||Sampie Terreblanche’s new book begs for change
Could Lonmin have paid its workers more, after a decade of prosperity, to avoid sinking South Africa into one of the worst calamities in corporate history?
Though a bit lower today, platinum prices had soared 300 percent from early 2000s levels; loosened exchange controls let profits flow to London headquarters; Ernst & Young rated ‘sustainable development’ at Lonmin ‘excellent’ and the World Bank made a $150 million commitment to support the firm’s gender, AIDS and community investment at Marikana – both vital mine-wash in the event that embarrassing research on exploitation caught the attention of journalists or campaigners.
The local police were apparently in Lonmin’s pocket; its ‘sweetheart union’ kept workers in check; former worker-leader Cyril Ramaphosa was on its board; and a quarter of its labour force was outsourced. In spite of a Congress of SA Trade Unions demand to eradicate labour brokers, the president’s son Duduzane and the Gupta family friends run a large company supplying the platinum industry with cheap workers, so no change was feared there.
As for mining nationalization campaigning by the ANC Youth League, Julius Malema was driven out – in part by Ramaphosa – and the Chamber of Mines neutralized the threat when it ‘supported the ANC research work intellectually and financially and privately lobbied a number of the key stakeholders,’ as chief executive Bheki Sibiya acknowledged.
In this cozy context, impatient greed resulted in a slaughter of its workers – who were not even on the company’s property – and then with classic insensitivity, Lonwin issued a ‘back to work or be fired’ order just as mourning began.
But the damage goes back far beyond this nightmare fortnight. To learn why Marikana is not just an aberration of South Africa’s ‘Minerals-Energy Complex’ (MEC), read Stellenbosch economics professor emeritus Sampie Terreblanche’s brand new book, Lost in Transformation.
In fewer than 150 pages, the former Broederbond insider unveils why the African National Congress embraced policies that made the lower half of the society much poorer: ‘There can be little doubt that the secret negotiations between the MEC and a leadership core of the ANC were mainly responsible for the ideological somersault of the ANC.’
Finally, says Terreblanche, ‘the MEC was satisfied that the ANC was boxed in sufficiently on economic issues in the secret negotiations, and so informed the National Party on 26 September 1992 that it could accept the sunset clauses’ that Joe Slovo offered to cement the elite transition.
As further evidence of capitulation to the MEC, Pik Botha was offered the mining ministry from 1994-99, followed by corporate lawyer Penuell Maduna – who then became the main local opponent of black South Africans’ reparations lawsuits in the US courts.
Says Terreblanche, ‘As the MEC was almost uninterruptedly in cahoots with white governments before 1994, there are indications that it and other corporations are again too closely in cahoots with the ANC government.’ That damage includes ‘South Africa's position as a neocolonial satellite of the American-led neoliberal empire since 1994’.
Is relief on the way? Not from the Finance Ministry, for while Pravin Gordhan’s ‘huge increase in infrastructure investment that was announced in the March 2012 budget is long overdue,’ remarks Terreblanche, it will ‘be spent on infrastructural projects that would facilitate the export of minerals’ – thus amplifying social and ecological crises – rather than durable projects to end poverty, unemployment and inequality.
Moreover, he alleges, Trevor Manuel’s National Development Plan is ‘superficial and naïve. Why has the Commission not concentrated on the unequal power relations, the unequal property relations and the unequal opportunities that are making the new South Africa society a very unjust society’ … along with the ‘power shifts that took place during the transformation process which aggravated social injustice in South Africa?’
With its ‘fairy-tale targets’, the Plan ‘is actually a carefully crafted ideological propaganda document’ whose purpose ‘is to lull the general public, and especially the impoverished majority, into contentment.’ Thanks to Manuel’s ‘wishful thinking’, says Terreblanche, ‘the plight of the poor and the unemployed will remain unresolved – and could become even more severe.’
Resistance will have to stiffen outside the ruling party. Even if Cosatu failed members and society this month, Terreblanche recalls, ‘Churches played a strategic role in the struggle against apartheid. Why are the churches not conducting an open war on behalf of those that are undeservedly poor and against those that are undeservedly rich?’ In the nick of time, the Bench Marks Foundation led by Bishop Joe Seoka became a bastion of reason, as Lonmin and its allies began covering up the deep-seated Marikana misdeeds.
I regained optimism after reading this powerful book, because with a voice of Terreblanche’s experience and intolerance for injustice, with renewed awareness about how the MEC corrupts our economy and environment, with sustained outrage at corruption, with revulsion at widespread police brutality, and with growing solidarity for the victims of the Marikana Massacre, surely there must now be a way to undo our liberation party’s world-historic sell-out?