Consensus on need for change

But there is consensus that some changes are overdue and may have to be radical.

The police response to a crowd situation was inadequate, experts say, but for once public sentiment is swinging towards support for the police on the ground and condemnation of those responsible for the conditions under which they worked, suggesting an overhaul of public order management. That, in turn, could bode well for the policing of service delivery protests, which are more common and widespread than labour unrest.

Mines need to do more for their workers, everyone from unions to the president agrees, but probably by enforcing existing regulations rather than imposing new conditions linked to mining licences. And although foreign investors may now be somewhat more concerned about labour stability in South Africa, early indications are that it will not significantly reduce capital flow.

Longer-term wage agreements are still preferable for both employers and workers, virtually everyone except the workers who associate themselves with the Association for Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) agree, but the application of majoritarianism in dealing with unions may have to be reviewed, in part to avoid the proliferation of ever more militant unions making promises they cannot keep.

But what the implications of Marikana will be for the ANC, the National Union of Mineworkers, the leadership of the organisations and the alliance between labour and the ruling party, remains uncertain.

Can the ruling party avoid being tainted by the massacre? How will the accusation that it is a union captured by business affect the NUM? Will the deaths at Marikana fuel populist rhetoric at the expense of solid policy? On such questions, there is simply no consensus yet.

Phillip De Wet
Guest Author
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