AS THE numbers of those who died in skirmishes at the
Lonmin's Marikana mine came in this week, so did the assertions of gloom.
Opinion-makers went into overdrive, claiming South Africa's
problem of public violence - which often rears its ugly head during workers’
marches - is set to continue as little is done to stop it.
Opinion-makers said the murders in the North West Province
have raised the issue of violence in public consciousness.
Lonmin [JSE:LON] is one of the world's biggest producers of platinum
At least 10 people - including two police officers, two
security guards, three protesters and three other men - were killed at its
Marikana mine in Rustenburg this week after thousands of Lonmin's rockdrill
operators started an illegal strike a week ago, demanding to be paid R12 500 a
I am forced to agree with the opinion-makers because it is
well known that violence aimed at people holding divergent views in South
Africa's workplace is not condemned in the strongest possible terms by leaders
of both political parties and trade unions.
If these leaders do condemn it, it is often not followed by
tough actions aimed at eradicating the problem.
Even law enforcement authorities have become used to the
fact that workers' marches are violent. They are often dispatched to areas
where they come under attack. But this seems to have become a normal call to
duty for the police.
Instead of finding ways of fixing the problem, leaders of
political parties and trade unions often blame each other, failing to find and
deal harshly with violent members in their midst.
This could be the reason members of these parties and trade
unions always openly carry dangerous weapons whenever they take to the streets.
Organisers and party marshals, it seems, do not discourage members from
carrying these weapons.
During the apartheid era, carrying weapons was condoned
because it was believed that marchers should be prepared to defend themselves
as they could come under attack from vigilante and brutal apartheid police
We are 18 years into a new democracy. Why do marchers still
Some of the best ways to increase enforcement against
violence and the carrying of these weapons is for the country's lawmakers to
ensure that a conviction will increase an offender's sentence if they are found
with dangerous weapons.
It is my conviction that those carrying weapons should be
investigated and prosecuted for the broad harm they do to communities, and well
beyond their individual victims.
Earlier this year, members of the country's biggest worker
federation Cosatu and the official opposition, the Democratic Alliance (DA),
clashed in Braamfontein, Johannesburg as the DA was marching to the offices of
Cosatu over youth wage subsidies.
None of the parties took responsibility for the violence
that followed these clashes. I know that a couple of people do get arrested in
these acts, but this is clearly not enough to deter people from violent
The case of Lonmin's Marikana mine this week clearly shows
that systems have not improved since the Braamfontein incident, and that
nothing new has been learnt from that case.
I can assure anyone who is prepared to listen that before
the end of the year, South Africa will have another Marikana. Reasons are
If somebody requested me to sum up in a line where South
Africa will be 10 years from now, I would say it will be neither the greatest
nor the wickedest of times.
South Africa's major companies will thrive and retain their
operations, but workers will never let them fully relish it.
What drives many companies in South Africa is an outlandish
mix of accomplishment and cosiness that underpins the craving to hold on to the
status quo, particularly on the wage issue. And that thought is not going to be
altered anytime soon.
South African companies will continue to pay company
executives millions of rands in bonuses, share options and salaries while
workers on the ground will be paid starvation wages.
If the companies' economic prosperity seems to reinforce the
status quo, the violence caused by suffering workers will continue.
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