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Sunday Times STLive By Ben Trovato, 2012-02-26

Big ups on putting strike down

Ben Trovato
Image: Sunday Times

An open letter to the omnipotent being who owns Impala Platinum

Dear God, I address you in this way not only because nobody has ever seen your face, but also because you wield such extraordinary power over people's lives. Furthermore, you strike me as being a not overly compassionate being or one that tolerates dissent of any kind.

Speaking of strikes, kudos on the way you handled this last one. It takes balls the size of Epcot to fire 17000 workers before the new year has even changed out of its party dress.

You strike a worker, you strike a rock. Except they're not. Striking rocks is their job, if I am not mistaken. What are they after? The usual, I expect. More money. A BMW each. Holiday homes in Plett. Free air travel. Relatives in the witness protection programme relocated to the Costa del Sol.

I'm surprised your majority shareholder, the Royal Bafokeng Nation, has been so quiet. Thought there might at least have been a little darkie solidarity with the workforce. Then again, R12.5-billion in royalties must buy a tremendous amount of looking the other way.

I fail to understand what your chaps have to complain about. The highveld gets damnably cold in winter, and yet, while genuinely oppressed workers like Marthinus van Schalkwyk shiver in their offices in Pretoria, the spoilt brats of Impala Platinum romp about in temperatures of up to 60°C.

Name one other job where you can take your shirt off at work. There isn't one. Well, not unless you work for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and even then you must be blonde and no more than two inches over the age of consent.

The mardi gras atmosphere doesn't stop there, either. Your miners get to work in an environment where the air is thick with silica dust. This means that when they knock off work and get all dolled up for one of your wild Rustenburg raves, they don't even have to sprinkle themselves with glitter. That's a saving right there.

You should have known from the outset that your employees couldn't be trusted. They work underground and probably talk among themselves down there. Resistance would come naturally.

Do you remember the French underground? They caused a hell of a lot of trouble and, if I remember correctly, Hitler had them fired too. Well, fired upon. Much like the police at your mine have been doing.

You have lost millions since the communists went on strike. I once lost R150 on my way to the bottle store just before it closed for a long weekend, so I know how devastated you must feel.

Not to worry. Platinum is platinum. People, women especially, will always want some.

Last year you produced 941200 ounces of the stuff and, in just six months, made a heartwarming profit of R3.5-billion. This just goes to show that the real value lies in platinum, not in the workers, who are made of oxygen and carbon, both of which are freely available and have no real commercial value.

Anyway. Pardon me if I have some of my facts wrong. I live in Cape Town, where news about the strike is hard to come by.

Our papers are full of the DA's latest efforts to gouge every last cent out of the city's residents, this time by charging for street parking at night, and also the Chapman's Peak hunger striker, who, on realising that Helen Zille would sooner see her die of starvation than throw Murray & Roberts off the mountain, packed it in and went for a Greek salad with her husband in Hout Bay. "It tasted so good," she said. Let no one say that Cape Town lacks committed revolutionaries.

I hear the strikers have started going back to work. I expect you'll be wanting to give them a damn good kick in the teeth for biting the hand that feeds them. Oh, wait, you already have - by rehiring them under terms in which they forfeit all previous benefits.

That'll learn 'em.