Marikana killings were continuation of ruthless and violent capitalist system
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Cape Town - August 16, 2012, a very historic day in the history of South Africa, this time during the post-apartheid era. This is akin to that of March 21, 1960 in Sharpeville when 69 people were killed, 188 wounded, many shot by apartheid police in the back after fleeing, as they protested against the dreaded passbook laws, a protest spearheaded by the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania led by Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe.
He spent nine years in prison, including six at the draconian Robben Island dungeon off the coast of Cape Town.
In 2012, 34 miners were shot dead by police in Marikana, a marginalised community housing miners in the capital of South Africa’s most precious mining metal, platinum, Rustenburg.
The deaths followed that of several others in the days leading up to August 16, part of a massive miners’ strike at predominantly white-owned platinum mining companies, Implats, Amplats, and Lonmin, demanding the doubling of wages of €840 and safer and decent working conditions.
These were not unreasonable demands of the miners considering that South African miners are and have been the cornerstone of the country’s economy. This has been since the inception of mining by Anglo-American from the late 19th century, following the dispossession of indigenous African lands in South Africa by Dutch and British colonialism in the mid-17th and early 19th centuries.
Miners whose toil and blood ensure the unearthing of precious industrial minerals are paid much lower wages than middle-class South Africans generally, they earn pittances compared to the mining bosses who earn millions from salaries and dividends each year.
Platinum mines in South Africa are owned by Anglo American Platinum (AQPSA) and Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), legacy of the role of white mining capital from the early 20th century when the Oppenheimer family monopolised the ownership of gold mines, coal, and diamond mines, the latter through the De Beers corporation.
Though the Royal Bafokeng Nation has a 13% interest in the platinum mines in Rustenburg and most miners own some shares in the mines, the bulk of the ownership resides with foreign, mostly white, capital.
In 2012, current president of South Africa, former National Union of Miners organiser, Cyril Ramaphosa, served as a non-executive director of the Lonmin mining company (the name strategically changed when it was “acquired” by Sibanye-Stillwater in 2013 after the Marikana massacre, a multinational US-white South African mining conglomerate with operations all over the world).
Ramaphosa’s company, Shanduka, had a minority shareholding in Lonmin in August 2012, and he was the one who demanded that “concomitant action” be taken by police against the striking miners whom he referred to as “plainly dastardly criminals”.
Strange words emerging from a former mineworker organiser indeed!
Yet, in 2012, his call for decisive and violent action by South African police was in line with his obsession with profits from his mining outfit, Shanduka, that was key in him making hundreds of millions of dollars and the stepping stone for him being worth R7.4 billion in 2021.
His ownership of 120 McDonald’s franchises, serving as non-executive chair of Pan African Resources, MTN, and the Bidvest Group, while also serving as non-executive director of Alexander Forbes, one of the largest insurance companies in South Africa, Assore Limited, and Standard Bank; were key in propelling him to billionaire status, immersed fully with the largest banking and investment companies in South Africa, many of whom were connected to capital investment operations abroad.
Further, his ownership of Ntaba Nyoni Estates from 2018, was his entrée into the cattle farming business that netted him millions, even acquiring the US Ankole domestic cattle breed.
Given this history of corporate predation, and what capitalist ideologues would call “successful business” practices, it is perfectly understandable why Ramaphosa’s ascendancy to the most important role in the South African government, first as vice-president to Jacob Zuma and then to the presidency, was “manufactured” by the ruling white capitalist sector in South Africa in collaboration with US and European capital.
He served capitalist interests very well first and foremost and became a billionaire himself, even at the cost of sacrificing the community of which he was once part prior to the 1990s, miners, on August 16, 2012.
As an economic system, capitalism is a European-baked system founded through the genocide and enslavement of indigenous Indians in the Americas and the chattel enslavement of Africans from the African continent to the Americas and the Caribbean.
It is built off the confiscation of the labour value of enslaved people in the Americas, the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia and the Pacific, millions who were forced to work from sun-up to sun-down for free, beaten, raped, mutilated, and lynched under a system of coerced and violently militarised labour under the yoke of the whip and the tip of the bayonet.
When one considers the pervasive impoverishment, land dispossession, militaristic violence, economic marginalisation, and extraction and looting of Africa’s vast mineral wealth, France is the fourth largest holder of gold in the world with over $120bn (R1.78 trillion) in reserves without having a single gold mine in the country.
All of France’s gold comes from its looting of the 840 gold mines in Mali today, where a bloody war is being fought between indigenous guerrillas and the Malian military regime, maintained by former colonial nation, France, and Africom, the US military network, that has 39 bases in 22 countries, including 11 in strife-torn Somalia; Australia’s wealth redounds to its plethora of mining operations in the world, including 44 in South Africa, of the 140 in Africa.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, that today has $24 trillion dollars worth of oil, gold, manganese, copper, coltan (essential for cellphones and computers), vanadium, diamonds, timber, and other vital industrial minerals, has one of the highest rates of violence with hundreds dying each day, mostly children, as surrogate military groups vie for control of the country’s billions of dollars of mineral wealth, continuing the same legacy when 10 million Bakongo people were killed over 20 years in the early 1900s under colonial Belgian king Leopold.
This noted history of the African continent is directly related to the August 16, 2012 massacre of miners at Marikana, a continuation of the ruthless and violent capitalist system that demands ceaseless profits “by any means necessary.”
And Cyril Ramaphosa and other elements in the ruling ANC are willing to engage in the same predatory practices of colonialism and capitalism: sacrificing poor black life for profit.
The perfunctory Farlam Commission set up to investigate the killings at Marikana was precisely as stated: a set-up to protect and exonerate Ramaphosa so that white capital (and its black surrogates) would receive impunity and be shielded from any criticism, a vital element in the capitalist political economy governing South Africa and other capitalist-governed countries.
Kunnie is an internationally-renowned educational activist and researcher involved with advancing decolonisation struggles of Indigenous peoples in the Americas, Africa, and the world. He has taught and lectured at colleges and universities on all continents. His next book is The Mother Earth and the Collapse of the Capitalist System in the 21st Century.