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Violence shocks democratic South Africa

By Genevieve Quintal | Aug 17, 2012 | COMMENTS [ 28 ]

"It didn't come out of thin air"

The violent confrontation that claimed more than 30 lives near Lonmin’s Marikana mine, in Rustenburg, did not just happen out of thin air, an analyst said.

“Should we have seen this coming? Yes and no,” said Steven Friedman, director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy at Rhodes University and the University of Johannesburg.

“You have a police force who are not properly equipped... You have people failing to realise that we need to stop treating trade unions as a threat and treat them as an asset.

“This industry [mining] is an important industry, but it also comes with human costs. We need a little bit more sensitivity to how difficult this job is.” 

Friedman said the situation at the Lonmin mine was also a good indication that unions had lost touch with their members.

“The NUM [National Union of Mineworkers] by its own admission lost the confidence of its members... If the unions are weak, you have tragedy.” 

Friedman said this showed what could happen in work places if the system of bargaining broke down.

Police moved in on protesters gathered on a hilltop near the mine on Thursday, after days of negotiations. The strike was believed to be linked to rivalry between the NUM and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) over recognition agreements at the mine. Workers also wanted higher wages.

Friedman said union rivalry was common all over the world, but was “more bitter” in South Africa.

“The reason is that for people involved, being in a senior position in a trade union means getting out of poverty. There is an economic motive here, and we wouldn’t be here if we [didn’t] have an economic situation where people have to fight for leadership in unions to have a better life,” he said.

The police have come under heavy criticism for opening fire on the miners.

Friedman said police officers in South Africa were not being properly trained.

“I’m not blaming the police..., [but] our police are not being trained to deal with this violent situation,” he said.

Many people felt that South Africa needed a police force that was tougher, but Friedman said this was not the case.

“It is not a question of being tougher. They [police] are not adequately trained. If you put guns and bullets in the hands of these people, who are not trained properly, you have a problem,” he said.

Part of the problem was also that two police officers had been killed before Thursday’s shooting.

Friedman said this had increased the chance of police on the scene shooting.

“Someone should have been aware of the problem,” he said.

- Sapa

COMMENTS [ 28 ]

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WHat democracy? It's a myth!

Aug 17, 2012 2:23 | 0 replies

I write all coments from this morning and I saw on news yesterday, it really really pains to see those black brothers lying died some of you laughing. I was shot during apertheid, I told myself that it's ok I was doing it for democracy (Freedom for black people in their own country). Some of you just post crap here u don't how is the feeling to see died comrades infront of you, blood all over one's clothes!

Aug 17, 2012 4:13 | 0 replies

I truly do understand their circumstances, their hardship, their danger (My grandfather was a miner).
What I don’t get is senseless violence to get things done your way. People will never agree or help you then – NEVER! AND THEY SHOULDN’T! EVER!
For example. These miners are now highly dangerous and aggressive due to negotiations not going anywhere, their demands are not being met and no one is listening. Daily their lives are at danger and they feel they deserve more than R 4 000.
Ten people were killed last week. These tragic deaths this week.
You now get you increase you demanded. You are happy. People didn’t lose their lives in vain. You as a striker wins!
Some guy now realize but he needs more than R 12 000 per month (The human race ALWAYS needs more and EVERYONE can admit to that. The human race just never will be satisfied with just what they have).
So now next year they want R 24 000 increase (It worked the previous year).
How many lives will be lost then? How much more violent would you have to be to get R 24 000. It worked before so why not now. Where will it stop. Violence worked so just carry on.
There is better ways to deal with crap.
PEOPLE SHOULD NOT BE “REWARDED” FOR VIOLENCE. EVER!!! And our history in South Africa is just proof of that!
And I am not saying they don't deserve an increase! What I am saying is if people become violent to get what they want (There is more than one way to skin a cat. Ghandi did it) they should be fired and no one should get an increase.
What I don't get about this country is that a criminals live is always worth more than ordinary citizens (And this was an illegal strike). Shouldn't good behavior and citizens rather be awarded?

Aug 17, 2012 4:21 | 0 replies

TankGirl

My great-great-grandad was one of the people who started the unions in the mines. He must be spinning in his grave at what they have turned the union into. Gone are the days when it was about protecting the lives of miners. Now it is a mafia that is controlled by the union bosses

Aug 17, 2012 4:50 | 0 replies

DEMOCRACY... is that what you call it...SA will never know true democracy as long as its governed the way it is...

Aug 17, 2012 5:20 | 0 replies

Keep shooting messengers of living wage, JZ, and you'd be a statistic of History. If you keep on knocking on Devils's Door, one day someone is going to answer. Shooting workers is incitement to Workers Revolution. Learn the lessons of 1905 that led to 1917. Remember: WORKERS UNITED WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED!!!!!!!! You've been warned Msholozi

Aug 17, 2012 5:49 | 0 replies

In this country, when a thief breaks into your house, the first guy to be charged is the owner of the home.

In this country, when hundreds of people walk towards the police with dangerous spears, knob kieries, sticks and stones, then the first guys confronted when there is violence, is the police.

If the public want a police force to protect them, then they should be supported - otherwise they will all leave the force. Be thankfull of them - they did not strike. The Public should know that if they are naughty, they will be punished - but parents are not even applying that with their chilldren today.

Aug 17, 2012 6:9 | 0 replies

Why can Africa not fix itself ? (because it does not learn from history - it does the same thing over and over).

We can't blame colonialism for ever ! We need to take responsibility and see what didn't work yesterday and change it today.

We have been given a "platform" to vote for change(democracy), yet we choose violence ! (quality people prefer the vote - fools prefer violence where their children will grow up in a devastating environment).

The people voted for corruption, stealing, theft, roads and infrastructure deterioration, poor sewerage and water, services etc, etc, - and they will vote for it again come the next election. We must be the only country that votes for a political party and then tommorrow we strike against them ?

You will never see this "clinging" to a party in the "first world" if the government provides poor services. So don't expect a better live - this is what the people are asking for at every election - and they will do it again !

The world must think we are stupid - I do !

Aug 17, 2012 6:24 | 0 replies

Why did Zuma travel to Mozambique during this crisis. He should be home and show his leadership. Also politicians of all stripes should be coming together to call for peace and avoid further bloodshed. This country needs effective Leadership!

Aug 17, 2012 9:30 | 0 replies

@Mame

How can you find fault with Zuma - the people voted for him - they like him !

The people must realise that you do not necessarily have the skill to lead a country if you can dance on stage.

They should look for intellect in a leader. They choose Malema who did not even finish school !

Aug 18, 2012 7:44 | 0 replies

In ews articles, the police, Lonmin management, the unions are being fingered to take responsibility for this.

What about the workers themselves who were carrying guns, Spears, axes. When do they take responsibility for this mess.

Aug 18, 2012 10:44 | 0 replies