South Africa

Two weeks have passed since thousands of vineyard farm workers from the area of De Doorns in the Western Cape went on strike. They are demanding that their daily slave wage be doubled to a minimum of 150 rand ($17) per day; currently they are earning R69.39 per day. But there is more behind this genuine issue of low wages. In our “democratic era” since the fall of Apartheid, this is and will probably be the longest period on strike for these farm workers in this region.

Floyd Shivambu was a leading member of the South African Students Congress (SASCO) as well as a leading member of the Young Communist League (from which he was suspended in 2010). As a leading member of the ANC YL he played a key part in developing this organisation’s stance on the need to nationalise the mines which has now become a central issue of the political debate in the revolutionary movement in South Africa.

It is over a month since Lonmin platinum miners in Marikana, South Africa, walked out in a wildcat strike. They have been attacked and vilified; watching as 34 of their number were killed by police on August 16, a majority of them in cold blood, and 270 arrested, charged and often tortured while in custody. The leaders of the NUM, the bosses and the state have signed a “peace accord” behind the backs of the miners and they have been repeatedly given ultimatums by the company. Yet still the strike is ongoing and the miners are continuing to demand a wage increase to R12,500. They are an example of worker militancy and resilience and one which is spreading to other sections of South

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It has been almost four weeks since miners at Marikana went on strike, marching alone without any leadership, demanding a genuine wage increase from R4000 to R12500. Since then there has been all sorts of pressure, from all leaders, to end the strike in the midst of the current global recession. But the workers are intent on not going back to work till their demands are met, they are resolute in their demands and are not prepared to back down.

On Monday, September 3, most of the miners arrested during the Marikana massacre were released after an outcry of protest forced the state prosecutor to withdraw charges of murder against them. The strike at Lonmin continues as well as strikes and protests at other mines. The incident has clearly revealed the real content of the struggle between left and right in the run up to the ANC Manguang Conference.

Eighteen years since the end of Apartheid – and the dawn of ‘freedom and democracy’ -  the  brutal killings of 34 miners by the police in the Lonmin owned platinum mines at Marikana last Thursday has exposed the stark reality of the suffering and agony of the South African proletariat. This shooting is reminiscent of the harrowing Sharpeville massacre of sixty black protesters in 1960 by the then racist Apartheid regime.

The fatal shooting of 34 striking miners at the Marikana mine near Johannesburg has met with outrage. A crowd of defiant strikers were gunned down in cold blood in a hail of police gunfire that brought back memories of the Apartheid era, of Sharpeville, Soweto and the struggles of the 1980s. A further ten people have been killed prior to this massacre and 234 have been arrested.

There has been much hype around the discussion on the policy document of the African National Congress, titled The Second Transition?: Building a National Democratic Society and the balance of forces in 2012.There has been much discussion around the title of the document rather than its content.

“Decent work is a right, labour broking is just like slavery and is causing major problems for the working class... we want the National Executive Committee of the African Nation Congress to sit down and review this.” Irvin Jim, General Secretary of the National Union of Metal workers of South Africa (NUMSA). As hundreds of thousands of worker and the general public were marching under the blistering sun in 32 cities across South Africa, their mood was captured by these words from their leader.

The recent militant strike by the miners at the Impala Platinum Mine has highlighted how far the present NUM leadership is lagging behind the mood of the workers. The contradictions that had been brewing beneath the surface at Impala Platinum Mine, in Rustenburg, came to the public’s attention on the 12th January 2012 when rock drill operators (RDOs) refused to work. On the 24th January the mining company dismissed 5000 workers who went on strike without giving the employer a “formal notice”, and as the strike intensified the number of workers on strike significantly increased.

As the scorching sun kissed our dehydrated skins, one could not help but feel goose bumps at the thought of being part of history as the oldest liberation movement reached the 100th year mark on Sunday, 8th January. The ANC leadership decided to mark this occasion by spending R100 million ($12. 3 million) on a commemoration that included a huge feast for invited heads of states and several guests, also indulging in celebrity music shows and a golf tournament.

On October 27 and 28, thousands of South African youth participated in the March for Economic Freedom called by the ANC Youth League. Meanwhile the Young Communist League had organised a Jobs for Youth Summit together with the youth organisations of the main parties which was addressed by representatives of Capital. Vusumuzi Martin Bhengu, a revolutionary Marxist who is a member of both the YCL and the ANCYL participated in the March and sent us this report.

On September 10th during the celebration of the ANC Youth League's 67th anniversary in Alexandra, ANCYL president Julius Malema declared “economic war” against the rich minority and made a call for a “March for Economic Freedom” to be held on Thursday and Friday, October 26-27th. "The day has come” he said “and on O.R. Tambo's birthday, we are going to march to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and take the battle to the monopoly capital."