Bravado and sheer chaos
The Freedom Park strike is all a digging in of heels, hot air and victimisation, writes MADALA THEPA
RUBBER bullets, gutted shops, a satellite cop shop, partially burnt and vandalised public facilities...
These are the remnants of the four-week strike action in Freedom Park outside Rustenburg.
The strike action that started on January 20 pitted workers against their employer, Impala Platinum the problem being the salary increment given to all the staff except rock drill operators.
Those who chose to go to work were treated to menacing acts of savagery they were tarred, feathered, stalked in the morning and raided at night.
The idols of the strike action made sure the grubby rodents ( amagundwane ), as they are called, never slept peacefully in their hostels after betraying the cause
The most affected hostel was no 8 on the south wing of the mine. It is considered the crown jewel of amagundwane .
Those fingered as betrayers include the NUM (National Union of Mineworkers) representatives, who are said to be on cash retainers and selling out the workers.
In hostel no 8 we meet Patrick Motshabi, a 51-year-old man built like an action hero, worried but not shaken.
We didn t sleep yesterday (Tuesday). They were onto us,” he says. The whole night was chaotic. They burnt shops and now they don t have food.
They are starving now. Go out there and see for yourself.”
On Thursday Freedom Park is still reeling. It is clear that the
foxtrot foreplay between the workers and the employer isn t going to be an easy one to break.
The bosses won t back down on the fact that the strike is illegal but the workers hold fast to their demand of R9 000 (after deductions) before they ll return to work.
Impromptu meetings are amplified in pidgin fanakalo on the railway tracks that divide the shacks and RDP houses of this small community.
It s all male bravado, with the strikers committee representatives choreographing every minute of it. R10 notes are donated toward the acquisition of a lawyer.
But the fact that the strike is not in the spirit or letter of the constitution is confirmed by Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, who arrives in the evening and pleads with the workers to reconsider their actions.
I bow down and beg you to reconsider comrades,” he says in isxhosa to the crowd gathered at Impala sports ground.
I know a fight that is winnable but this one isn t. This doesn t mean Im a coward. If you re not
’ ’ protected by the law your fight is weak. The employer says the law supports him and the fact is that the strike is illegal. He went to court and got an “interdict. He says he has the right to fire you. What I m trying to say
’ to you is that you broke the agreement of labour relations... The employer discriminated “against us, provoked us, stuck a finger in our eyes, separated us, made us fight among ourselves and called his cops on us. The employer must fix what “he started,” he said to applause. Everyone must be allowed to “go back to work. This includes the committee. They should not be discriminated against. When workers return to their “jobs they should all get the benefits and the conditions must be as they were before they started to strike. Let me assure you that tomor“row we are going to meet management and the CEO of the mine. One of the things we are going “to talk about is that workers should not be separated and that workers should be allowed to go back to work. This means everyone.”
But some workers went home wondering if Vavi was there to actually twist the knife.
One of the committee members Batalala Siqobolo, said they would never go back to work unless their demands are met.
GETTING REVVED UP: Striking miners gather for a meeting outside the Impala Platinum mine in Rustenburg, 120 km northwest of Joburg.
TIRED: Patrick Motshabi hasn’t been getting much sleep with all the chaos going on around him.