Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A visit to Marikana after the massacre

From Martin Legassick in South Africa*

I was able to go with three other Democratic Left Front comrades to Marikana today. There was a very big meeting (though not as big as the one last Saturday that our comrade from Langa spoke at).

When we got there we viewed one place where the bodies had piled up and then went on to the meeting. There were absolutely no police in evidence at that point. When we arrived at the meeting someone was reading a list of names 0f 250 people who had been arrested. I was told to take my hat off – because they were in mourning. (As a result, though it is winter, I got very sunburnt).

The mood was that they must be released without bail today or the workers and community would march on the police station and secure their release. Later there was a long speech by a worker leader relating the events of the strike since Friday August 9th. It is clear the strike was called by the rock drillers and not by any union. They elected a committee of six: four are now dead, shot in the massacre.

When last Friday they tried to go to management they were physically prevented by NUM people. NUM said they had a two-year agreement which could not be broken. As a result, opinion has turned against the NUM. The workers have thrown away their NUM T-shirts. AMCU, the other union, was prominent at the meeting – though workers are not wearing its T-shirts. Before the strike AMCU only had a presence at one of the three parts of the Lonmin mine but now it hasssick member of the Democratic Left Front, an anti-capitalist united front. spread. Whether it will last is still in question – it has more of a record of populist speechifying than of organizing.

I was impressed by the fact that the massacre has not intimidated the workers or the community. They want to continue with the strike. The mood of the meeting was sombre, angry, and determined. There was absolute quiet for the speeches. Near me a cell phone rang and about twenty people immediately complained. Two chiefs spoke, one from the Mpondo in the Eastern Cape, where many of the workers come from. All the parliamentary opposition party leaders were present, from DA through to IFP -- and introduced themselves though only one was allowed to make a short speech. They were like flies around a corpse I thought. And behind them were at least 30 men of the cloth, priests, all waiting to have a chance to speak. Several of them were allowed to speak. The more they did the more my heart sank, because our DLF comrade, a woman councillor in Soweto, was waiting to speak.

As it turned out she was the last speaker and people were already standing up to leave. But she got applause, calling for 'forward to a living wage" and particularly for 'phantsi (down with) capitalism". She spoke in Sesotho and afterwards I was asking her other questions so I'm not sure yet what else she said! One thing should be said – the place has a macho mineworkers culture. In the audience women were sitting separately, and were supposed to keep quiet. Our comrade was one of only two women who spoke from the platform. Two of our comrades went and laid flowers on one of the places where bodies piled up on Thursday and there are still marks of blood. It is quite near the rocky kopje where the workers camped for a week before the massacre.

As we left there were about 6 Casspirs parked near the kopje, but they did not dare come near the meeting. We were told that 18 of the 34 killed were not shot but run over by Casspirs but can't confirm this. When people left the meeting today many went to the kopje where apparently a body had been found this morning wedged among rocks so it could not be removed, but when they looked for it this afternoon it was gone -- the police had removed it.

* Martin Legassick is member of the Democratic Left Front, an anti-capitalist united front.

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