Clique clings to delusion
Minister of Mineral Resources Susan Shabangu met all the players in the Marikana mine massacre on Saturday .
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) was there. Solidarity was there. Lonmin, the owner of the mine, was there. The Chamber of Mines was there.
Incredibly, the union that is most often accused of being at the heart of the violence that has plagued the platinum mines in North West for the past few months, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), was not invited.
The fact that Amcu's leader, Joseph Mathunjwa, addressed the striking workers twice last week (he was the last person to address them before the police opened fire and killed 34 strikers on Thursday) did not cut any ice with the minister.
Shabangu told reporters that Amcu was excluded from the meeting because the Saturday gathering was part of an existing forum.
"We are not aware of where it [Amcu] operates in the mining industry," Shabangu said.
Amazing. Shocking. Disgraceful. Shabangu apparently does not know Mathunjwa's contact details. Every journalist knows how to get hold of him.
Shabangu seems to think that a solution is possible without Amcu - whether it be guilty of inciting these incidents or not - being part of the process.
This is a failure of leadership that casts doubt on whether the task teams and commissions of inquiry - a speciality of this administration - will have any success.
The people we have referred to as leaders this past week are nothing of the sort.
It is because of them that those miners died so brutally.
Saturday's meeting reflects the cosy nexus of NUM, the state-and the mining company that has betrayed the poor.
Instead of the consensual relationship that our institutions - such as Nedlac - are supposed to engender, these gatherings have become a meeting of the privileged cutting up the cake behind closed doors.
They have become an old boys' club, with the union leaders singing: "The working class can kiss my arse / I've got the foreman's job at last."
But it is Lonmin that has behaved most abominably in this matter.
Throughout the week, the company has failed to produce a coherent version of the events.
One suspects that it knew exactly what was going on but failed to act with courage or seek assistance from outside.
At every point, it spoke only to its "baas boy", the NUM, and excluded Amcu in any attempt to resolve the crisis.
The demands of the rock-drill operators are not new. They have been making demands on mineowners in the platinum belt in North West for months.
The violence that erupted in February at Impala Platinum was centred around rock-drill operators and their demands.
In fact, it seems that Lonmin was speaking to the NUM about these issues and consequently gave the drillers an arbitrary allowance of R700 a month.
"This is a management prerogative," Lonmin head of human resources Barnard Makwena told the website miningmx.
The workers, most of whom earn R4000 a month, rejected this minor increase as insufficient. Amcu was excluded from the talks and the NUM lost members and credibility among many of the workers.
The company told restless workers to shut up and go to work while it sorted the matter out with the NUM. The workers then decided to embark on an illegal strike.
On Monday, when at least two deaths had already taken place, Amcu was called in by Lonmin's Jomo Kwadi to intervene because things were becoming dangerous.
The government was nowhere to be seen, despite the fact that this situation replicated almost exactly the mayhem that had taken place at Impala Platinum in February.
The next day, Lonmin's Bernard Mokwena pledged on SAfm radio to talk to the strikers and the trade unions.
However, on August 15, the NUM, the police and Lonmin held a caucus meeting about the situation and again excluded Amcu.
It was once again the old boys' club at work, despite the dangerous situation that was unfolding.
Lonmin's Kwadi then told Mathunjwa that the mining company was no longer prepared to meet Amcu representatives. Mathunjwa went ahead and addressed the crowd.
Minutes after he left, the shooting started and 34 people died.
Shabangu and her principal, President Jacob Zuma, won't like this. The NUM won't like this. Mine owners won't like this.
But their cosy relationship has been shattered.
If they continue to exclude Amcu - a deeply flawed entity - for their own narrow political and business interests, then another Marikana is coming.