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United Left statement on the South African miners' massacre at Marikana

The United Left National Coordinating Committee agreed the following statement at its meeting on 3 November 2012.

UNITED LEFT statement on Marikana massacre

UNITED LEFT condemns the brutal murder of 34 striking mineworkers at the Lonmin platinum mine on 16 August 2012. We send our heartfelt condolences and solidarity to the families of those that were killed, as well as the hundreds that were injured and arrested.

We utterly condemn the police violence used against the strikers and call for the Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by the government to expose the full truth of what occurred at Marikana, and for all those guilty of shooting workers down in cold blood to be prosecuted and punished. There is no justification for a police force to open fire on workers striking for basic rights.

UNITED LEFT condemns the callous comments of the company in describing the grave situation as a public order issue rather than a labour relations problem. Lonmin has a long history of brutal exploitation of black workers under apartheid, which has continued along the same lines during the 18 years of the “new” South Africa. This is not the first time they have miners’ blood on their hands.

UNITED LEFT wishes to express its unconditional solidarity with miners in struggle in South Africa for their basic rights, for a living wage and decent living conditions.

Despite the justified frustration of many South Africans at the continuing massive inequalities and poverty that exist in South Africa, there is no doubt that the efforts of the trade union movement have led to improvements in the lives of many South Africans.

UNITED LEFT welcomes COSATU’s commitment in their statement on 24 August to write to every member and trace the events that led to the tragedy.

UNITED LEFT has no doubt whatsoever that the unity of the mineworkers is critical to counteract the efforts of the company to divide and rule, and that unity will be critical to the efforts of the wider South African and global labour movement to deal with the enormous challenges we all face.

UNITED LEFT also knows that unity in the trade union movement emerges only out of the fight for workers’ rights. All those who prioritise - above all - the fight for those rights, are united. Those who prioritise their own personal advancement - or that of particular groups and organisations - above the needs and the rights of workers are the splitters of the movement and have no place in it.

There are examples in the UK of conspiracies to frame workers for the violence and injustices inflicted against them during industrial disputes (during the battle of Orgreave in the UK miners’ strke for example), and that government enquiries can and have been used to cover up the culpability of police and other authorities for the deaths of workers (such as the enquiries into the Hillsborough disaster).

1.    UNITED LEFT calls for Unite’s unconditional solidarity with South African miners in struggle to be  expressed in practical form, through contributing to a fighting fund to support miners’ and their families during their industrial actions, and during their fight for justice over the Marikana massacre.

2.    Should the Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by the South African government fail to open up the full circumstances surrounding the Marikana massacre or allocate blame to the miners rather than Lonmin, the police, or other culpable parties, UNITED LEFT supports an immediate call for an independent inquiry into the murders.. Miners and ex-miners who led the 1984 UK miners’ strike, Namibian miners fighting to reclaim pensions from TCL (defunct subsidiary of Gold Fields South Africa - which recently sacked 8500 miners in South Africa) and progressive lawyers from both of those countries can be invited to participate in such an enquiry.