Mine workers’ strikes boosted by success at Lonmin – coordinating committee needs solidarity

The battle of South African mine workers is reaching a crucial stage, with the movement escalating and the employers starting to introduce disciplinary measures including the closure of striking miners’ hostels, and widespread sackings. The agreement with the Lonmin company in the middle of September which saw an up to 22% increase in wages for the mine workers at this company only ended the first chapter of this struggle, and has in fact set a bench-mark for workers across the country. Workers of other platinum companies continue the battle and chrome, gold and coal miners have joined in.

The massacre on 16 August, where 34 mine workers were killed in Marikana by South African police forces, triggered an outcry all over South Africa and a wave of international solidarity.

The workers who now continue to fight in the Rustenburg area successfully launched a Strike Coordinating Committee, now made up of the leadership of each of the 15 shafts, of various companies, on strike. The Strike Coordinating Committee is made up of representatives of the strike committees of each shaft, which are non-aligned to unions to create maximum unity in action. Mineworkers in other provinces outside of the North West province where Rustenburg is located, have called upon the Committee to visit them to give them the opportunity to become part of the strike movement. This includes goldmines in Carletonville, in the Gauteng Province – the industrial heartland of South Africa, where workers have been on strike for two weeks and had refused to be addressed by the president of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) as the NUM and the trade union federation Cosatu tried to help the state forces to cover up the massacre. The NUM even spoke about the police acting in “self-defence”, while eye witnesses gave detailed accounts of the planned and vicious attack on striking workers.

The KDC West Goldfields strike committee in Carletonville has agreed to take the issue of affiliation to the Coordinating Committee to their members for a mandate. There have also been calls from mineworkers in the provinces of Limpopo and the Free State. Several thousand striking Anglo Platinum miners held a rally on September 26 in a football stadium surrounded by armed South African Police trucks known as “hippos”.

Alarmed by the manner in which its biggest and richest affiliate, the National Union of Mineworkers is being by-passed by the Coordinating Committee, the general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), Zwelinzima Vavi, has elbowed the NUM leadership aside and intervened to overturn the NUM’s denunciation of the workers’ demand for R12,500, and given it Cosatu’s full support with the Times daily suggesting on 1 October the Cosatu might call a general strike in support of the miners. He has demanded that the Chamber of Mines stop sheltering behind the technicality that the 2-year agreement signed with the NUM still has 6 months to run, and reopen negotiations immediately.

The Strike Coordinating Committee is the effective leadership of the growing mine workers’ strike in South Africa. It was forced into existence when trade union officials turned their backs on the workers, and could now be poised to revive the trade union movement in the country. With workers having been on strike for several weeks without any support from their unions, the Committee is in dire need of resources to be able to hold meetings and marches, travel between shafts on strike and visit new mines that are entering the strike. The Committee would appreciate any donations towards this work from trade unions and trade unionists internationally.

To support the workers organised in the Strike Coordinating Committee, please donate to:

Bank: Standard Bank, South Africa

Account Name: Workers Defence Fund

Account Number: 300495986

Branch: East Gate

Branch Code: 018 505

Swift Code: SBZAZAJJ

Support the Democratic Socialist Movement, DSM (CWI South Africa)

At the several thousand-strong rally of striking Anglo Platinum miners on September 26 the five platform speakers included two miners’ leaders, DSM comrade Sebei, the main leader of the strikes, comrade Alec Thraves who brought greetings from the Socialist Party of England and Wales, the Committee for a Workers International and the National Shop Stewards Network to these workers in struggle and whose message was received with loud cheering and cries of “Amandla” (Zulu for power).

South African radio and television interviewed comrade Alec and the SP’s support for the strike was transmitted across South Africa again highlighting the role of the DSM and the CWI in the strike. The DSM’s intervention in mobilising support and publicity for the 400 workers who occupied the Samancor Chrome mine shaft was applauded by a 50-strong meeting of the Strike Coordinating Committee on Saturday in Rustenburg. The DSM’s assistance contributed to the success of the Samancor strike with the bosses meeting several of the miners’ demands, including the removal of the NUM chairperson at the mine.

DSM members are travelling thousands of kilometres every week across the Rustenburg region and beyond, helping to coordinate the action of the striking miners. The DSM is appealing to members and supporters of the CWI to finance this intervention. DSM’s authority and recruitment amongst the striking miners is rocketing but we need the extra resources to take full advantage of this unique opportunity.

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