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(en) Southern-Africa, Media: Anarchism fuels younger miners

Date Thu, 18 Oct 2012 10:23:16 +0200

SOME intriguing facts are emerging from the wildcat strikes sweeping the mining industry. Notable among them is that the leaders appear to be fairly young, tolerably well educated and reasonably fluent in English. ---- They are also, it seems, energetic followers of former African National Congress Youth League president Julius Malema. And their ideological belief appears to be rooted in anarchism, meaning in this case a general opposition to authority or the organisation applied in the conduct of human affairs. This is exactly what happened during the haphazard negotiations between the industry and the hapless National Union of Mineworkers, which has been caught in the crossfire. ---- As Gold Fields CEO Nick Holland observed during a media briefing on Tuesday, there is a clear disconnect between the older generation of mineworkers, who are signalling a desire to get back to work, and the younger breed who are having a fine time destroying assets, attacking police stations, intimidating those who want to work, indulging in wanton violence and murder, and creating a miasma of fear.

There is in addition, he said, a legacy issue between older mines where mechanisation is less advanced and young mines, such as South Deep, where it is much better developed. South Deep provides good opportunities for skilled and semi-skilled employees and that mine has been unaffected (so far) by the wildcat strike virus.

Holland also said it is important for the mining industry to examine the strike syndrome and learn lessons from it. He wants a forum to be established at which new strategies can be thrashed out and refined. This puzzles me, because it’s reinventing the wheel. A perfectly good forum, Mining Dialogues 360º, has been working hard for some time.

Operating under the auspices of the prestigious South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, Mining Dialogues was first supported financially by Royal Bafokeng Holdings and now receives funding from other companies such as Rio Tinto, Impala Platinum and AngloGold Ashanti.

Meanwhile, Gold Fields is the first of the major gold houses to indicate its preparedness to start dismissing employees who fail to report for work. About 15,000 of them have until 2pm today to comply. The 6,200 strikers at three shafts of Gold Fields’ Beatrix mine in the Free State have already returned to work.

No one should want a wholesale firing. While it may send an appropriate message about the need for discipline and a proper assessment by employees of their own circumstances, the thought of yet another 15,000 men (in addition to the 12,000 fired by Anglo American Platinum) out of work — and, by extension, the well-being of perhaps as many as half-a-million dependents and workers in secondary industries — compounds the problems of an already fractured social contract.
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