The Impala Platinum mine in Rustenburg is built on land stolen from the masses under the ‘apartheid’ regime for Anglo American. Under the limited land ‘restitution’ process the land was supposed to be returned to the masses who had been forcibly removed. However a negotiation took place on the principle of ‘willing buyer-willing seller’. US bank, JP Morgan Chase, the main bank that controls Anglo American (and which controls the SA Reserve Bank), retained control while an artificial tribal entity was created, the Royal Bafokeng nation, to act as a cover for this. The chiefs of this ‘Royal Bafokeng nation’ accepted a mere 13% stake in Implats as a bribe for leaving JP Morgan Chase in control. The masses were entitled to a 100% takeover but settling for crumbs is what is really the cornerstone of ‘Black Economic Empowerment’, whether so-called ‘broad-based’ or not. The facilitator in this betrayal was the ANC-SACP government.
The price of platinum has doubled since 2004 and has tripled, if we consider just a few extra years. Workers wages have not followed the trend. In other words, JP Morgan Chase, through Implats, has made a killing, making massive profits while the world is in deep recession (if not depression). Workers still take home R3500 per month, while casualization, contract labour and labour broking is the cornerstone of the exploitative regime at Implats.
Mining is dangerous. More than 67 workers have already died this year on the SA mines. Yet the wages at Implats lag even the other exploiters in the same industry in SA.
Increasingly the Cosatu union leaders are becoming sweethearts of big capital. At Implats the trend is that shopstewards are coming from the more privileged layers of workers, in this case mine supervisors. In November 2011 NUM (National Union of Mineworkers) signed an agreement giving certain mine supervisors an 18% increase in wages and increase in housing allowance. Thus the privileged layer of NUM shopstewards signed an agreement to benefit themselves at the exclusion of the rest of the workers.
When the rockdrillers
objected, Implats bosses tried to force workers to work through the same NUM
shopstewards who were responsible for the sellout agreement in the first place.
JP Morgan Chase formed a
Through interdicts and police, the imperialists of Implats tried to break the workers unity- they failed. Eventually imperialism sent their trusted ally in the workers movement, Vavi, to try and get the workers back to work. He could not break the workers unity. Eventually, management had to back down and agree to reinstate all workers but they still threatened not to take back 2000 workers (the ringleaders). As of Friday 2nd March 2012, after most workers had gone back, workers came back out on strike as management went back on their agreement to reinstate all workers.
Workers may recall that Vavi was sent to VWSA in Uitenhage to get striking workers back to work. He came on the day before the ultimatum was due to expire in February 2000- he called on workers to go back and promised to come back the next day to address workers on their grievances. He did not come back. Most workers had gone back to work and management dismissed 1376 workers who remained outside and who are still waiting for Vavi until this day. The VWSA workers in 2000 were striking over a sellout agreement of Numsa shopstewards with the bosses.
Drawing the lessons and the way forward
Firstly, workers did the right thing by all going back by Wed 29th Feb. It was better to make a tactical retreat to be able to fight from the inside rather than outside. Thus workers are in a stronger position to fight the company now that they are refusing to take back some workers.
Workers should resist efforts by the NUM leaders to drive the fight against dismissals and victimization through the courts. The process will just drag on and the production will continue, while the leadership of the fight against the bosses will be starving and dying outside.
Workers should resist efforts to divide them from the so-called independent union, AMCU (Amalgamated Mining and Construction Union), irrespective of the good intentions of some of their leadership. Having 2 unions will divert the fight against the bosses to an infighting among workers over which union to belong to. Workers should mobilise to replace the NUM shopstewards with leaders of the strike. Further, workers should set up and strengthen shaft committees of rank and file workers. It is necessary to also set up committees of self-defence which are accountable to the broad shaft committees. A call should be made to all mine workers across the country to come out in solidarity with them, they should also set up committees of rank and file workers, to stand up against the pro-boss shopstewards and union leaders of the NUM and their pro-boss agreements.
The ANC empowerment companies and entities, such as the tribal chiefs of the ‘Royal Bafokeng nation’ are shareholders in the exploitation of workers, in fact they run the very labour brokers that are a new form of slavery on behalf of JP Morgan Chase and other capitalists.
Even further, thus, a call should be made for all workers across the country to come out in solidarity with the Implats workers in the 1-day strike on Wed 7th March 2012.
We need to realize that with the current leadership of Cosatu, which is allied to the ANC-SACP government, workers will forever remain poor, just as our mothers and fathers were kept poor by the system.
Forward to the total takeover of Implats by the workers- we are taking what is rightfully ours. When Malema says, when he calls for nationalization of the mines- all he wants is for the 13% stake to go up to 25%- he wants a share without paying his real bosses, Anglo American. Then he will do the same as the chiefs of the ‘Royal Bafokeng nation’, namely support the exploitation by the US imperialist bosses, while the workers still get peanuts and remain slaves.
We need to realize that real nationalization, real expropriation of the mines, will only occur when the workers take it themselves, rising up against the ANC-SACP regime, and their agents in the workers movement. But for this to happen we need to mobilise for rank and file committees of workers in all workplaces to challenge the Cosatu leaders. But above all we need to build an independent revolutionary working class party, uniting workers locally, regionally and internationally.
A working class united will never be defeated!
Workers International Vanguard League