The days of cheap black labour are gone - Mamphela Ramphele

Agang SA leader says path needed towards a skilled, higher wage and competitive mining industry

'On the 1st anniversary of the Marikana tragedy' - a message from Dr Mamphela Ramphele

As the nation remembers the victims of the Marikana tragedy, it is important that we do so with dignity and respect.

Our thoughts are with the families of all those who were killed and injured, especially their widows and children. Lest we forget, 10 other people had died before the August 16 tragedy, when 34 miners lost their lives and 78 were injured.

As we honour all those who died at Marikana, we must encourage a spirit of reconciliation; backed by practical steps so that all concerned parties can work together to finally bring peace to Marikana.

The Marikana Massacre is a demonstration of the cost of inequality in our society. Mine workers bear the brunt of our failure to create the society we dreamt of which would be characterised by respect for human dignity, equality and freedom.

20 year is too long for mine workers to wait for the dignity of accommodation suitable for the needs of families, those electing to live as single people and new entrants into the industry. The migrant labour system and its legacy of hostels and squatter camps is the root cause of the tensions on our mines.

We need to also tackle the need to migrate from low wage low skill mining approaches towards higher skilled and competitive industry that generates new safer and more sustainable jobs. We also need to connect the mining and agricultural industries to promote the development of a hub that includes a supply chain arrangement for food and other inputs from rural provinces such as KZN and Eastern Cape.

Peace is important for the economy of this area, which depends so much on the mines. Investing in peace involves promoting greater inclusion in the benefits of mining for all. When mineworkers feel that they have more to gain from peace than conflict they are likely to be more conciliatory in their dealings with fellow workers and employers. Unless peace is guaranteed, production will continue to be disrupted. When that happens, people have no salaries to take home.

All South Africans have a vested interest in a peaceful productive mining industry. It is important that all those concerned work together to finally bring peace to Marikana, the leaders of the mining companies, unions, churches and government and political parties must unite for peace. No price is too high to pay for peace. South Africans have been able to overcome conflicting interests and promote a peaceful settlement. We can do this again here in Marikana.

It is only when we have peace that the people of this area can live normal lives. These men and women, who make a living by working underground, in the belly of the earth, face enough danger, without the added burden of violence. Nobody needs to die trying to make a living. Nobody should die trying to earn a salary to feed his or her family.

To bring about peace though, sacrifices have to be made on all sides. We all must commit to addressing the problems that stand in the way of a lasting peace.

A vital part of the healing process is the on-going Farlam Commission on Marikana. The Commission must be given all the support it needs to do its job, to help us find the truth about what happened here last year.

There must be financial support for the families of those who died or were injured to afford lawyers. Poverty should not prevent access to adequate legal representation by all those involved. Nothing should stop those affected from finding out the truth and getting closure.

We are a country that prides itself in equality of all in the law. It is important that justice be seen to be done so that there are no doubts about the outcome of the commission process.

We need the commission to succeed to also help us understand what really happened here and what contributed to the loss of so many lives. That will help us prevent similar loss of life in future.

We must honour those who lost their lives by transforming Marikana and the Rustenburg area into a modern mining city with proper housing, proper infrastructure, electricity, modern apartments and education facilities including FET colleges.

The message from the unions is clear: The days of cheap black labour are gone. We can no longer have a working economy that depends on cheap black labour for its success. Unions, employers and the wider society need to agree on the path to a transformed mining industry towards a skilled higher wage and competitive industry.

It is also important that miners and other workers benefit from participation in the economy beyond simply earning wages. Greater importance has to be placed on ensuring more workers become part of the ownership of the wealth they produce. Employees Share Schemes need to be the most important form of broadening the participation of workers in the industries they work in.

That way, people will take more pride in the work they do. That way, we stand a greater chance of bringing an end to the shame of the so-called working poor. People have to enjoy the fruits of their labour, it is that simple.

Another big problem we face in South Africa is one of huge unemployment. We have far too many people without jobs. One in four South Africans is unemployed.

That means the few who are lucky enough to have jobs carry the burden of supporting the millions who have no jobs.

We need good leadership to help address these problems and bring about an economy that works for all South Africans, not just those who benefitted from Apartheid, not only those who are powerful or have political connections.

It is in our power to bring about the country of our dreams and ensure that all people enjoy the fruits of freedom. We can fire up our economy by supporting small businesses and helping them to grow and create jobs.

We need to build homes, roads, schools, railways and ports to create jobs and unlock the potential of our economy for the good of all South Africa.

It is only when we have done that, when every South African sees freedom making a difference in their lives, that we can have true peace. All South Africans must enjoy the promise of freedom.

Let us all commit ourselves to working together to make sure the promise of freedom comes true. Let all South Africans enjoy human dignity, equality and freedom.

Dr Mamphela Ramphele

Statement issued by AgangSA, August 16 2013

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