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Mine strike could send country over the edge

The mining community gathers at the “Hill of Horror” during a memorial service for miners killed during clashes at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine in Rustenburg, in August 2012. Picture: REUTERS.

The mining community gathers at the “Hill of Horror” during a memorial service for miners killed during clashes at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine in Rustenburg, in August 2012. Picture: REUTERS.

Published Sep 18, 2018

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To South African Gold Mines:

I am not sure whether you have read the article in the Daily Sun about Amcu’s threat of a crippling strike, but I think all gold mines should take the threat very seriously.

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Even if you can’t meet the R12000 demanded as a living wage this year, I think you should work through your figures and change your medium- and long-term planning to make this possible, as whether it happens now, or some time in the future it's not going away and I believe it will become a reality.

Those mines that plan for it will be those that become major players in future extractive industry cycles.

South Africa cannot afford another Marikana and the president and head of police are aware of how close this country is to a spontaneous uprising.

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Given the justifiable anger of the workers and many unemployed, such a strike could become the Waterloo for mine owners. So even though the stakes are incredibly high, with no one being able to afford such a strike, I suggest respectfully that a complete rethink about the type of mines, leaving out marginal ones that can’t support a living wage for instance, needs to take place.

We as privileged South Africans need to realise that our history has been airbrushed out in all the uncomfortable and unpleasant ways, leaving a colonial sanitised history which was based on the (untrue) belief that we are better people than those whose first language is not English or Afrikaans.

And while it may be very difficult to change our commercial style, it is no longer just to expect the majority of our citizens to live in inhumane circumstances and not receive a fair wage.

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And it’s not only the mines that need to change course; all government ministers and administrators need to come back down to affordable levels of pay according to what the country can afford, as well as many others like heads of universities, councillors, etc.

We are the most unequal country in the world and something has to give.

The economy has almost come to a halt in the past four weeks and such a mine strike can quickly get out of control given the hunger and frustration levels, unanswered protests, spiralling crime and the fact that the present government is closer to a (rainbow) colonial elite now than to the freedom fighters they were voted in as.

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We are on a knife-edge and the next few weeks and months could determine which road we find ourselves on.

* Michael Pickstone-Taylor, Franschhoek.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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