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Growing Unrest Follows Massacre at South African Mine

Common Dreams staff

Police surround the bodies of striking miners after opening fire on a crowd at the Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg, South Africa, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012. (AP Photo)

Unrest is growing in South Africa as workers at more two platinum mines are demanding better wages in the wake of the massacre of 34 protesting miners at the Lonmin mine last Thursday.

Workers are now mobilizing at the Bafokeng Rasimone Platinum Mine, and a group of workers at the Anglo American Platinum mine has given their management a demand for a wage increase.

The business world has their eyes on the growing chaos as well.  The Guardian reports that Swiss Bank "UBS analysts warned that the unrest is 'unlikely to be resolved swiftly and will probably continue for the next six to eight weeks'. They added that there was an 'increasing likelihood of contagion, with market focus now shifting to Amplats [Anglo American Platinum, the world's top platinum producer]'. The Associated Press adds that South Africa’s calls the growing unrest “a possibly ominous development” that could have a “devastating effect on the South African economy.”

The shooting by police of the Lonmin workers who were demanding a wage increase made shockwaves and drew comparisons to apartheid-era brutality.  34 were shot dead and 78 were wounded

Glen Ford, executive editor of Black Agenda Report, says that the massacre was "inevitable":

When thousands of miners went on strike at South Africa’s largest platinum mine, in Marikana, they were confronting not only the London-based owners, but the South African state, which since 1994 has been dominated by the African National Congress (ANC); COSATU, the Congress of South African Trade Unions; and the South African Communist Party. This week, the full weight of the state was brought down on the Black miners, 34 of whom were massacred by police gunfire. Many of the survivors face charges of murder in the earlier deaths of two policemen and eight other miners.

The National Union of Mineworkers, whose representation the strikers rejected, and the Communist Party head in the region claim the strikers are at fault, that they have committed the sin of choosing an alternative union to argue their case for higher wages and, therefore, deserve severe punishment. They are “anarchists,” say these two allies of the South African state, and guilty of fomenting “dual unionism” – which is now, apparently, a capital crime. With a straight face, the Communist Party had the gall to call on all South African workers to “remain united in the fight against exploitation under capitalism.”

That is precisely what the Marikana miners were doing – the struggle they gave their lives for. However, since the peaceful transition to state power to the ANC and its very junior partners, the COSATU unions and the Communist Party, in 1994, the South African state has had different priorities. The “revolution” was put on indefinite hold, so that a new Black capitalist class could be created, largely from the ranks of well-connected members of the ruling party and even union leaders. It is only logical that, if the priority of the state is to nurture Black capitalists, then it must maintain and defend capitalism. This is the central contradiction of the South African arrangement, and the massacre at Marikana is its inevitable result.

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