“Zuma is a creation of the ANC, not the other way around.”
The South African Federation of Trade unions warmly welcomes President Jacob Zuma’s resignation. This is long overdue!
Zuma betrayed the working class of this country. He conned many into believing that he had the working class’s interests in his heart, but he proved through his actions that he is the most self-centered and self-serving leader only concerned about his self-preservation.
We are encouraged by the recent activities of the Hawks and call on Cyril Ramaphosa to waste no time in appointing a credible Director of Public Prosecutions and to launch a concerted campaign to dismantle the networks created during the Zuma presidency.
As we close the Jacob Zuma chapter, SAFTU is fully cognitive of the reality that the nightmare the working class faced remains! Unemployment was a huge problem during the colonial and apartheid era; it is a problem that worsened under the 24 years of the ANC rule.
Jacob Zuma inherited a catastrophic unemployment rate at 23.7%, when only counting workers actively searching for work. He worsened that already terrible situation, leaving office when the unemployment is 26,7%. This alone underlined the correctness of the SAFTU position that we have a ANC problem and not necessarily a Zuma problem per se. Zuma is a creation of the ANC, not the other way around.
“Unemployment was a huge problem during the colonial and apartheid era; it is a problem that worsened under the 24 years of the ANC rule.”
Poverty was a huge problem facing the black working class during the colonial and apartheid era. But poverty worsened during the 24 years, not 10 years, of ANC rule. In 2011, 27 million South Africans were living in poverty. In 2015 that number increased to 30 million. This can’t be possibly blamed on one member of the ANC who enjoyed a total and unconditional support from his party throughout his misrule.
Colonialism and apartheid created inequalities as a deliberate policy to the subjugated black majority, yet inequality worsened over the past 24 years of ANC rule. Today we have the infamous title of being the country with worst inequality in the whole world! This has little to do with the disastrous Zuma presidency, but ANC policies that produced these conditions.
Workers face the reality of a deepening deindustrialisation. Farmworkers face the reality of R1380 minimum wage; informal sector workers return to their pauper status. Overall it’s business as usual. Those with property and land keep their positions and those facing property hunger and landlessness face that reality.
The introduction of minimum wages of R20 an hour, R18 for farm workers, R15 for domestic workers and R11 per hour for EPWP workers is a reality we will continue to face. The threat to undermine the hard-won right to strike remains.
“Today we have the infamous title of being the country with worst inequality in the whole world!”
Working people will go sleep in their gang-infested townships and villages where justice is a pipe dream. They will wake up to the reality of the lack of public transport system that is reliable, accessible, safe and affordable. They will continue to be asked to pay for using the best infrastructure through e-tolls!
Their children will continue to attend dysfunctional public schools. The reality of the dysfunctional public health that results in many preventable deaths as we saw in the Life Esidimeni saga will continue.
It’s not yet uhuru for the working class! That’s why we have called on them to remain mobilized and in discussions on how we should respond to this worsening situation!
This week SAFTU also responded to a new testimony that surfaced by police officers present in the Marikana massacre. 34 mine workers were killed and 112 injured in Marikana in August 2012. Marikana was one of the turning points for organizations like SAFTU and NUMSA to finally break their ties with the ANC and Zuma government and assume a position of opposition and open critique. Below is their statement demanding the arrest of the organizers of the massacre in light of the new testimonies.
The South African Federation has noted the shocking testimony given to City Press (11 February 2018) by police officers who were among those at Marikana on 16 August 2012 when 34 mine workers were killed and 112 injured.
This is the day the ANC government chose which class interests it will serve between workers demanding a living wage and a minimum wage of R12 500 and the mining oligarchs exploiting the working class. Of course the state chose the side of the ruling class and killed workers mercilessly.
“Cyril Ramaphosa is as guilty as those who under pressure from him organized the brutal killing of workers.”
The officers’ evidence confirms beyond any doubt that this event was pre-meditated murder, ordered and approved by police, employers and government. It totally demolishes any argument that the police were acting spontaneously or in self-defence.
As one of the officers says: “We were instructed to finish them off. I don’t know why, but it was a command, and we were trained to obey commands and not ask questions.”
SAFTU demands the immediate arrest of those all those in government, Lonmin and police management who planned, organized and approved this murder. They including former National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega, former Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, former Mining Minister Susan Shabangu and former President Jacob Zuma, must be arrested and charged with murder.
Cyril Ramaphosa, using his influence in the ANC, called for the “concomitant action” and labeled the strike “plainly dastardly criminal”. So said a man who had championed the rights of mine workers before, but once he crossed the class divide and participated in the class oppression and exploitation made a 360 degree turn. He too can’t escape with a lousy apology. He is as guilty as those who under pressure from him organized the brutal killing of workers.
Constable Itumeleng Ntsileng from the police’s K9 Unit was at Scene 2, where officers pursued and killed the workers minutes after their colleagues gunned down workers at the koppie (Scene 1).
He recalled how a special task force officer killed a mine worker who had been hiding behind some rocks. “The mine worker begged the officer not to kill him. He called out to the officer, saying: ‘Ungangibulali baba, ungangibulali baba [Don’t kill me sir, don’t kill me].’ But he was shot at close range with an R5 rifle while cowering behind the rock, begging for his life. There was no need for that guy to die like that.”
“I understand killing someone in self-defence, but when I saw the man hiding behind the rocks being shot at close range, it took its toll on my sanity. I couldn’t fathom that a human being could be killed in such a manner, especially when the life of the police officer was not in danger.”
“We were instructed to finish them off.”
Lesego*, another former K9 Unit officer, spoke of how his partner shot a worker wearing a Basotho blanket. “He shot several of the protesters in their thighs. Then he finished the job by shooting them in the head. At one point, he looked at one of the men who was running away and said in Sesotho: ‘Ke Mosotho! Ke ya mohula enwa! [He is a Mosotho! I’m killing this one]. The Mosotho man was old. All he did was dart for cover. My partner shot him and he fell. It made my stomach churn. When you kill someone, it haunts you for the rest of your life. It was horrible, horrible, horrible.”
“I saw lots and lots of corpses that day. There were people who were still alive. We were instructed to finish them off. I don’t know why, but it was a command, and we were trained to obey commands and not ask questions. I didn’t shoot anyone.”
After the massacre, Ntsileng said, the police officers involved had to attend a parade, where, he alleges their superiors told them they were not allowed to speak to the media, or tell their friends and family what happened before or after the shooting.
“We were told that if we talk to the media, or divulge information to a third party, we will be charged and dismissed. The Marikana Commission of Inquiry wanted people to give evidence of the shootings. But we knew that, after giving evidence, our jobs would be on the line.”
Further conclusive evidence of pre-planning is revealed by Lesego who said there were about six special task force officers at the scene. “They were shooting to kill; they weren’t playing. The special task force members were brought to Marikana in the morning and they left in the evening in a chopper. During the bombardment, they drove in something that looked like a Hummer. The guy in the vehicle who did the shooting was stationed on top of the vehicle. These special task force members did what they were there to do and left. Afterwards, there was no accountability for what they’d done. It was kept a secret.”
“SAFTU is angry that there have been no arrests of the those who planned the 2012 massacre of workers and who are being left scot free.”
The Marikana Commission of Inquiry, headed by Judge Ian Farlam, found that just days after the massacre, former national police commissioner Riah Phiyega, former police minister Nathi Mthethwa and Brigadier Adriaan Calitz heaped praise on the police.
“These comments were inappropriate and were made with the intention of encouraging the police to protect each other [close ranks] by denying mistakes, withholding information from the commission and lying,” the commission found. Only the shootings at Scene 1 were reported to the public. The shootings at Scene 2 were covered up.”
SAFTU demands that the Commission of Inquiry be reconvened to hear this evidence from these new witnesses and, we hope, from others who will now be prepared to come forward.
No-one involved is this massacre must be allowed to escape justice and severe punishment for their role. It was a deliberate and ruthless attempt by a capitalist employer, Lonmin, in collusion with government and SAPS leaders, to drive striking workers back to work, kill those who resist and teach other workers not to follow the Marikana workers’ example.
Whilst we welcome the arrest of the alleged perpetrators of recent inter-union violence in the Marikana area, as announced by the Minister of Police, Fikile Mbalula, SAFTU is angry that there have been no arrests of the those who planned the 2012 massacre of workers and who are being left scot free. This why a perception has deepened that justice system in the country and the capitalist world only punishes those without power and money.
As we face new threats in the Labour Relations Amendment Bill to use compulsory arbitration to curb workers’ constitutional right to withdraw their labour, it is more vital than ever to stand up and fight for workers’ rights. They are workers and not slaves.
*Not their real names
This article previously appeared in The Dawn and SAFTU,