A year after Marikana: The pendulum is swinging, but in which direction? – by Geoff Candy (Mineweb.com – August 16, 2013)


Many things have changed in the 12 months since the massacre by police of striking workers in South Africa’s platinum belt, but is it enough?

GRONINGEN (MINEWEB) – Shorthand for the worst possible outcome, the name Marikana has been mentioned many times in the last 12 months.

It has been used as both a rallying cry and a cautionary tale. But, asked what has changed over the course of the last 12 months either in terms of improving the lot of those who work in the mines or to ensure that such a tragedy can never recur, the answer is almost always: “not enough”.

For the most part, that is where the similarities end. Yes, some progress has been made. The wave of wildcat strike action that plagued the country in the last quarter of 2012 that spilled over into other sectors from the mines has been calmed but, on the mines, continued tension among the unions have led to further shootings.

Government has stepped up to the plate, committing to deliverables by signing the peace and stability framework. But a year later the Farlam Commission is yet to present its findings and the violence on the mines still remains too high.

Both labour and the unions have committed to the same peace and stability framework as government but the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) has yet to sign it.

Adding further proof of this tension is the announcement that the ANC and the National Union of Mineworkers would be boycotting today’s commemoration of the violence. According to reports The decision to boycott was taken because, “The commemoration is organised by an illegitimate team called Marikana Support Group – a group which the African National Congress does not recognise,” ANC spokesman Kenny Morolong is quoted as saying.

Indeed, this week has provided a good microcosm of the stuttering progress that has characterised the last 12 months. The signing of a recognition agreement between Lonmin and AMCU after months of fractious negotiation, something that many – especially at Lonmin – viewed as a positive, was marred not only by the murder of a National Union of Mineworkers shop steward earlier in the week but also the boycott by minority union Solidarity of the opening of the Mine Crime Combat forum – one of the initiatives set out by the framework agreement – as a result of it being derecognised by the new agreement.

Solidarity’s view is that the recognition agreement that Lonmin’s new CEO Ben Magara said marked the beginning of a new chapter in the relationship between employer and union (in this case AMCU) represented a failure on the part of the platinum miner to uphold one of the provisions outlined in the peace and stability framework – a move away from majority, ‘winner-takes-all’ union agreements.

The issue at stake remains one of union representation, and, specifically how many unions are allowed on the mine at one time.

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