Workers Hammer No. 220

Autumn 2012


Protests against massacre of striking South African mineworkers

Outside the England-South Africa cricket match at London’s Kennington Oval on 31 August, protesters mobilised by the Partisan Defence Committee (PDC) and Spartacist League denounced the 16 August police massacre of 34 striking mineworkers at the Lonmin Platinum-run Marikana mine in South Africa. The protesters demanded: “Free the jailed miners — drop all charges! Victory to the strike!” Representatives of the Foil Vedanta campaign (against the British-Indian mining giant) also participated in and addressed the rally.

The Marikana slaughter — one of the worst in South African history — was carried out by the police of the Tripartite Alliance government, which consists of the African National Congress (ANC), the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the COSATU trade union federation. The PDC speaker at the rally stated that the Tripartite Alliance rules in the interest of the Randlords and their senior partners in Wall Street and the City of London. It is outrageous that the miners themselves have been blamed for this massacre, with some 270 workers charged under an apartheid-era law for murdering their own comrades. Although this charge has subsequently been dropped, South African mineworkers remain in prison.

British-registered Lonmin Platinum was formerly the London and Rhodesian Mining Company (Lonrho) whose brutal exploitation of black African labour dates back to apartheid days. So notorious were Lonrho and its top boss, Tiny Rowland, for bribing African nationalist regimes that none other than Tory prime minister Edward Heath dubbed Rowland “the unacceptable face of capitalism”. This was quite a statement coming from the chief of British imperialism, which developed through the trade in African slaves and has looted the continent, including South Africa, for centuries.

Neo-apartheid capitalist rule has cheated the black working class of the liberation it was promised in 1994. Working people face racist cop terror in Britain as well as in South Africa, which underlines the significance of solidarity from workers in Britain, not least the black and Asian population from the former British colonies. Among the popular chants at the demonstration was the slogan: “From London to Soweto, capitalism has to go!”

Other protests took place internationally, including one of more than 100 trade unionists, leftists and students initiated by the Partisan Defense Committee in New York City on 30 August. The New York protest was endorsed by the New York City chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 21 president Dan Coffman, the British RMT union’s assistant general secretary Steve Hedley, and others.

The PDC’s call for the London demo noted that other South African mineworkers had taken up demands like those at Marikana and the strike had spread. The call noted, “During the apartheid era, savagely exploited black South African miners stood in international solidarity and dug deep to donate money to the heroic British miners strike of 1984-85. It is urgent that we support them now!”