Marikana exposes leadership failure
19 August 2012 | The Citizen
All the talk about our wonderful democracy is rendered hollow by the spectre of heavily armed police mowing down dozens of civilians. Marikana represents a failure of political and policing leadership, but the mine management and unions have also been found wanting.
It is stunning that ousted ANC Youth League president Julius Malema could do what neither President Jacob Zuma nor National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) president Senzeni Zokwana could accomplish: address the discontented miners in person.
While Zokwana, who refused to leave the safety of a police armoured vehicle, was shouted down last week, Malema shunned a police escort, even telling the police to move their nyalas a kilometre away from where the strikers were gathered.
The police obeyed.
Malema is no hero or saint in this affair. He visited the area earlier, and on Saturday was urging rock drillers not to back down from their R12 500-a-month demands.
Any leader who tells thousands of workers they can triple their salaries is being reckless.
But with NUM general secretary Frans Baleni earning more than R1.4-million a year, those at the rockface cannot be blamed for looking at other union options.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), at the centre of this dispute and earlier trouble at Impala Platinum, has found fertile recruiting ground, amply fed by an increasingly out-of-touch NUM and a disengaged management.
The ANC, because of its links with the NUM through Cosatu, has been trying to ignore the rival Amcu.
Hence the various ministers had, until yesterday, not included Amcu in deliberations. As late as Saturday Amcu was excluded on the grounds that it does not have a majority presence at the mine. That’s an example of applying the letter of the (labour) law without any heed for the practical realities.
Of course Amcu has to be in on any discussion if there is to be peace. This does not imply that any party that resorts to violence gets a seat at the table.
In the use of force, the police have a lot to answer for. National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega’s admission that she gave orders for police to do what they had to is appalling.
We appreciate that police felt under extreme pressure, especially after two of their members had been murdered.
Yet in that earlier incident the decision-making by police management was also flawed.
There are too many questions. Why did the police not use razor wire to contain the mob?
Why the need to disperse and disarm the strikers if they were restricted to a limited area?
Why was live ammunition used at that point?
What about warning shots? What about negotiating skills?
Under-reported is the “sangoma muthi” factor, with strange beliefs about invincibility, the drinking of blood and animal skulls left on corpses.
The judicial commission will have to scratch many layers to uncover the different levels of truth.
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