Daily Maverick Marikana

‘Make the mines ungovernable’: Malema and the language of the Struggle

Daily Maverick, 31 August 2012

Expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema has moved swiftly from striking miners in Marikana to another group of disenfranchised workers. He addressed workers from the liquidated Aurora mine on Thursday, urging them to fight for their rights and unite to “make the mines ungovernable”.

Expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema appears to have developed a fondness for the word “ungovernable”. On Thursday he rallied workers at the Aurora mine in Grootvlei, Springs to render the country’s mines ungovernable. “We are going to lead a mining revolution in this country… We will run these mines ungovernable until the Boers come to the table,” he said.

Malema’s speech to the Aurora workers is not the first invocation of ungovernability in the country in recent weeks.

Last month the ANC Youth League in the Western Cape’s Dullah Omar Region delivered a memorandum to the office of the premier, Helen Zille, demanding that services to townships be improved. “We demand that our demands be positively responded to within 7 working days. Failure to do so [and] the young people will make this city and province ungovernable!” the memorandum said.

In August 2011, Andile Lungisa, the chairman of the National Youth Development Agency, threatened to make the country “ungovernable” in response to  the high rate of youth unemployment. In June of 2011, protests against corruption in the local government in Pitermaritzburg also threatened to render the city ungovernable. “ANC activist Nana Mnandi, who spoke on behalf of protesters who are staging a sit-in at the ANC offices in Jabu Ndlovu Street, said they were willing to bring the city to its knees and render it ungovernable unless their concerns about corruption were addressed,” the report said.

The word “ungovernable” and its attendant is, however, not new to the political discourse of the country.

It was in the early 1980s that Oliver Tambo first issued a call to “render South Africa ungovernable” – a concept historians reckon was originally conceived by Thabo Mbeki. Credit for conception quite aside, calls to render the country ungovernable proved to be a fundamental. After the proclamation of a state of emergency in 1986, Tambo reiterated the call, saying, “We have to make Apartheid unworkable and our country ungovernable. Prepare the conditions for the seizure of power by the people.”

Writing in Sunday World earlier this year, Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosutho Buthelezi said calls by the ANC Youth League to render the Western Cape “ungovernable” ought to be understood in reference to its historical usage within the ANC.

“This is, of course, not the first time the ANC has threatened to make South Africa ungovernable. When these threats first emerged in the 80s, they proved to be anything but empty. Chaos descended on our country,” Buthelezi wrote.

Malema, of course, did not speak on behalf of the ANC when he addressed the Aurora workers on Thursday, but his invocation of “ungovernable” is deeply tied to the significance of the word in the history of the ANC.

Buthelezi explains what exactly this history is. “At that time the ANC’s campaign to make South Africa ungovernable sprang from the injustice of the Apartheid system under which we lived. It was a reaction to inequality, inferior education for the black majority, disenfranchisement and the countless indignities that were visited upon our people. The demands behind the ANC’s threat were political liberation and democracy,” he says in his Sunday World column.

Malema, from his side, is also using the ANC’s history to assert himself as the party’s true leader. It’s little wonder, then, that Malema directly attacked President Zuma in his speech on Thursday, alleging that the president had been bought by white mining capital who donated money to Zuma’s trusts and foundations.

“Why do they pay money? That is a protection fee,” Malema said.

“When President Jacob Zuma came here, he left and his nephew came to the mine. He [was] looking for business opportunities to see how [he could] get in. If you can’t trust your president, who can you trust? Everybody is a sell-out,” Malema is reported, by City Press, to have said to applause.

“We thought it [life] was going to be better after 1994. We are worse [off than] during the time of Apartheid,” said Malema.

“The revolution is leaderless. If there was leadership in this country it can’t take four years [to pay mineworkers],” Malema said.

That Malema made these comments to workers at the Aurora mine is especially significant. Aurora Empowerment Systems bought two mines, one in Springs and the other in Orkney, North West, when the previous owner, Pamodzi Gold, went into liquidation in 2009. Since then, workers have not been paid and the mines have been stripped of assets. Some 5,000 people have been left jobless.

Ebrahim Fakir, political analyst and manager of governance institutions and processes at the Electoral Institute for the Sustainability of Democracy in Africa, told Daily Maverick that Malema’s call for the Aurora workers to unite and demand their rights was credible: “Yes, they must unite and fight for their rights but the rest of the (call) is terribly irresponsible,” he said. “The Aurora workers have a credible, legitimate case (against their former employers).”

In one week, Malema has gone from addressing a memorial serivce in Marikana, where miners are embroiled in a wage battle with Lonmin, to the Aurora workers.  “In both cases he is sensitive [to the fact that] people are particularly angry at the president,” Professor Adam Habib noted. “He is trying to deligitimise the president.”

“Clearly Malema believes Zuma’s weak spots were revealed with the Marikana massacre, and he believes people around Zuma, people close to him, may be implicated.

“He is obviously manipulating the situation, but it was very prudent of him to highlight that Cyril Ramaphosa was a shareholder in Lonmin”, said Habib.

Fakir agrees that Ramaphosa’s involvement in Malema’s disciplinary process and resultant expulsion have been crucial to Malema’s burst of activity in the last two weeks. “It is not insignificant that Cyril is a board member of Lonmin,” he said.

“His appeal is connected to the polarities of South Africa. “Clearly this is a guy who is willing to risk industrial relations and social relations for cheap politicking.”

In the meantime, the great spectre of Malema’s power continues to rise on the back of speeches like the one he delivered to the Aurora workers and his ability to speak to the disgruntled workers. The appearance of taking up their plight lends greater credence to the theory that Malema has been empowered by events in Marikana.

Professor Habib, however, is keen to distinguish exactly what kind of power it is that Malema has. “Malema did not have systematic power previously, he had institutional power from within the ANC.

“It allowed him to be a kingmaker.

“That power has eroded. What he now has is the ability to exploit vulnerabilities.”

Habib stressed as well that Malema’s appeal was inextricably tied to the socio-economic inequality that marks life in South Africa. “His appeal is connected to the polarities of South Africa,” he said. “There is a rage building at the base of society and whether it is Malema or anybody else, as long as society is unequal the situation is vulnerable.

“A lot of people like Malema because he makes the upper middle classes nervous. And because he makes them nervous, it makes him attractive. As long as they continue to feel ignored, people like Malema will be attractive.”

“Julius is tapping into spaces of discontent,” Fakir added.

And until such time as these people feel as though they have avenues for redress, Malema will be able to call on the language of the Struggle and invoke historical calls to make sectors of society ungovernable, because for many South Africans such language is a reminder of how little change the end of the Struggle brought them. A good strategy indeed. DM

Daily Maverick Marikana

Daily Maverick, 24 August 2012

It was meant to be a memorial service, a ceremony held in honour of the victims of the police shootings in Marikana last week. But the Gauteng Provincial Government’s attempt at affording the victims some honour in death quickly denigrated into a political fight against the likes of Julius Malema. 

As part of the national week of mourning for the victims of violence in Marikana, the Gauteng Provincial Government hosted a memorial service at the Johannesburg City Hall on Thursday. Vastly different to the the crowd at the University of Johannesburg on Wednesday night, the City Hall crowd was made up largely of civil servants and members of Cosatu-affiliated unions. And despite programme director MEC Lebogang Maile acknowledging family members of the bereaved in the audience, there was no indication if indeed any family members of the victims had travelled to Johannesburg for the memorial.

Most prominent, in fact, were members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the union that has earned the wrath of miners at the Lonmin shaft in Marikana. Seemingly unperturbed by criticism and widespread allegations that it had sabotaged wage negotiations for the rival Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) with Lonmin, NUM members arrived at the city hall upbeat.

The showing, designed to offer proof that the union deplored the violence in Marikana last week, had a political purpose as well. Not content with showing it felt badly about the mindless violence, NUM used the service to launch a fight back against its detractors. Just as reports from the memorial service in Marikana described ANC Youth League renegade Julius Malema launching a attack on anything even remotely resembling government, so too, at the City Hall, NUM took the opportunity to push back.

While in Marikana, Malema took it to the government. At the Johannesburg City Hall, NUM decried the leverage political figures like Malema won in Marikana in the last week. In a thinly disguised attack on Malema, NUM President Senzeni Zokwana said, “Those banned from the ANC should not use the miners as a political platform!”

Ultimately, Zokwana attributed the entire incident at Marikana to succession politics within the ANC. He likened the rise of anti-Zuma sentiment following Marikana to vultures circling overhead, ready to pounce in readiness for Mangaung. “Just look at where the vultures are now circling to understand real reason behind the shooting.

“The question most people are asking is if this could this be about wages. If yes, why arms, why sangomas,” Zokwana said.

According to Zokwana, the condition of the bodies of those killed at Marikana points to a greater conspiracy. “Bodies were mutilated, body parts missing,” he said, “This points to something greater than a wage dispute.

“Was it really about a strike?” Zokwana asked, “Or is it an opportunity for those who have an agenda in Mangaung?”

He firmly lambasted of what he said was parliament’s failure to adequately acknowledge the sacrifices of the country’s mine workers, of which the Marikana incident was just the latest example. “Mineworkers have been exploited enough,” he said as he implored that the deaths in Marikana not be used as a tool to sow division within the ANC.

Thandi Shimange, a representative from the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru), also warned against piggy backing on the Marikana incident to further political ambitions. “Let us not use the Marikana incident as political point scoring,” she said, adding, “Let us wait for the results of the judicial inquiry.”

And though Shimange stressed that the police had also sustained fatalities in violence at the Lonmin mine last week, she offered the police union’s condolences to the victims’ families. “To the bereaved families, we are saying we share this pain with you,” she said.

Cosatu Secretary General Zwelinzima Vavi was present and visibly prepared to speak, though he was not offered time on the podium. A statement released later by Cosatu Spokesman Patrick Craven steered clear of the sticky politics, bemoaning instead the excessive use of force by the police. “One question which we have to confront immediately however, is what Cosatu has raised for many years now the brutality and ‘skiet en donner’ attitude on the part of the commanders of the police.

“While the Commission of Enquiry must determine precisely what happened—and we cannot attach blame until we have the full picture—there can be no doubt that the police response was excessive,” his statement said.

Gauteng Premier Nomvula Paula Mokonyane was more conciliatory towards the police. “The Marikana police shootings happened after a week of violence by striking workers that resulted in the death of security guards and police officers,” she said.

For Mokonyane, however, a comment on the prevailing politics was too titillating to ignore. She, too, attacked Malema for offering help to the victims’ families as a way to advance his own political ambitions. “Many hovered around Lonmin with briefs that had nothing to do with helping families,” she said, going on to call such people “messiahs for miners”.

“To those opportunists, remember, in a corner of South Africa, there are widows, orphans and women in pain,” she said.

“This hour of mourning is not the time for finger pointing and name calling,” she said, even though she herself had lent deep political undertones to what was supposed to be a memorial service.

In the end, in Johannesburg as in Marikana, attempts at a memorial service for the victims of last week’s violence denigrated into a political boxing match. The miners are hardly dead a week and already their names are tainted with the dirty politics of the ANC succession battle. DM

Daily Maverick Marikana

Reporter’s Notebook: NUM drowned out at UJ meeting on Marikana

Daily Maverick, 23 August 2012 

On Wednesday the University of Johannesburg hosted ‘Never Again’, a public meeting on the Marikana mining massacre last week. One by one, speakers made clear their disillusionment with the ANC-led government to do anything more than enrich themselves at the expense of the poor. And when Cosatu-affiliated National Union of Mineworkers attempted to give their side of the story, they were drowned out by a very, very angry audience. 

A scheduled 17h30 start translated into an actual starting time some 60 minutes later. Few of the more than two hundred people gathered at the University of Johannesburg’s Bunting Road Campus complained, however. The audience was buoyant, jovial and calmly expectant as organisers announced that the Lonmin miners from Marikana and a group of women from the neighbouring Wonderkop settlement were to have dinner before they made their way into the hall. In the meantime, UJ security had reportedly refused entry into the Bunting Road campus to a group of people who had arrived singing struggle songs. Peter Alexander, the host of the event and Director of the Centre for Sociological Research at the university, was forced to intervene.

When the women and miners were eventually ushered into the conference hall, they were greeted by cheers and a rousing song. It was almost like the well co-ordinated welcomes that are unfurled for the country’s sports people every time they return home from doing something heroic abroad. But it was also so much more than that. Theirs was a fight for something more than a number one ranking, or a chunky medal. It’s a fight for a better life that is echoed in the struggles of millions more South Africans. And for the audience at UJ on Wednesday night, the miners at Lonmin’s Marikana mine were not modern-day substitutes for ancient warfare, they were the living embodiment of a rising discontent with the ANC-led government, its alliance partners and their protection of the status quo.

So, even as they took their seats, Alexander requested that the montage of international television reports of last Thursday’s events be removed from the projector, pointing out that the scenes of violence were insensitive to the people of Marikana who had lost friends, relatives and colleagues in the mayhem last week. It was a timely reminder that the humanity of the Marikana miners had been buried beneath the political opportunism and the endless fight about who was the most culpable for causing the massacre.

And yet they were received at UJ on Wednesday as vicegerents of a greater calling. Each speaker tapped further into the bristling discontent of the audience, asking probing questions of the real motives of the police and casting aspersions on government’s willingness to do anything to alleviate the plight of the workers of the country.

For example, Primrose, a woman from the Wonderkop settlement, described the living conditions of miners. These were not addresses that were written hours ahead and rehearsed for an agreeable crowd. These were speeches that clearly came from a place of great feeling. Sure, many of the speakers may have spent the better part of the last month geeing each other up with similar words, but the fact that they were able to come to a university in the economic heart of the country and speak of their demands and their willingness to keep fighting for what they wanted – this struck a chord with South Africans far beyond Lonmin’s shaft in Marikana.

It was unclear how many of the striking miners who had travelled to Johannesburg were actually rock drill operators. But picking at this point may well have been moot. For the audience, the credibility of the miners lay simply in what they said they were doing – taking the fight to the money-making machine that is Lonmin and its protectors in government. Wearing faded, green AMCU T-shirts, the striking miners listened attentively as AMCU officials and their colleagues spoke, nodding in agreement at times, other times responding to chants with great vigour.

But it was not until a representative from NUM spoke that the miners really made their presence felt. Even after his courageous call of “Amandla”, yielded only a feeble response, the NUM representative continued to speak, reiterating the union’s condolences to the victims of last week’s shootings and then going on to detail NUM’s contributions to the struggle. But as he spoke, there was a sudden flurry of activity at the front of the room. The miners were leaving the room in protest. And as the audience noticed what was happening, a cacophony of jeering drowned out the NUM speaker. The atmosphere in the room had changed dramatically. There was a more aggressive tone in the chants of the audience. Beside me, a woman stood up furiously, complaining to her companion that Pete (Alexander) had promised her in an email that NUM would not get a platform. But even as she hurled choice expletives at NUM, Cosatu and just about everybody else even remotely connected to the ANC, AMCU’s general secretary tried, and failed to quiet the crowd.

Eventually, Alexander escorted the NUM representative out of the room.

But what exactly came of the meeting?

Besides an opportunity to further explore what happened last week, the one outcome of the meeting was a unanimous call for an independent inquiry into the massacre. The official, government probe into the matter just will not do – more than that, it cannot be trusted to reveal the truth. But as the “truth” lurks overhead somewhere, waiting for someone to catch it, there is something far greater than a mere wage dispute taking place in Marikana. And as one speaker from the Bafokeng tribal authority proudly announced that miners from the Royal Bafokeng mine near Marikana had also laid down their tools, he noted that already two military helicopters were circling the area overhead, just in case. Will it really never happen again? The government doesn’t seem to be taking any chances.  DM