South Africa: Miners’ struggle continues

Interview with miners’ leader Hoshoko Letshoba

Following the massacre at Lonmin’s Marikana mine in South Africa, in August, readers will be shocked and disgusted to learn of the on-going horrendous attacks on striking miners.

On ’Tuesday’ 30 October, police deployed rubber bullets and tear gas at close range at the ’Anglo American Platinum (Amplats)’ Thembelani mine.

This attack was the stick, which alongside a very small carrot of 2,000 rand (£140), formed an attempt by mining corporation Amplats to force strikers back to work.

A deal, struck between Amplats and unions including the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), had not been agreed by the miners.

Previously Amplats sacked 12,000 workers. When the miners, determined and organised, did not retreat mining bosses sought another route to continuing their brutal exploitation of the workforce.

Hoshoko Letshoba, a miners’ leader, spoke to the Socialist and explained that the miners are determined to keep on fighting for their ’minimum’ demand of a wage of R12,500.

He described some of the intimidation faced by the miners – about 500 have been arrested on trumped up charges.

Hoshoko is a member of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), the Socialist Party’s sister party in South Africa, and will be a key speaker at the Socialism 2012 weekend.

NUM leadership

Across the world workers and trade unionists were horrified by the role played by the NUM leadership in the Marikana attack.

Again there has been involvement by the NUM leaders in further attempts to undermine the strike and to impose its leadership, including trying to organise a provocative rally in the Rustenburg mining area last Saturday.

Two workers were shot with live ammunition in the clashes that inevitably followed between striking workers on the one hand and union officials and police on the other.

As the DSM explains "the NUM leadership stood on the other side of the class barriers, actively colluded with the mining bosses, denouncing the demands and the actions of their own members, and called for the ANC to help end the strike and for the police to smash it."

As Reuters news agency commented: "The strikes have shone a harsh spotlight on South Africa’s persistent income inequality and the promise by Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC) to build ’a better life for all’ following the end of white-minority rule." This is also true for Cosatu.

Hoshoko reported that the support for the building of a new mass party of the working class is growing.

DSM speakers have made the case for the building of a new government that would nationalise mines, banks and land.

Mametlwe Sebei, a leading DSM member, is quoted in the SA press saying: "We have drawn a line in the sand.

"We’re building a socialist alternative," when he spoke at a mass meeting of AngloGold Ashanti workers.

Questioned in South Africa’s City Press another DSM member, Thamsanqa Dumezweni, said: "Workers only have their heads and hands, which they sell. This is a revolution against capitalism."

Support the South African miners:

Any donations for the struggle are welcome. Deposits can be made into the account below – Rustenburg Joint Strike Coordinating Committee Bank: Standard Bank, South Africa Account: Workers Defence Fund Account No. 300495986 Branch: East Gate, Branch Code: 018 505 Swift Code: SBZAZAJJ

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