Any attempt to resolve the mining strike by glossing over the underlying issues will create more problems in the future, says Nkosinathi Malgas.
Johannesburg - A crude Nigerian proverb goes like this: “those who defecate on the way to the market will meet flies on the way back home”.
Any attempt to resolve the strike by glossing over the underlying issues will create more problems in the future.
The nature of the Lonmin strike derives from the reconfiguration of South Africa’s mode of production.
It has to do with structural issues of decent wages across the entire mining industry, poverty and underdevelopment. The question that needs to be asked is: To what extent can we, using security and legal instruments, succeed in resolving socio-economic issues?
Some of the underlying problems and contradictions:
1 Capital wants to determine the price of labour for the purpose of the incessant accumulation of profit.
2 The polarisation of labour, which do not speak with one voice (Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) versus National Union of Mineworkers (NUM)) and which has resulted in a violent turf war.
3 Politics and business are interwined. If the allegations that some ANC members have shares in Lonmin are true, that affects political influence and security as well as legitimises poor wages. The emergence of Amcu and the liquidation of NUM, the ruling party’s tripartite alliance, clouds the ANC’s ability to make objective observations.
4 What about the ANC’s advocated state-interventionist approach to the economy? The legitimacy of the state lies in its ability to deliver basic social services. Its sluggish and clumsy intervention in the strike dismally failed to usurp its momentum.
By forcing mining houses to review the overall wage structure and by compelling them to perform corporate responsibilities in communities where their mines are allocated, significant and profound improvements have been and will be made to better the lives of South Africans.
The business sector has lagged behind in co-operating with the government to tackle poverty, unemployment and inequality.
The state should use the opportunity to throw the National Development Programme at Lonmin’s door to help it carve out its corporate responsibility with respect to developmental issues in and around Marikana and a reviewed wage structure.
* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.