Aug 20, 2012
On August 16, South African police opened fire on striking workers at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana township, about 60 miles northwest of Johannesburg. According to media reports, they killed 34 people and wounded 78 – reminiscent of state-organized violence carried out by the old apartheid regime.
About 3,000 miners walked off their jobs during the week before the police massacre, demanding that their monthly salaries, now averaging about $480, be tripled. It’s obvious that today they cannot decently support their families.
The massacre of the striking miners by the police draws attention to the desperate situation facing much of the South African working class, and the continuing post-apartheid role of the country’s security forces in keeping the workers in line when their state-sanctioned unions fail to do it.
The Marikana platinum mine is one of two in the country owned by Lonmin PLC, a British company. Lonmin is the third-largest producer of platinum in the world. Last year it had revenues of almost two billion dollars and profits of almost a third of a billion.
Official apartheid may have ended in 1994 – meaning that a few middle-class blacks made their way into government and business posts. But the South African regime is still used to maintain exploitation of South African workers, by the same corporations who benefitted from apartheid.