/ 22 October 2013

Marikana in the spotlight at labour summit

Miners striking at Marikana.
Miners striking at Marikana. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Efficient communication to analyse and attend to the underlying causes of the Marikana revolt is still not forthcoming, political analyst Steven Friedman said on Tuesday.

"Look at what happened after the killings at Marikana last year. One of the many scandals of what happened at Marikana was the conditions in which the workers were living," he told the third biennial labour relations conference hosted by the Public Service Commission in Pretoria.

"When people tried to engage in discussion [after the shootings] … business said it was all local government's fault and local government said it was business's fault." Everyone was pointing fingers at everyone else.

He said that after the blame game, the problems plaguing the mineworkers – including the lack of accommodation and a filthy environment – were left unattended. "It is quite obvious that if those problems were not faced, then they were not dealt with."

Friedman said major problems in South Africa, including inequality and poverty, are centred on race. His opinion is based on the factual findings of universities conducting research along these lines.

"One of the findings indicates that race is still important out there. If you are a black graduate … it will take you three to six months longer to find a job than if you are a white graduate with the same qualification."

Trade union federation Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini told the gathering earlier that vigilantism had crept into wage-related protests.

"We have come to … a new dangerous form of cohesion where concepts of vigilantism have found space: 'You are either with us or against us. We will kill you if you are not with us.'"

"Everybody seems to be saying that is the way to get employers to understand the language you are talking."

Labour relations management has been relatively sound in the public sector.

"We can't compare [public-sector strikes with] the recent strike between Lonmin at Marikana and those workers," he said.

The Pretoria conference, hosted in partnership with the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council, was planned in anticipation of the International Labour and Employment Relations Association World Congress in 2015. – Sapa