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Home > English > Alternatives International Journal > 2012 > October 2012 > South Africa In Violence

South Africa In Violence

Monday 1 October 2012, by Anastasia Manannikova

South Africa is a country where fifty-percent of the population lives below the poverty line, surviving on less than two dollars a day. It has been eighteen years since South Africa became a democracy, however, the level of crime, social and economic inequality remains unchanged and has shown little signs of improving. This is a place where every day fifty murders, one-hundred rapes, seven hundred burglaries and more than five hundred violent assaults are officially recorded in a population of fifty million. These statistics alone demonstrate the need for a restructuring of the country’s slow economy and ineffective
Analysis shows that South Africa’s crime rate, which is amongst the 10th highest in the world, is caused in part by the country’s slow transition to democracy. The country’s poverty levels, with fifty percent of the population below the poverty line, is a major cause and symptom of this issue, and intensified by the easily available firearms allowed to white South Africans. The education system is in complete dysfunction, where eighty percent of schools struggle to provide people with adequate education. The situation is dire – South Africa is considered the third most violent country in the world.
South Africa is the world’s largest platinum supplier and is responsible for two thirds of the world’s platinum supply. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, the country’s revenue in 2011 was $102.8 billion and the expenditures has exceeded the revenue totaling for $118.3 billion - out of which 34% of the country’s budget is spent on the security sector.
The Lonmin plc, one of the largest producers of platinum metals, operates in South Africa by exploiting local workers in one of the heaviest and hardest industries. The annual revenue of the company is $1,992 million. According to Lonmin official documentation, the average miner’s salary till recent days was five hundred while annual salary of CEO and CFO is $565,528 and $788,844 respectively. The work is hard, and wages unfair, resulting in worker strikes – the last of which started on August 10 2012, involved 28,000 miners in Marikana mines. The workers sought a pay rise from on average $596 to $1,560. Initially Lonmin offered a wage of $1,385, which was considered as an “insulting” increase.

The strike has taken lives of forty-four mine works and injured seventy eight. The shooting occurred on August 16 and was the most cruel and lethal use of African Security Forces since 1960s; characterized as a massacre. The South African Police opened fire against thousands of protesting miners “armed to teeth” with matches and sticks. Journalist Greg Marinovich summarized the situation acutely when he reported that miners were chased and hunted down and “instead of being arrested, were killed”.

The behavior of officers was violent and unexpected; moreover, one hundred fifty miners claimed they have been beaten by the police during protests, “The police, they just take us outside and they beat us. They punch, they kick us. They say don’t look at us.” In total police has arrested two hundred and seventy workers and charged them with “public violence”. To add insult to injury, the National Prosecuting Agency charged the miners with the murder of coworkers rather than holding the police accountable. On September 3, the unfairness of this decision and the mistake on the side of National Prosecuting Authority was admitted and the two hundred and seventy arrested workers were freed.

The police’s actions were considered unproportional to the threat posed miners. The Defense Minister, Nosiviwe Noluthando Mapisa-Nqakula was the first government representative to apologise for the shooting and seek forgiveness, stating “We agree, as you see us standing in front of you here, that blood was shed at this place. We agree that it was not something to our liking and, as a representative of the government, I apologize...I am begging, I beg and I apologize, may you find forgiveness in your hearts,” as reported by Associated Press.

The International Labor Organization criticized the condition of the miners saying they are exposed to "a variety of safety hazards: falling rocks, exposure to dust, intensive noise, fumes and high temperatures, among others." Many miners also suffer from various diseases contracted while on the job, including tuberculosis and silicosis, a potentially fatal respiratory ailment.”Miners have reported to work during nights in hot, dusty conditions. Employment at mines in South Africa provides workers with some advantages such as bonuses and certain health benefits, however with the monthly salary of five hundred and sixty dollars, and with rent costs of around four hundred dollars, it becomes hard for families to survive.

This recent cruel strike in South Africa is a wakeup call for the global governess. Working conditions and the social life of employees need to be improved in developing countries. The workforce is getting highly sensitive and demanding; therefore, companies need to answer their needs, it is not that simple anymore to “make easy money”, and South Africa is not exempted from the development process.