Friday, August 24, 2012

post-apartheid capitalism

In the shadow of Lonmin's Marikana mine in South Africa ramshackle settlements cluster around this mine operated by the world no. 3 platinum producer and around others in the North West Province, the world's prime platinum mining region. The mine and its squalid settlement was the scene of labour violence last week which killed 40 miners, two police and two security guards, the deadliest security incident in South Africa since the end of white minority rule 18 years ago.

"This is no way to live or grow children. Fifty people share one toilet. We don't have water,"
said a woman who identified herself as Pinky, the wife of a striking rock drill operator at Marikana who shares a one-room tin box with her husband and two children.

"You work so hard, for so little. You might as well be dead," said a 23-year-old Lonmin worker

A report this week by the Bench Marks Foundation, a church-linked organisation that monitors corporate responsibility, found that living conditions for South Africa's black miners on the platinum belt were the worst in the country. "The conditions in the township constructed by Lonmin are appalling. There are broken down drainage systems spilling directly into the river at three different points," Bench Marks Foundation executive director John Capel said, adding this situation had been left unattended for the last five years.

Nelson Mandela's ANC promised a better life for all when it took power with the end of apartheid in 1994. But despite being Africa's largest economy income disparity and unemployment have mushroomed while chronic joblessness has helped entrench a massive underclass. These circumstances, combined with ballooning living costs and a demand for better pay, led to the violent strike by Marikana workers which culminated in the police shooting of 34 miners on Thursday. They died in a hail of gunfire.

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