Make no mistake, what happened in Marikana last week was tragic. There is no better way of describing the brutal killing of 44 people, 34 of whom were shot dead by the police. What irks Wonkie however is the stupidity around the entire situation. This stupidity includes the behaviour of inept Unions, the mindset of the illegal strikers, the unscrupulous, opportunistic behaviour of politicians, and moronic media comparisons to apartheid-era massacres.
Leaving aside the already established low value of life in South Africa, a summary of the situation is as follows. Despite having a two-year, union-negotiated wage agreement in place, some frustrated Lonmin mine workers decided to strike illegally in a bid to increase their wages outside the formal negotiation structures. Perfectly in line with South Africa’s acute fondness for peace and love, the protestors were armed to the nostrils with machetes and other traditional weapons. Regardless of how peaceful the protest was intended to be, only an idiot would have predicted a different outcome given the ingredients of that equation.
To aggravate matters, there are 2 conflicting unions involved: the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM); and Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU). AMCU is the more militant of the two unions and has largely bolstered its growth by gaining the support of workers frustrated by the lack of progress made by NUM. The bottom-line is that besides the clear evidence demonstrated by many South African Unions around not having the faintest clue about basic economics, the Unions also appear to be completely inept at their main job: organising and representing the workers. Not only that, the Unions have been consistently pathetic at controlling their members when it comes to violence. One need only to look at the COSATU violence against the DA earlier this year for more evidence of Union incompetence.
So thus far, we have conflicting, incompetent unions + frustrated workers on an illegal strike + weapons. Even the idiot above would be leaning towards an unpleasant outcome of some sort. Now, add to that equation a heavily armed police force with very limited training in crowd control and the AMCU president, Joseph Mathunjwa insisting that his members were prepared to “die here” if necessary. Probably said with his passionate heart in the right place and his brain swimming in the toilet.
As if the fire needed any more fuel, enter the crude oil component of South African politics: ANCYL reject, Mr Julius Malema. He lustily grabbed the opportunity to squirm himself back into the limelight, much like how a skanky transvestite would an opportunity to appear on Jerry Springer. Needless to say, Julius selflessly took the opportunity to convince the frustrated, armed workers it was well worth their while to die for a measly R12,000.
In an encore act of selflessness, Malema went on to make some well-received, but incredibly stupid remarks about why Jacob Zuma should step down as president as a result of the Lonmin mine violence. Since ANC NEC member, Cyril Ramaphosa was involved in Malema’s suspension from ANC, he of course also got poetically roped into the fray. And nicely so at that, given that Mr Ramaphosa is a board member of Lonmin.
The government scrambled in response, with Jacob Zuma assigning Collins Chabane to take a holiday from his efforts in measuring the performance of the Education department to head up an inquiry on the Marikana massacre. Mr Zuma also declared a week of national mourning in South Africa. Mining Minister, Susan Shabangu blubbered some useless rhetoric about engaging all stakeholders and setting up something important that will probably cost a lot and achieve nothing. No mention by the accountability-free Minister about the Bench Marks Foundation and making efforts to see how Lonmin and other mining companies are violating their commitments to workers in the mining charter. If stupidity doesn’t, then laziness certainly forbids anything that might add real value by government.
Local media of course, is too concerned about drawing parallels between this incident and Sharpville to report on anything of real consequence. Apartheid and anything to do with Julius Malema sells. Exposing the drudge and exploitation of the South African mining industry, the increasing incompetence of the Unions and the like would hardly raise an eyebrow in the numb masses. Now isn’t that sad?
This, Wonkie readers, is how a tragic equation of stupidity plays out. Whilst the workers that sadly lost their lives deserve respect and much sympathy, the responsible stakeholders and self-serving contributors involved deserve nothing less than a solid kick up the backside.