[Marxism] (Fwd) Marikana maniuplation: when the [Communist] 'Left' is in league with the cops...

Patrick Bond pbond at mail.ngo.za
Sun Aug 19 16:08:51 MDT 2012

(... then you get men of low politco-moral fibre like liberal ideologue 
Bill Johnson - last seen comparing Somali victims of CT xenophobia to 
baboons in the /London Review of Books/ - able to remark, /'Dominic 
Tweedie of the Communist University, Johannesburg, commented "This was 
no massacre, this was a battle. The police used their weapons in exactly 
the way they were supposed to. That's what they have them for. The 
people they shot didn't look like workers to me. We should be happy. The 
police were admirable." The Communist Party's North West section 
demanded the arrest of AMCWU's Muthunjwa and his deputy, James 
Kholelile./' I've asked Dominic to tell me this is a misquote, and I 
surely hope he does. But given the character of the Alliance's 
degeneration and the SACP's pull towards the power of Jacob Zuma, I fear 
this quote may be genuine.)


  Massacre at Marikana

RW Johnson
19 August 2012

RW Johnson on the political context of, and reaction to, the killings

The leader of the breakaway Associated Mine and Construction Workers 
Union, Joseph Mathunjwa, was in tears as he related how he had pleaded 
with the thousands of striking miners who had been squatting on the 
Wonderkop hill for a week at Lonmin's Marikana mine in South Africa's 
dry North West. "I pleaded with them - (I told them) the writing is on 
the wall, they are going to kill you." For there was no doubt that the 
police meant business.

Earlier in the week two policemen had been slashed to death, another 
hospitalized and seven other people killed. The police were in a grim 
mood, wore bulletproof vests and metal helmets, were armed to the teeth 
with automatic weapons and had brought a whole fleet of Nyala armoured 
cars with them. They had announced that Thursday was D-day, that 
whatever happened the protest would be forcibly ended that day. In the 
end about 200 of the men rushed down at the police who fired 
indiscriminately at them, killing 34, injuring 78. Another 259 were 

The director of the South African Institute of Race Relations, John 
Kane-Burman immediately compared the event to the Sharpeville massacre 
in 1960. There was, he said, "clear evidence that policemen shot 
randomly into the crowd. There is also clear evidence of their 
continuing to shoot after a number of bodies can be seen dropping and 
others turning to run." But this time the Left was in favour of the 

Dominic Tweedie of the Communist University, Johannesburg, commented 
"This was no massacre, this was a battle. The police used their weapons 
in exactly the way they were supposed to. That's what they have them 
for. The people they shot didn't look like workers to me. We should be 
happy. The police were admirable." The Communist Party's North West 
section demanded the arrest of AMCWU's Muthunjwa and his deputy, James 

"The troubles at the mine have their root in the ongoing disintegration 
of the National Union of Mineworkers", says Charles Van Onselen, a 
leading labour historian."The NUM is the biggest union and its leaders 
provide the labour federation, Cosatu, the Communist Party and the 
African National Congress with many of their leaders. So this is the 
entire spinal column of the ANC alliance which is fragmenting. The 
police have been quite routinely tolerant of violence - as during the 
xenophobic riots when over 60 were killed - but this time they drewa 
line in the sand because that is what the NUM and the ANC wanted. You'll 
note the complete absence of modern police methods of riot control."

The last time an NUM leader attempted to address the Marikana workers he 
was stoned and lost an eye. Thus this time the NUM leader was only 
willing to speak through a megaphone from the safety of a police 
armoured car. He spoke somewhat disparagingly of the workers, saying 
they were mainly uneducated and backward tribesmen from Lesotho and the 
Transkei because "township boys" were unwilling to do the dreadfully 
hard and dangerous workof rock-diggers miles beneath the ground.

"The fact that the locals don't want the mine jobs mean the mines depend 
on migrant workers", says Van Onselen. "That means mining hostels, which 
greatly reinforce the system of age cohorts and impi-like tribal 
behaviour. It's also very striking that they were demanding an increase 
of over 300% - a clearly millenarian demand. And there were a lot of 
sangomas (witchdoctors) up there on that hill for the last few days and 
you can see on film that many of the workers were wearing muti (magic 
charms) of one kind or another. Typically, the idea behind such muti is 
that it makes you invincible against your enemies."

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma cut short his visit to Mozambique to 
fly back to face the crisis. The clear similarity of Thursday's events 
to the notorious Sharpeville massacre is hugely embarrassing to the ANC. 
The furious attempts by the Left to suggest that the striking workers 
were themselves the villains of the piece will, moreover, merely 
strengthen the impression that this was a massacre carried out at the 
Left's behest.

The North West SACP claimed that "the chaos and anarchy we see is being 
used as the entry point for recruitment for AMCWU" and argued that the 
AMCWU leaders were "the planners and leaders of this anarchic and worker 
to worker violence", thus echoing almost word for word the 
rationalisations once used by Afrikaner Nationalists for the similar 
actions of the apartheid police.

The Solidarity trade union organizer Gideon Du Plessis, speaking from 
Marikana, told the Sunday Times "The ironic thing is that the NUM and 
the ANC would clearly like to see Lonmin sack all 3,000 of the strikers 
and recruit a whole new labour force because that would smash AMCWU at 
the mine. That would mean closing down one of the world's biggest 
platinum mines for quite a while, but it's probably what will happen."

President Zuma's statement that he was "saddened and dismayed" by the 
Marikana deaths (the police and government are very touchy at any use of 
the word "massacre") is echoed by most opinion-leaders here. There is a 
palpable sense of shock that South Africa has not escaped its history: 
after the abandonment of apartheid, the introduction of democracy, a 
Truth and Reconciliation Commission to deal with the crimes of the bad 
old days, after all Mandela's grace and forgiveness, the country finds 
itself back in a situation where armed police mow down protesting 
Africans - on camera.

The most striking thing about the reaction is the lack of it. The day 
after the shootings neither the ANC, the trade union federation Cosatu 
nor the Communist Party had any comment at all in their daily bulletins. 
The state broadcaster, the SABC, is equally reserved and even the 
private e-TV station is extremely guarded and careful. A number of NGOs 
have issued statements deploring the shootings and calling for an 
enquiry, as has the opposition Democratic Alliance. Press editorials are 
also extremely cautious.

The problem is simply that to denounce the police is to say in effect 
that the government are murderers, while to say that the police were 
justified is tantamount to saying that some of one's fellow countrymen 
deserved to get shot en masse. The Star (Johannesburg) publishes an 
opinion piece applauding the police - "A very powerful message has been 
sent out and it is about time a little discipline was restored into the 
mind-set of South Africans", which echoes some right-wing white opinion 
which feels that the apartheid police were perhaps unjustly criticised 
for their forceful implementation of law and order. For such thoughts 
become thinkable again now.

There is a strong popular sense that Zuma's South Africa is effectively 
leaderless. Zuma is widely viewed as a do-nothing President, anxious 
only to keep his balance among the ANC factions and more interested in 
his harem of wives and accumulating vast wealth for his family. When 
Trevor Manuel, the Planning Minister, introduced his Plan to Parliament 
last week he warned that if it was not forcefully implemented the 
country "could slide backwards", which many took to mean that he thought 
that was already happening. When an Opposition leader stood up and said 
"This is a fine Plan but who exactly is going to implement it?" there 
was simply a roar of laughter from the whole assembly.

Reuel Khoza, the black head of Nedbank, has criticised South Africa's 
"strange breed of leaders" who are, he says, completely incapable of 
managing a modern state. He has also warned that under Zuma the 
criminalization of the state is proceeding apace. The influential 
Afrikaans daily Die Burger suggests that the mine shootings are another 
example of how the Zuma government is merely blundering about and is 
"losing its grip".

The Afrikaner historian Hermann Giliomee says "The ANC has created its 
own culture of violence and impunity. It allows all manner of violent 
behaviour within its own ranks. The assassination of ANC leaders by 
their rivals within the party has become a commonplace. Almost never is 
anyone punished. So it's hardly surprising that other people feel free 
to take up arms. The whole country is not very far from anarchy."

The official commission of enquiry will face all these conundrums. It is 
in the highest degree unlikely that it will conclude that the Marikana 
miners were shot because the National Union of Mineworkers is desperate 
to prevent the further erosion of the labour movement on which the ANC 

It is also most unlikely to denounce the police. But even if the 
commission confines itself to technical issues about police tactics it 
will not be able to contain the immense shock wave caused by the 
shootings. Julius Malema, the expelled ANC youth leader, was quickly on 
the scene at Marikana yesterday and he will only be the first to begin 
translating this shock into a political dynamic which will, inevitably, 
be aimed at toppling Jacob Zuma.

RW Johnson

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