Malema demands national strike in mines
IN A speech punctuated by cheers of thousands of miners and the blowing of whistles and vuvuzelas, firebrand politician Julius Malema has called for a national strike in all of South Africa’s mines, encouraging an escalation of a dispute that has already halted production at several platinum and gold mines.
Mr Malema told striking miners at a goldmine near Driefontein yesterday that the nation’s critically important mining industry should be stopped in its tracks to force the removal of the leadership of the National Union of Mineworkers, which is too close to the power elite, including South African president Jacob Zuma – his arch enemy.
“There must be a national strike. They have been stealing this gold from you. Now it is your turn. You want your piece of gold. These people are making billions from these mines,” Mr Malema said.
He won loud cheers when he said: “You must be treated like human beings. You must also be respected.”
Many of the strikers gathered on a football pitch at the west section of Gold Fields International’s KDC goldmine to hear Mr Malema carried traditional sticks and blew on vuvuzelas, plastic horns that the world came to know during the 2010 World Cup.
Mr Malema led the miners in chants of Kill the boer, a song from the anti-apartheid struggle days referring to white farmers. Mr Malema was expelled from the ruling African National Congress this year for sowing disunity and failing to accept party discipline. Party leaders had criticised the former leader of the ANC’s youth wing for singing Kill the boer.
Apartheid ended in 1994. Today, the struggle is not white against black, but the disenfranchised lashing out largely at the country’s small black elite.
Some 60 miles away from the rally, at the Marikana platinum mine, 8,000 more striking miners and their followers, shadowed by police in armoured cars and helicopters, marched to a hospital to see some of the 190 miners who they say were beaten and tortured by police.
A security guard wearing a bulletproof vest said patients had been evacuated for safety reasons and a phalanx of police blocked the marchers.
Miners at Marikana, some wielding machetes, sang: Tell Zuma to stop killing us, a reference to the 16 August shootings by police at the mine which killed 34 miners.
“He [the president] must do what he promised to do,” said Aaron Thabili, a miner who supports his wife and three children with a take-home salary of 4,000 rand (£300) a month. “He knows what he promised the people of South Africa … jobs, a better life, better salaries.”
Victor Botsane, a loader driver at Gold Fields, said he was striking for better pay, even though that meant he earned no salary each day he was off the job.
Mr Malema referred to the ANC-led struggle against apartheid as he denied that his calls to make the nation’s mines ungovernable promoted violence.
“When we say to you we must render the mines ungovernable people think we are talking violence – they don’t know our history. We made South Africa ungovernable under the apartheid government peacefully. What you must do, you just put down the tools and stop production,” Mr Malema said.
He lashed out at the leader of the National Union of Mineworkers, Frans Beleni, saying he earned more than a million rand (£75,000) from sitting on boards of mine companies.
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