Right­eous outrage, no chance in hell

Zwelinz­ima Vavi s call to Impala strik­ing work­ers to re­turn to work was like peel­ing back the lay­ers of an onion, writes MADALA THEPA

Sunday World - - Opinion -

ON the public per­cep­tion in­dex, the strike ac­tion at Impala Plat­inum is le­git­i­mate and can be won. It s a gen­uine rad­i­cal story of

’ sweat­shop work­ers spring­ing from the sadis­tic trap of slav­ery.

It was about time the clock started tick­ing on the mine s

’ al­leged no­to­ri­ety and that its man­age­ment gained a slight grip on re­al­ity.

The work­ers say there has been far too lit­tle jovi­al­ity at the mine. Some work­ers take home R2 400 a pit­tance in the mod

– ern world. Women aren t al­lowed to work

’ once the man­age­ment finds out they are preg­nant.

One miner, Ni­code­mus Kopeledi, was dis­charged from work be­cause he got sick dur­ing the strike ac­tion.

Ap­par­ently the em­ployer doesn t want sick notes any­more.

’ He wants his work­ers on their knees all the time, clean­ing out the moat, so to speak, and run­ning on the plan­ta­tion all day long.

Re­flect­ing on life af­ter Wall Street s fi­nan­cial cri­sis, which saw

’ 40 000 trans­ac­tion-ori­en­tated bankers and traders los­ing their jobs, au­thor and jour­nal­ist Wil­liam D Co­han ex­plained to the readers of his English ti­tle what

the Mas­ters (bankers) of the Uni“verse did next ”.

Some walked away silently, hud­dled up in their base­ments, fear­ing the worst if they chal­lenged their em­ploy­ers. Oth­ers sought me­di­a­tion in court.

In the nar­ra­tive, Co­han was sug­gest­ing that the laid off banker s punch-back ef­forts were

’ the con­struct of cow­ards.

In Free­dom Park in Rusten­burg at Impala Plat­inum, things are slightly dif­fer­ent. 17 200 Mas­ters of the Un­der­ground “” who were laid off due to the strike ac­tion were in­censed.

The ar­ro­gance of the em­ployer tapped into the low-iq anger base of the work­ers.

What hap­pened next was ex­plo­sive fury on the street. Sewer rats ( am­a­gund­wan e) were lynched, shops set alight and kit­tens fed to pi­ra­nhas, if you catch the drift.

As I write this, the strike ac­tion is hope­lessly hung.

The em­ployer at Impala Plat­inum scored a tem­po­rary vic­tory with an in­ter­dict that could see the com­pany over­haul­ing the en­tire work­ing en­vi­ron­ment sys- tem into one that is more hos­tile and dog­matic.

This strike was trig­gered by 500 rock drill op­er­a­tors when they dis­cov­ered that the mine had se­cretly given an 18% wage in­crease to work­ers in what is called the min­ers cat­e­gory ”.

“The Na­tional Union of Minework­ers (NUM) was ap­par­ently in­volved in the shady deal but de­nies this.

The Marx­ist jour­nal Spar­cist South Africa writes in the is­sue of Fe­bru­ary 21 that: The di­vide

“and-rule deal was hatched by the Im­plats bosses right at the end of a long, bit­ter round of wage ne­go­ti­a­tions last­ing from May to Oc­to­ber 2011, dur­ing which the com­pany pleaded bank­ruptcy to ex­tort con­ces­sions from the union on the in­creases in the work­ers

’ mis­er­able low wages.

“( Mean­while, Im­plats has now re­ported a 67% in­crease in head­line earn­ings for the six-month pe­riod end­ing De­cem­ber 2011.)”

The rookie mis­takes of the work­ers in tak­ing this ac­tion with­out fol­low­ing pro­ce­dure can t be

’ blamed on the peo­ple alone. NUM must also share the re­proach.

Any­where in the world the work­ers get their roll call from their precinct cap­tains un­less

– the union is dis­cov­ered to be in co­horts with the em­ployer, which is what the work­ers sus­pect in this in­stance.

Work­ers com­plain about the bu­reau­cracy of the union and the

tip jar they are us­ing to solve “” work­ers prob­lems.

’ In this strike, the work­ers suf­fered a crush­ing set­back when Cosatu gen­eral sec­re­tary Zwelinz­ima Vavi told them the strike was il­le­gal and they should re­turn to work.

The call was like peel­ing back the lay­ers of an onion. In a way Vavi was telling the work­ers that van­ity got the bet­ter of them.

By Thurs­day late a state­ment was is­sued by Im­plats, signed by its CEO Paul Dunne, who thanked the 8 000 work­ers who had re­turned to work but didn t

– ’ touch on the is­sue of pay in­cre­ments.

He wrote that re­de­ploy­ment was still to be ex­tended the fol­low­ing day. In a way he was ask­ing work­ers to re­turn to work so that the is­sues could be ad­dressed through the cor­rect struc­tures.

This strike re­vealed a class re­sent­ment is­sue one with a

– con­cen­tra­tion of wealth and power, the other poor with a power base in the com­mu­nity hold­ing on to a kind de­fi­ance that par­layed their sta­tus to in­famy.

Whether the work­ers were un­wit­tingly in­volved, their courage and de­ter­mi­na­tion, go­ing with­out pay and some with­out food, to cor­rect a wrong that hap­pened on NUM s watch is the

’ – stuff of good sto­ries.

Work­ers of the world could piggy-back on the idea but not

– the fail­ure to fol­low pro­ce­dure ”.

Picture by Tsheko Kabasia

IN­CENSED: The strik­ing min­ers emo­tions are in high gear af­ter be­ing ad­dressed by Cosatu sec­re­tary gen­eral Zwelinz­ima Vavi in Free­dom Park.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.