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Sep 10, 2012

Marikana accountability a must to avoid revenge

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JOHANNESBURG ( – It was tremendously important that the perpetrators of the Marikana murders were held accountable to avoid ending up with a Sicilian-type pattern of revenge killings, Business Leadership South Africa chairperson Bobby Godsell said on Monday.

Godsell, who took part in an Insights into Marikana forum hosted by the Gordon Institute of Business Science (Gibs), said that violent conflicts in a Constitutional democracy like South Africa’s were completely outrageous.

“It’s very important that South Africans register this,” the former AngloGold Ashanti CEO and one of the country's current national planning commissioners said.

“People must be held accountable for those deaths. It’s tremendously important that they are held accountable, because if we don’t actually hold people accountable for murder, the murder goes on and on and we end up with a kind of Sicilian revenge killing pattern.

“First ten people were brutally killed. They included trade union activists, company security personnel and South African Police and two days later, 34 people were killed. We’ve got to make that sort of violence impossible,” he added during the Gibs debate in which International Labour Organisation director Vic van Vuuren, Pan-African CE Dr Iraj Abedian, Chamber of Mines CEO Bheki Sibiya, Anglo American Platinum executive Vishnu Pillay, National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) representative Eddie Majadiboda and Helen Suzman Foundation research fellow Aubrey Matshiqi also took part.

Godsell told the panel, chaired by Gibs head Nick Binedell, that the failing Marikana negotiations had to be made to work.

“We’ve got to make the negotiations work,” he said.

To do that, there had to be inclusivity, recalling that the Chamber of Mines had opted to bargain with NUM in 1983 even though it represented a very small number of workers at that time, on the basis that it was better to talk to somebody than to talk to nobody.

The negotiating process had to be inclusive and had to deliver broadly acceptable outcomes.

“The choice is between that and fighting each other and when South Africans fight, they die,” he added.

Police support was needed and it was crucial that unions accepted that their right to strike went together with the right of those workers who choose not to strike, to work.

“We signed such an agreement with NUM after the mother of all strikes in 1987 and that agreement affirmed the right of workers who wanted to go to work to exercise that choice.

“This is not an academic debate because if you deny workers the right to work, killing will result," he said.

The third aspect was that the South African mining industry had to return to growth.

“We should be building new mines and creating new jobs,” he said, adding that the platinum, gold and coal sectors should be growing at a rate of 6% a year.

“As a nation, we should resolve to turn this industry to growth. We can talk ourselves into a disastrous future or different groups in society can say, hell no, that’s not the kind of country we want to build and we are going to do it differently. We have that choice.

“This is a moment when South Africans must choose to be patriots or go down the drain. The choice is simple,” Godsell said.

It was “completely crazy” to say that mining was ordained to pay unfair wages.

The minimum wages and the average wages in mining were higher than other industrial sectors.

“In a real world you cannot take out of an economic process more than you put in. If we want a non-racial society, we need a non-racial job structure.

“We need a 16-year-old who can come and lash and grow and become a rock-drill operator and then become a shift boss and a section manager and then become the CEO. That’s the society we want.

“The way to lift wages over time is through improved technology in order to improve the efficiency and productivity of both capital and labour,” Godsell said.

While the gold mining industry had done relatively well in the last 20 years, the platinum industry had done less well in that costs had risen more rapidly than metal prices over the last ten years.

Van Vuuren also criticised the lack of inclusivity in the negotiations. “Somehow a space at the table must be made,” he said, adding that South Africa’s National Economic and Development Council (Nedlac) had let South Africa down.

The leaders were no longer attending Nedlac, which was now made up of unmandated practitioners, who were taking ages to get to the next step.

Sibiya said that mining was a microcosm of South Africa’s problems and that social unrest had been merged with industrial relations at Marikana, evidenced by the fact that 133 of the 270 people arrested were not Lonmin employees.

“Let’s hang our heads in shame and fix the problems,” Sibiya said, adding that Nedlac had become a waste of time because government officials who were supposed to make it a success had decided not to attend.

“We have structures that look excellent on paper, but functionally, they’re useless,” he said.

Abedian said that the disconnect between the formal values and the informal values of South Africans had created a political environment that was neither constructive nor hopeful.

He expressed amazement that in 2012, business and union leaders were still talking as if capital was capable of achieving without labour and labour capable of creating prosperity without capital.

“The basic facts of economics have to be recognised; that these two factors of production are inseparable. The day that the unionists talk about the indispensability of capital and the capitalists sit around the table and talk about the absolute indispensability of worker welfare, South Africa will stop having two values of saying one thing and doing something else,” Abedian added.

Matshiqi said that a climate of populism had been imposed on the mining sector, which might be destructive in the absence of leadership.

“Unless we deal with the breakdown in trust, we are not going to see peace in places like Marikana,” Matshiqi added.

Pillay said that the fragmented approach in which mining houses were addressing the socioeconomic challenges was not fulfilling the needs of near-mine communities.

“It's going to take a lot more than what we are currently doing because social responsibility is not at the centre but at the periphery of the mining business and that will have to change,” Pillay said.

Mining houses had failed their workers, the regulatory authorities had failed and union leadership had to bear some of the responsibility for what had happened, he added.

Majadibodu said the problem of Marikana had begun at Impala Platinum in January where people were killed and many injured.

The difference now was that the environment had worsened by becoming politically polarised and poisoned.

“Many don’t want to go back to work because they don’t know who to listen to. The situation could take longer than many people think because there are those who are linking this to Mangaung, which is still three months away," Majadibodu added.

Webber Wentzel mining lawyer Peter Leon, speaking from the floor, suggested that an inclusive new deal was required in view of comments by the panel, which indicated that social labour plans for the mining industry were not working.

Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter
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