meeting that the US later boycotted. The lobby supporting Israel later mobilized a global campaign against the conference because the Iranian President was scheduled to speak. 
You can be fairly certain that if the Romney campaign wins, Ambassador Wallace will likely join the Administration as a point person on Iran. 
He is also Chief Executive Officer of the Tigris Financial Group, a New York City-based investment, advisory and asset management firm involved in mining 
He founded UANI alongside former CIA Director R. James Woolsey, with support from intelligence professionals in other countries. He later married Nicole Wallace who served as Communications Director for the McCain Campaign in 2008. 
According to Wikipedia, “since its founding, Wallace has led UANI in dozens of successful business and corporate campaigns that have called on such multinational firms as General Electric, Huntsman, Caterpillar, Ingersoll Rand, Porsche, Hyundai, Fiat,[ Royal Dutch Shell, Terex and Siemens to end their business dealings in Iran.” 
His group recently issued a strongly rhetorical statement making charges that the South African cellphone company MTN actively conspired to bypass U.S. sanctions and procure U.S. technology for Iran: 
It is clear that the folks who now want to boycott MTN were silent when it came to boycotts against apartheid South Africa. 
Selective outrage at companies seeking to do business with Iran also avoids the many complaints Americans have with criminal corporate sector’s practices inside the US. It is easier to be “patriotically correct” towards so-called “sanctions busters” than admit that there are far more blatant corporate violations at home in the US.
I am referring to the large financial firms who are allowed to “settle” government charges of criminal conduct in a compromised and unethical business culture that operates out of sight and above the law while transferring more and more wealth to the super-rich.
This concern was conspicuous by its total absence at the Republican convention just as it often is in the dealings of the Obama Justice Department that is leading the legal charge against “Sanctions busters” when it comes to Iran, but ignoring the plunder of what wealth ordinary Americans still have by Wall Street firms.
News Dissector and filmmaker Danny Schechter blogs at newsdissector.net. His latest books are Blogothon and Occupy: Dissecting Occupy Wall Street (Cosimo Books). Comments to dissector@mediachannel.org.
See also –

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Funerals of slain South African miners held as unrest spreads

By Julie Hyland 
3 September 2012
Burials for most of the 34 platinum miners massacred by police on August 16 took place Saturday.
The killings at the Marikana mine, near Johannesburg, were an attempt to crush a strike by rock drillers, employed by UK-based Lonmin, against hazardous and backbreaking conditions on pay of just $500 per month.
The police injured over 70 other workers, in an event recalling the brutality routinely meted out by the former white apartheid regime. That such methods are now been employed under the African National Congress government—which preaches “black empowerment”—has caused widespread anger.
Many of those murdered came from the Eastern Cape. In one village, funerals were held for striker Phumzile Sokhanyile and his mother, Glorious Mamkhuzeni-Sokhanyi, who collapsed and died when she heard how her son had been killed.
Despite government-brokered talks between Lonmin, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the breakaway Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and workers’ representatives, the strike is continuing. The inclusion of the NUM in talks is tantamount to a provocation, given that it has denounced the strike and supported police repression.
Management said less than 6 percent of its 28,000 employees reported for work Friday, down from 30 percent at the time of the massacre.
Labour unrest has also spread to the gold mines. On Wednesday, a quarter of the 46,000 strong workforce at Gold Fields—the world’s fourth-largest gold mine—walked out at the KDC mine, west of Johannesburg. KDC operates eight mines in South Africa, Australia, Ghana and Peru. Gold Fields is its largest operation in South Africa.
In a statement, the company wrote: “Employees of the East Section of the KDC Gold Mine on the West Rand (Johannesburg) in South Africa have been engaging in an unlawful and unprotected strike since the start of the night shift on Wednesday.”
The Marikana massacre and spreading strike action have staggered the South African government.
South African prosecutors withdrew bogus murder charges yesterday against 270 platinum miners from Marikana. Last week, the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) had announced that the miners were being charged with the murder of their 34 colleagues killed by police under the apartheid-era “common purpose” law. Earlier yesterday morning, moreover, President Jacob Zuma had said he would not intervene to help the miners.
Despite the NPA’s announcement, the miners are still imprisoned, though they are supposed to be released this week.
The state has also left open the possibility of reinstating the charges. Nomgcobo Jiba, the acting National Director of Prosecutions, told a televised news conference: “Final charges will only be made once all investigations have been completed. The murder charges against the current 270 suspects will be formally withdrawn provisionally in court.”
The NPA’s withdrawal of the charges was forced on the authorities by rising public outrage and opposition in the working class.
In a letter to the president, the miners’ lawyers said the charges were “bizarre in the extreme … It is inconceivable that (you) can genuinely believe or even suspect that our clients murdered their own colleagues and in some cases, their own relatives,” the letter said.
Leaked post-mortem reports indicate that many of those slain were shot in the back as they tried to escape a murderous police onslaught.
An account by Pulitzer prize-winning photographer Greg Marinovich, at the scene of the massacre on Wonderkop Hill, said that some had been shot at close range or killed by heavy police vehicles. Based on survivors’ eyewitness accounts, Marinovich said many had been killed out of camera sight. Trapped by police lines, they were gunned down or run over.
The account is supported by research conducted by Peter Alexander, professor of sociology at the University of Johannesburg, and others who also interviewed witnesses.
Responding to the public outcry over the murder charges, Justice Minister Jeffrey Radebe, complained they had “induced a sense of shock, panic and confusion within the members of the community and the general South African public.”
Commenting on Radebe’s criticism, Ralph Mathekga, the BBC’s South African political analyst, said he believed it was “merely a façade to create the impression that the NPA’s decision has been made independently and the government did not play a role.”
Citing previous indications of government “meddling” in the judicial process, like the NPA’s decision to drop corruption charges against Zuma in 2009, Mathekga wrote: “[I]n the eyes of ordinary South Africans, the government is trying to appease foreign investors at the expense of aggrieved Lonmin miners, who are suffering further victimisation.”
Over two-thirds of the arrested miners have filed reports that they have been beaten and tortured in custody. Many suffer from tuberculosis and HIV/Aids and are unable to get medical attention. Most are not even allowed to attend the court proceedings, on the grounds that the courtroom is not large enough to accommodate them.
As the New York Times was forced to acknowledge, “The rage that had long been focused on white rule and white capitalism has turned on the ANC. South Africa’s liberation party has become the establishment. It has forged deep links to the white business class, and through its affirmative action policies, a small but wealthy black elite has emerged. Even the venerable left-wing unions are seen by the have-nots as co-opted by the haves.”
The ANC, and its partners in the Tripartite Alliance—the trade union federation COSATU and the South African Communist Party—continue to claim that the labour unrest at Marikana was the outcome of “criminal activity” by members of the AMCU and other, non-union miners in a bid to undermine the NUM.
Such claims are belied by the wildcat strike at Gold Fields. The AMCU has no representation in the gold mines. The gold producers also practise a system of collective bargaining that some have said should now be extended throughout the mining industry to prevent a repeat of events at Marikana.
The NUM has denied any connection between the Gold Fields strike and that at Marikana. It claims that the latest dispute arises out of company plans to implement a compulsory funeral scheme, under which all workers would have R69 deducted from their salaries. But Gold Fields says that it had already agreed to drop the compulsory funeral scheme, drawn up by the NUM.
According to the South African business website BDLive, “It is understood that a faction among workers at the mine is dissatisfied with the new NUM branch leadership elected in September last year, and that the former branch chairman has rallied workers around him.”
Mineweb reported, “NUM representatives from the highest levels are at the mine trying to settle the dispute.”
The Gold Fields strike speaks to the hostility of broad masses of workers against the so-called “tenderpreneurs”—a layer of ANC, COSATU and NUM leaders who have built up fabulous wealth helping transnational corporations to exploit their workforce.
NUM founder and former ANC Secretary General Cyril Ramaphosa has indirect shares in Lonmin. This is because his Shanduka investment firm holds a majority stake in Lonmin’s major Black Economic Empowerment partner, Incwala Resources. Ramaphosa also sits on Lonmin’s board of directors.

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Tony Blair Should Face Trial Over Iraq War, Says Desmond Tutu

Anti-apartheid hero attacks former prime minister over ‘double standards on war crimes’

By Toby Helm, political editor
September 02, 2012 “The Observer” – – Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called for Tony Blair and George Bush to be hauled before the international criminal court in The Hague and delivered a damning critique of the physical and moral devastation caused by the Iraq war.
Tutu, a Nobel peace prize winner and hero of the anti-apartheid movement, accuses the former British and US leaders of lying about weapons of mass destruction and says the invasion left the world more destabilised and divided “than any other conflict in history”.
Writing in the Observer, Tutu also suggests the controversial US and UK-led action to oust Saddam Hussein in 2003 created the backdrop for the civil war in Syria and a possible wider Middle East conflict involving Iran.
“The then leaders of the United States and Great Britain,” Tutu argues, “fabricated the grounds to behave like playground bullies and drive us further apart. They have driven us to the edge of a precipice where we now stand – with the spectre of Syria and Iran before us.”
But it is Tutu’s call for Blair and Bush to face justice in The Hague that is most startling. Claiming that different standards appear to be set for prosecuting African leaders and western ones, he says the death toll during and after the Iraq conflict is sufficient on its own for Blair and Bush to be tried at the ICC.
“On these grounds, alone, in a consistent world, those responsible for this suffering and loss of life should be treading the same path as some of their African and Asian peers who have been made to answer for their actions in The Hague,” he says.
The court hears cases on genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. To date, 16 cases have been brought before the court but only one, that of Thomas Lubanga, a rebel leader from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), has been completed. He was sentenced earlier this year to 14 years’ imprisonment for his part in war crimes in his home country.
Tutu’s broadside is evidence of the shadow still cast by Iraq over Blair’s post-prime ministerial career, as he attempts to rehabilitate himself in British public life. A longtime critic of the Iraq war, the archbishop pulled out of a South African conference on leadership last week because Blair, who was paid 2m rand (£150,000) for his time, was attending. It is understood that Tutu had agreed to speak without a fee.
In his article, the archbishop argues that as well as the death toll, there has been a heavy moral cost to civilisation, with no gain. “Even greater costs have been exacted beyond the killing fields, in the hardened hearts and minds of members of the human family across the world.
“Has the potential for terrorist attacks decreased? To what extent have we succeeded in bringing the so-called Muslim and Judeo-Christian worlds closer together, in sowing the seeds of understanding and hope?” Blair and Bush, he says, set an appalling example. “If leaders may lie, then who should tell the truth?” he asks.
“If it is acceptable for leaders to take drastic action on the basis of a lie, without an acknowledgement or an apology when they are found out, what should we teach our children?”
In a statement, Blair strongly contested Tutu’s views and said Iraq was now a more prosperous country than it had been under Saddam Hussein. “I have a great respect for Archbishop Tutu’s fight against apartheid – where we were on the same side of the argument – but to repeat the old canard that we lied about the intelligence is completely wrong as every single independent analysis of the evidence has shown.
“And to say that the fact that Saddam massacred hundreds of thousands of his citizens is irrelevant to the morality of removing him is bizarre. We have just had the memorials both of the Halabja massacre, where thousands of people were murdered in one day by Saddam’s use of chemical weapons, and that of the Iran-Iraq war where casualties numbered up to a million including many killed by chemical weapons.
“In addition, his slaughter of his political opponents, the treatment of the Marsh Arabs and the systematic torture of his people make the case for removing him morally strong. But the basis of action was as stated at the time.
“In short, this is the same argument we have had many times with nothing new to say. But surely in a healthy democracy people can agree to disagree.
“I would also point out that despite the problems, Iraq today has an economy three times or more in size, with the child mortality rate cut by a third of what it was. And with investment hugely increased in places like Basra.”
© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited

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