Tag Archives: South Africa

South Africa – Lonmin could be about to shed 6,000 jobs


Lonmin says 6,000 South Africa jobs at risk in proposed restructuring

Platinum producer Lonmin (LMI.L) said on Friday it was planning to close or mothball several mine shafts, putting 6,000 South African jobs at risk, because of depressed metal prices.

Platinum’s spot price XPT= is at 6-1/2 year lows less than $1,000 an ounce, while power and labour costs in South Africa have risen sharply.

“Lonmin is highly geared to platinum group metal prices. At current metal price levels, the company is EBITDA negative (loss making) and our cost minimisation plans are designed to improve this position as much as possible,” it said.

Lonmin said the planned closures would likely affect a total of 6,000 employees including contractors. In a letter to a labour union obtained by Reuters, the company had spoken of 4,500 jobs, about 15 percent of its workforce.

Job cuts are a thorny issue in South Africa, where the unemployment rate is over 25 percent and union militancy has been on the rise, especially in the mining industry.

South Africa – Tutu in hospital with persistent infection

Mail and Guardian

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been hospitalised with an undisclosed but “persistent” infection, his foundation said.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu. (AFP)

“Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was admitted to a Cape Town hospital on Tuesday for treatment to a persistent infection,” a statement released by his foundation said.

The 83-year-old Nobel peace laureate is expected to be discharged this week.

“His family hopes he will be able to return home in a day or two,” said the statement.

The anti-apartheid icon last December cancelled plans to travel to a meeting of Nobel laureates in Rome, in order to battle prostate cancer, which he has lived with for 15 years. In 2011 he was hospitalised for “minor” elective surgery.

He was hospitalised again in 2013 year for a persistent infection, but tests at that time showed no new malignancy.

Tutu survived an illness believed to be polio as a baby and battled tuberculosis as a teenager.

Under apartheid, Tutu campaigned against white minority rule during the years that Nelson Mandela was imprisoned and was awarded the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his work.

Officially retired, he is still outspoken on the world’s injustices, and is widely viewed as South Africa’s moral compass. – AFP


ICC calls on South Africa to arrest Sudan’s Bashir

The ICC has issued two arrest warrants for President Bashir

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has called on South Africa to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir who is in the country for an African Union (AU) summit.

Mr Bashir is wanted for war crimes over the conflict in Darfur.

An ICC statement said South Africa should “spare no effort” in detaining him.

But instead he was welcomed by South African officials on his arrival in Johannesburg, SABC tweeted.

Sudan’s Suna news agency said he was accompanied by the foreign minister and other top Sudanese officials.

There are tensions between the ICC and the AU, with some on the continent accusing the court of unfairly targeting Africans.

The AU has previously urged the ICC to stop proceedings against sitting leaders.

Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe arrives in South Africa for an AU summit

African leaders have been arriving for the summit, among them Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe

Banners in South Africa ahead of the AU summit

The leaders have complex issue to try to tackle, from political unrest to Islamist insurgencies

The warrants against Mr Bashir, who denies the allegations, have severely restricted his overseas travel.

He has, however, visited friendly states in Africa and the Middle East.

Arrest ‘unlikely’

The ICC has no police force and relies on member states to carry out arrests.

As a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, South Africa is obliged to arrest President Bashir if he sets foot in the country, but correspondents say this is unlikely to happen.

The AU has previously refused to co-operate with the ICC, accusing it of bias against African leaders.

Sidiki Kaba, president of the assembly of states to the ICC, expressed “deep concern about the negative consequences for the court” if South Africa refused to comply with its obligations to carry out the arrest.

Human rights organisations and South Africa’s main opposition party have also called for Mr Bashir’s arrest.

Darfur has been in conflict since 2003, when rebels took up arms against the government. The UN says more than 300,000 people have died, mostly from disease.

The ICC has ended an investigation into war crimes in the region, but the warrants against Mr Bashir remain outstanding. The court accuses him of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.

The official theme of the AU summit is the “Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development”.

But the political turmoil in Burundi, crisis in South Sudan and the recent spate of xenophobic attacks in South Africa are also likely to feature heavilyW

The AU’s agenda: Nomsa Maseko, BBC News, Johannesburg

Anti-immigrant protesters in South Africa

Violence against immigrants in South Africa has upset neighbouring countries

African Union meetings are often criticised for avoiding burning issues that affect the continent, and this year’s summit is not expected to be any different. Analysts say discussions will be held, but outcome will be vague.

The packed agenda is expected to focus on violence in Burundi, the crisis in South Sudan, Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram, and terror threats by al-Shabab in East Africa.

South Africa stepped in to host the summit at the last minute because of terror threats in Chad.

But the recent xenophobic violence in Johannesburg and Durban have left the hosts embarrassed.

Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Nigeria lashed out at President Jacob Zuma’s government for the attacks.

South Africa – Zuma shocks them until they’re numb

Mail and Guardian

No 1’s strategy: Shock them till they’re numb

The president appears impervious to the effect of his outrageous remarks and behaviour.


  In Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Americanah a key character, the Romeo in the story, is a cultured young man with a middle-class upbringing by the name of Obinze. He ends up as an expatriate toilet cleaner in London. One day at work, Obinze gets the shock of his life “to discover a mound of shit on the toilet lid, solid, tapering, centred, as though it had been carefully arranged and the exact spot had been measured”.
Stunned, Obinze stands before the perfectly misplaced contents of human bowels, wondering what kind of an English person would do such an unEnglish thing. In his outrage, Obinze takes off his toilet-cleaning gloves and quits.
We react differently to shocking acts, scandalous utterances, outrageous performances and chilling discoveries. South Africa has become a country with an uncanny penchant for the outrageous – a country alive with the possibility of excess and shock. It would be neither correct nor fair to attribute this national talent solely to President Jacob Zuma, but it must be said that he is a great asset in this regard.
The Zuma political strategy of choice is one of excess, outrageousness and shock. As Steve Biko once observed, the main strategy of the apartheid police towards blacks seemed to be “harass them, harass them”; the Zuma strategy appears to be “shock them till they’re numb”.

Some of the most outrageous things that have occurred in the land have a direct causal link to him and his person. Other shockers simply derive inspiration from him before forking off towards their own destructive destinations. Few leaders, political or corporate, have had half as many shocking things done or said by them, of them, for them or on their behalf. I will return to this theme later.
First, we must hasten to say that Zuma is not unique, either here in South Africa or elsewhere. That is not to suggest, as some lazy thinkers sometimes do – often with naked racist intent – that Zuma is bad because he is black and, “like the rest of them”, he can’t govern. I suggest that we render unto Zuma what is due to Zuma.
Yet even Zuma has stiff competition at home and abroad. He has, for example, nothing on Allister Sparks’s “smart” South African politician, Hendrik Verwoerd. Nor does he come close to John Vorster and PW Botha and their sheer ability to sow fear and mayhem. Internationally, Zuma also had considerable competition in the form of Sepp Blatter, who has gallantly, if also shamelessly, led Fifa from ignominy to ignominy for decades and will take until at least December to leave the stage.
Nor are those to whom Zuma has generously given this occasion to criticise the ANC correct to reduce that gallant movement of the people to Zuma or any single individual, Nelson Mandela included. That is, of course, not to gainsay that the movement is indeed in grave danger of losing its way and its place.
All this is meant to say that the Zuma flair for the outrageous and the excessive must be appreciated in context. Part of that context is a country that has not disappointed when it comes to its own share of excess and outrageousness, reaching a crescendo in the lead-up to and during the Zuma presidency. Who can forget that day in April 2008 when Mokotedi Mpshe, then the acting national director of public prosecutions, announced the dropping of all charges against Zuma – and unleashed the Zunami upon us?
In August 2012, from the comfort of our homes, we watched the first post-apartheid massacre, in Marikana, unfold before our eyes.
The nation was shocked when its born-frees found a cause, and succeeded in getting the University of Cape Town’s statue of Cecil John Rhodes removed. Even more shocking to the nation was the realisation that (the) Rhodes (statue) had been sitting in that prime position, pretending to be thinking, with a smirk on his face, for the past 21 years.
  Zuma’s outrageous list of faux pas, in word and in deed, are legendary. In a seemingly rushed and poorly contextualised book, Clever Blacks, Jesus and Nkandla: the Real Jacob Zuma in His Own Words, Gareth van Onselen tried to compile a compendium of the choicest Zuma bloopers. But Zuma is so prolific in the production of slip-ups and gaffes that even this book, published in 2014, is already outdated.
  Similarly, Max du Preez and Mandy Rossouw’s The World According to Julius Malema has been overtaken by time and Malema’s ability to manufacture one-liners and hyperbole. Both books make great South African toilet-reading material.
The highest or lowest point – depending on one’s vantage point – in the evolution and execution of the Zuma strategy came on May??28, when Minister of Police Nathi Nhleko released his Nkandla report on the so-called security upgrade, at a cost of R246-million to the South African taxpayer, of Zuma’s private homestead. Surely, this will go down as the most outrageous report delivered by government since the end of the apartheid era. With Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi by his side, making lively, agreeable faces while moving his reading glasses comically on and off, Nhleko stoically read his report like a loyal and disciplined cadre of Jacob Zuma.
The report was designed to finalise a long-established security cluster and ANC strategy to relativise and ultimately discredit the report of the public protector on Nkandla, particularly its recommendation that Zuma should pay back a portion of the money used for the nonsecurity aspects of the upgrades to his private homestead.
To back up his findings, Nhleko showed a hilarious amateur video about how Zuma’s “fire pool” works. He also had a video-recorded interview with a cultural expert who “unpacked” the complex notion of a modern Zulu homestead. He quoted the “authoritative” Wikipedia to shed light on the imperial Roman origins of the Nkandla amphitheatre.
Unsurprisingly, Nhleko found that the Nkandla swimming pool, chicken run, cattle culvert, the amphitheatre and the double-storey house called a visitors’ centre are not what they seem to be. They are essential and strategic security features in the great national task of providing protection to Number One.
  Not only did Nhleko come close to blaming the media and the public protector for “the magnitude and intensity of scrutiny that … Nkandla … has been subjected to”, he also added a bullish parting shot: “The outstanding security-related work at Nkandla should be funded and completed expeditiously,” he said. Thixo wase Nkandla! (God of Nkandla)
I take my hat off to those who have tried to verbalise and articulate their dissent, shock or outrage over Nhleko’s report. But I also notice how many of them seem to fail dismally at matching the Zuma/Nhleko levels of outrageousness without sounding worse than they do, or insane, or both.
  The genius of the Zuma shock strategy is to get his detractors to foam at the mouth and choke in anger or disgust before they can finish a speech. It is precisely in the frequency of their reference to Nkandla (or any other Zuma scandal) that they begin to sound monotonous, hapless, inarticulate, ridiculous, uncreative, hateful and too obsessed (with Zuma). Take, for example, Adriaan Basson’s book titled Zuma Exposed. What can anyone do or say to expose Zuma that Zuma and his lieutenants have not done already?
Nkandla cannot be out-scandalled. No words of outrage will express the scandal in terms worse than those already captured by Nkandla itself. When his detractors are worked into a frenzy, as they stampede to insult Zuma, the Zuma strategy of shock and awe is working beautifully.
It is often at this stage of the combat that Zuma turns on the heat and deploys some sarcasm, deriding his opponents for having finally succeeded in learning the pronunciation of one African word. In Parliament he mimicked political novice Mmusi Maimane’s speech about a broken president. He laughed at the Economic Freedom Fighters’ filibustering tactics.
And, as the jaws of his detractors and supporters drop in synchronised shock, Zuma belts out his famous belly laugh.
“How can he laugh like that at a moment like this?” we ask one another. Let me give you five reasons why Zuma laughs. One: He laughs because he can. Yes, he can! Two: He laughs because derision and sarcasm are an essential security feature – Nhleko missed this one – of his tried and tested political strategy. Three: He laughs because he is arguably the most powerful ANC president since democracy began. Four: He laughs because the joke is not on him. Five: He laughs because he is having fun – at our expense.
Tinyiko Maluleke is a professor at the University of Pretoria. The views expressed here are his own

South Africa – savage truth of Marikana

Mail and Guardian


The savage truth behind the Marikana massacre

22 MAY 2015 00:00 NICK DAVIES


Nick Davies uncovers the story of “the man in the green blanket”, who died trying to broker peace, and reveals the complicity of the powers that be.

 Mambush Noki (green blanket) and Xolani Ndzuzu (centre) speak to the police with the striking Lonmin miners gathered in the background. (Greg Marinovich, The Stand)

On August 16 2012, South African police opened fire on a large crowd of men who had been on strike at a platinum mine at Marikana in North West Province. They shot down 112 of them, killing 34. In any country, this would have been a traumatic moment. For South Africa, it was a special kind of nightmare, because it revived images of massacres by the state in the old apartheid era, with one brutal difference – this time it was predominantly black police officers, with black senior officers working for black politicians, who were doing the shooting.

In response, President Jacob Zuma appointed a commission of inquiry, chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, which sat in public for a total of 293 days, hearing evidence from miners, their bosses and the police, and reviewing video, audio and paper records of the shooting and of the seven-day strike that preceded it.

At the end of March this year, the commission delivered its report to Zuma, who so far has failed to publish its conclusions. Those who may find themselves accused of colluding in the police action include not only senior figures from the ANC but also Lonmin, the British company that owns the Marikana mine.

In the evidence before the Farlam inquiry, one particular miner came to the fore. In videos of marches and meetings during the strike, this was largely because he wore a bright green blanket around his shoulders. Beyond that, it was because, during those seven days of conflict, he came from nowhere as the leader, making passionate speeches through a loud-hailer, negotiating with police and standing in the frontline as the shooting broke out. He died that afternoon, with 14 bullets in his face and neck and legs.

The name of the man in the green blanket was Mgcineni Noki. He was aged 30, and known to his family and friends as Mambush. This is his story. It may also stand as part of the story of what has happened in South Africa since apartheid was voted into the dustbin of history 21 years ago.

Mambush – a rock-drill operator with no official rank – emerged from the mass of black workers as a rebel leader demanding justice, while some of those who once spearheaded the fight against repression acted as a shield protecting privilege, exploitation and extreme violence. It is a story about power changing hands and changing colour but failing, finally, to change the lives of those in whose name that power is held.


Cathedral of commerce

The Lonmin smelter stands like a cathedral of commerce over a bleak landscape, its chimney reaching for heaven, its conveyor belt shuffling a fortune in unrefined platinum. The miners live in its shadow. Their homes are one-roomed shacks. Some of them are built out of breeze blocks; most are patchworks of rusting corrugated iron tacked on to frames of timber torn from local trees. The shacks huddle together in groups of several hundred. There are no roads, only dirt tracks that turn greasy in the rain. A few chickens peck in the mud. Goats stroll by.

As far as the eye can see, pylons march across the landscape like robot soldiers, bringing electricity to the mines, but most of the shacks have no power – though some steal it on cables that sag among the washing lines. The mines have water, too, to wash the ore. But not the shacks: some of the men share a communal tap, many of which have been broken for months; some drink straight from milky streams that run nearby.

In one of the shacks lives Mbulelo Noki, a lean, fit man in blue jeans and a Levi’s shirt, now aged 35. He has a double bed, neatly made; a small table with a plastic cloth; a metal wardrobe with the torn remains of an old ANC sticker on the door. Mbulelo is Mambush’s cousin – their fathers were brothers. Mbulelo and Mambush grew up together in a tiny village called Thwalikhulu, high on the rim of a pale green valley in the Eastern Cape.

The image of the ‘man in the green blanket’ will always be associated with the Marikana tragedy. This graffiti is by Tokolos Stencil. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

The two boys were close. Mambush’s father died before he was born, and so Mbulelo’s father helped the bereaved family to survive. As they reached adolescence, the cousins went together into the hills to build a hut and to go through the rituals and circumcision that marked their graduation to manhood. Later they worked together as rock-drill operators, battering platinum ore out of the earth, 5km below ground.

Mbulelo recalled that Mambush nearly missed the strike. The two of them were there as it was launched, on Thursday August 9 2012, when hundreds of rock-drill operators gathered on the parched grass of the Wonderkop football stadium, near the administrative buildings at the centre of the mine complex.

They had heard that the rock-drill operators at the Impala Platinum mine, in nearby Rustenburg, had emerged from a long and sometimes violent strike with new pay rates, whereas they remained on R4 000 to R5 000 a month, and they were angry. They demanded R12 500 and agreed they would not turn up for work the next day.

On the Friday morning, the two cousins got a message that their uncle – the younger brother to their fathers – had died of tuberculosis at the Impala mine. On the second day of the strike, they set off to retrieve his body, so they missed the first signs of violence.

It happened on the Friday evening. Small groups of strikers had gone to two of the shafts where some men were still working. The strikers toyi-toyied, urging them to join them. Some waved sticks. Lonmin security men asked police who were watching to disperse the strikers. The police reportedly said the strikers were not causing any trouble. Lonmin security then opened fire with rubber bullets, firing more than 40 rounds at the strikers. Two were seriously injured and hospitalised.

Much later, the Lonmin logbook that contained a record of this event was submitted to the Farlam inquiry – with all reference to the shooting deleted. Another copy was later discovered in police archives, containing detailed references to the shooting. A Lonmin manager later admitted making the deletions.

The previous evening, Barnard Mokwena, then Lonmin’s executive vice-president, had written an internal memo, later disclosed to the Farlam inquiry, advising that the company should not tolerate demands that were “outside the collective bargaining structure”. The strikers were rejecting their own union, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), accusing it of supporting the bosses. As the union was not involved, the company could choose not to recognise the strike and not to negotiate. Mokwena urged that, instead of talking, the company should sack the strikers and call in the police to deal with them.

By Friday night, Mbulelo and Mambush were back from Impala and arguing about their next move. Mbulelo wanted to leave to arrange their uncle’s funeral; Mambush was determined to join the strike. That night, Mambush called his wife, Veronica, who was living with their two-year-old daughter, Asive, in Carletonville. This was the town where he had first worked as a miner, in 2004.

In 2008, he injured his shoulder in a rock fall and went to the medical station where Veronica was an administrative assistant. They started a relationship that continued even though Mambush soon moved to Marikana, where the pay was better and the rock was harder and safer to mine than in Carletonville.

Veronica had not known Mambush to get involved in a strike before, though she knew that he was angry with the NUM. Sitting on the old plastic chairs under the tree at the back of her house, he had often talked to her and her father, Ephraim, about how the NUM shop stewards were taken out of the mine and given pay rises, cars and cellphones by the company, and how very soon they stopped speaking up for the people who had elected them.

“The NUM is a sellout,” she remembered him saying. She also recalled one time when she was visiting him in Marikana, when he disappeared for an hour to register with a new breakaway union – the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).


Striking miners on the march at Marikana. (Paul Botes, M&G)

He had talked often about struggling to get by on R5 000 a month. He was sending most of it back to his family in the Eastern Cape, then paying for rent on his shack and food for himself. Often he would have to borrow to get through to the end of the month, sometimes from friends, sometimes from microlenders who specialise in payday loans at interest rates as high as 50% a month. Veronica had told him not to worry about sending money to her and Asive. She had a brick-built house, and with a college education she was earning enough to get by. “Let’s deal with other issues,” she told him. “I will take care of the baby.”

On the Friday night, he told her the strikers had to hold out. “The money is so little. It’s a must.” Veronica said that there was no way they would get the raise they were demanding, but she was not worried about him. Not just then. Over the following three days, though, the strike tumbled into a vortex of violence.

The koppie

On the morning of Saturday August 11, the strikers gathered in the football stadium and decided to march to the NUM office to protest that union officials had been touring the shacks, urging their members to go to work. Some of the strikers were carrying sticks and chanting aggressively.

The Farlam inquiry later heard that an NUM official gathered 30 union members in their office and gave them long panga knives and at least one gun. As the strikers approached, they heard gunfire and turned and scattered. NUM men pursued them. Some strikers were beaten and cut. Two fell with bullet wounds and were hospitalised. They survived, although at the time the others thought that they were dead.

The strikers abandoned the football stadium as a meeting place, because it was too close to the NUM office, and began to assemble on a koppie that stood on a wide plain of wasteland near one of the settlements. They collected cash and sent for a local sangoma in the hope that he could protect them from violence.

Then others joined the strike – not just the rock-drill operators who had started it, but also other Lonmin workers who were furious when they heard claims that the NUM was colluding with the company and had shot two of their comrades.

One of the new recruits was a friend of Mambush, a short, muscular man named Xolani Nzuza, then 27, who managed a football team in which Mambush played. Xolani had come to Marikana eight years earlier to finish college, aiming to become a social worker, but ran out of money. In 2006, he turned to the mine for income. Like Mambush, he had abandoned the NUM and joined Amcu. He was outraged by what was happening.

As he said later: “The people who should be negotiating for us were shooting at us.” Clever and articulate, Xolani was to become Mambush’s deputy at the head of the strike.

The violence escalated. The following day, Sunday August 12, a group of about 150 strikers marched from their new base on the koppie to the Lonmin office. There were scuffles. A striker threw a rock. A security guard fired a shotgun. The strikers massed forward. Some of the workers were now carrying pangas and used them with deadly force, slashing one guard from armpit to hip and hacking two more to death. One of the bodies was burned beyond recognition. Over the following 24 hours, two miners were killed when they tried to go to work in the hours of darkness.

Looking back at these events, the Farlam inquiry uncovered fault on all sides: the opening violence by Lonmin and the NUM, a complete absence of investigation of that violence by the South African Police Service (SAPS), barbaric behaviour by those strikers who had killed people who defied them, and an apparently callous decision by Lonmin.

As counsel to the Farlam probe put it: “It appears that it was possible for Lonmin to close the mine in order to protect its workers but that for business reasons it elected not to do so.”

Veronica says that Mambush was worried, telling her in phone calls: “This is so messy. This is getting too violent.” She pleaded with him to come and stay with her, but it was at this point that he decided to try to take the lead, to steer the strikers away from violence and back to their real aim, to negotiate a pay rise.

The shacks the workers occupy in the shadow of Lonmin. (Paul Botes, M&G)

By early the next afternoon, Monday August 13, he was at the head of some 200 strikers who marched from the koppie to picket at one of the mineshafts, where they had heard NUM members were still working. When Lonmin security barred their way and told them no one was working there, Mambush simply turned the march around and headed back towards the koppie, only to be stopped by the police who insisted that they must give up the sticks and pangas they were carrying.

Police video caught Mambush, with Xolani by his side, reasoning with them: “Please open the way for us. That’s the only thing we are asking for. We are not fighting with anyone. We just want to go to the koppie.” Soon, the strikers had agreed that if the police would protect them from attack by NUM members they would surrender their weapons when they reached the safety of the koppie. The senior police officer on the scene appeared willing to accept this until – as the video shows – he took a phone call.

At that moment, the provincial police chief, Lieutenant General Mirriam Zukiswa Mbombo (who this week announced her retirement from the SAPS), was sitting with Lonmin managers, monitoring the strikers on closed-circuit television. Mbombo had joined the police in 1980 and had risen quickly through the ranks after the end of apartheid. She set up a joint operations centre in Lonmin’s office, where, according to evidence at the Farlam inquiry, her officers were working not only with the company but also with NUM officials who were helping them to identify strike leaders.

When his phone call ended, the senior officer was no longer willing to compromise. He would count to 10, he said, by which time the strikers must surrender all their sticks and pangas. The strikers replied by chanting in isiXhosa: “No matter how big you make your balls, you are nothing.” And with that, crouching low to show they planned no attack, Mambush at the fore, they began walking slowly towards the koppie.

Police video shows that all was peaceful for several minutes – until some officers lobbed teargas and stun grenades at the strikers. Nobody has ever established whether they were ordered to do this. The result was disastrous. The miners started to run. Police ran after them. Two officers were surrounded by strikers and cut down and killed. Strikers stole their guns.

In the melee, some of the dead men’s colleagues then turned on their own senior officer, blaming him for the deaths and threatening to kill him. Other officers pursued the fleeing strikers. Several miners were shot. Three died. None of them was carrying a firearm. One was shot through the head from an assault rifle at a distance of more than 70m.

That evening, photographs of the hacked bodies of the two dead officers are said to have been circulated among police officers across the country.

When Mambush and the others straggled back to the koppie, his cousin Mbulelo was there. He heard Mambush speak to the crowd, reporting the deaths. That evening, Mbulelo called Veronica and begged her to come to Marikana. “I tried to talk to him, told him he must come back, but he doesn’t want to listen to me,” he said. “He will listen to you. Please come.”

But Veronica could not come. She was working and had no money to get to Marikana. All she could do was warn Mambush: “If police officers are killed, this is a very, very dangerous situation.”

She says she was thinking he would get arrested and put in jail but that he seemed to have something worse in mind, telling her: “If anything happens to me, take care of everything, take care of my family, because I trust you.”

“Why? Where are you going?”

“If anything happens to me, be strong for my baby.”

Power of life and death

When Nelson Mandela took power in 1994, he was backed by the tripartite alliance of the ANC, trade union federation Cosatu and the South African Communist Party. What Mambush and his wife did not know was that his act of rebellion spat in the face of that alliance. Worse, members of the alliance were in contact with two of the most senior police officers in the country, who wielded not only political power but the power of life and death. There was a lot of activity behind the scenes.

On Monday evening – at about the same time as Mambush was talking to his wife – Albert Jamieson, the chief commercial officer of Lonmin, was writing to the minister of mines, Susan Shabangu, urging her to “bring the full might of the state to bear on the situation”. Shabangu had previously been deputy minister of safety and security. Notoriously, in April 2008, she had addressed a meeting of police officers with advice about dealing with offenders: “You must kill the bastards if they threaten you or your community. You must not worry about the regulations. That is my responsibility.”

A family photo of Mambush Noki.

On Tuesday August 14, as hundreds of strikers on the koppie were being given rites to keep them safe by the sangoma’s two sons, Lonmin executives met secretly with the provincial police chief, Mbombo. The meeting was recorded. The transcript shows Lonmin’s Mokwena making the bold declaration that the company’s priority was not negotiating or settling the strike but “getting people arrested”. Even bolder, the transcript shows that Mbombo stepped outside the conventional role of a police chief, encouraging the company to take a hard line.

Central to Mbombo’s thinking was the role of Cyril Ramaphosa – founder of the NUM, one of the founders of Cosatu, a man who had helped to write the new South African Constitution, one of the great heroes of the anti-apartheid movement. Like other ANC leaders, he had also been one of the beneficiaries of black economic empowerment.

By August 2012, through his company, Shanduka, Ramaphosa was reckoned to be worth some $700-million, with shares and directorships in numerous companies –including Lonmin. The former NUM leader’s company now owned 9% of Lonmin’s shares and he sat on its board as a nonexecutive director. National police commissioner Riah Phiyega had given Mbombo a strong hint that she had been coming under pressure from Lonmin representatives.

Mbombo explained to the Lonmin executives that Ramaphosa had been directly involved in expelling Julius Malema from the ANC. Now leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, Malema had turned up at the platinum mining strike at Impala a few months earlier, and had taken the credit for making peace. If Malema turned up and did the same at Marikana, she said, it would look as though he was in charge of the mines. The situation, she said, “has a serious political connotation that we need to take into account”.

And there was another alliance player to consider. Mbombo advised the Lonmin executives that they must be careful not to favour Amcu over the NUM. Mbombo was worried, she said, that by settling their strike, the Impala management had looked like allies of Amcu, and that generally trouble was erupting because the mining companies wanted to replace the NUM with the new union.

Mbombo was uncompromising. She would give the strikers a chance to surrender their weapons, she told Lonmin executives, and if that did not work: “Then it is blood.” She went on to qualify that, saying: “I do not want a situation where 20 people are dead. This is not what we are here for.” Lonmin’s Mokwena appeared not to understand this. During the meeting, he discussed the resources that were available to police, adding: “The ones that impress me – the snipers.”

But he and the police chief agreed on the central point. “We need to act such that we kill this thing,” said Mbombo.

“Immediately,” replied Mokwena.

The following day, Wednesday August 15, Ramaphosa was busy. From his position on the board of Lonmin he could have argued for negotiation, or even for a better deal for the workers. Instead – as a chain of emails released to the Farlam inquiry disclosed – he argued for the police to move in. In a message to fellow directors, he wrote: “The terrible events that have unfolded cannot be described as a labour dispute. They are plainly dastardly criminal and must be characterised as such … There needs to be concomitant action to address this situation.”

Mambush and the 4 000 men who were then on the koppie knew nothing of this. Indeed, they were hopeful. They had formally elected Mambush, Xolani and three others to speak for them. From the safety of an armoured car, officers had agreed to talk, with Mambush standing on their front bumper and leaning towards the windscreen to make sure they understood the one thing they wanted – negotiation.

Mambush Noki was laid to rest at the family home in Mqanduli outside Mthatha in the Eastern Cape. (Paul Botes, M&G)

Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa came to the koppie with a welcome message: a Lonmin executive had told him that if they would go back to work, the company would address their grievances. This looked like an agreement to negotiate. The strikers, who had not all joined Amcu, said they needed time to think and agreed that Mathunjwa should return to them at 9am the following morning. Mathunjwa told a senior police officer: “I believe that tomorrow will be a day of joy for everyone.”

That evening, in Johannesburg, the police’s national management forum was made aware of the Amcu leader’s initiative and its potential for peace. Yet, as an official minute recorded: “After deliberations, the meeting endorsed the proposal to disarm the protesting masses and further indicated that additional resources must be made available.” Mbombo’s phone records show that immediately after this meeting, she called two Lonmin executives. If police were ending the strike, Lonmin no longer had any reason to negotiate.

At Marikana that Wednesday night, more than 550 police officers gathered. Their leaders ordered 4 000 rounds of live ammunition and requested mortuary vans with berths for 16 bodies.

Dead end

Early on the morning of Thursday August 16, Mathun­jwa met Lonmin executives to sort out details of his plan for the strikers’ return to work. Unaware of the moves behind the scenes, he ran into a dead end: the company now refused to discuss anything. On the koppie, the strikers saw 9am pass with no sign of the Amcu leader.

At 9.30am, Mbombo held a press conference at which she said nothing about Mathunjwa’s plan and declared simply: “We are ending the strike today.” At 10.30am, still waiting for the Amcu leader, Mambush saw police rolling out barbed wire in front of the koppie and angrily called on them to take it away. At noon, Mathunjwa came to the koppie, told the strikers he was getting nowhere and then went back to try again.

Mambush tried to raise morale, talking to the strikers through a megaphone, his left hand beating the air, urging them to stay until Lonmin agreed to negotiate: “We are tired of being captive. We will decide who will remain here – either the police or us. You cannot have two bulls in the same kraal.” At 1.30pm, senior police met to discuss their plan to “disarm and disperse” the strikers. Ten minutes later, the Anglican bishop of Pretoria, Johannes Seoka, unexpectedly came to the koppie. Xolani says they asked him to send food and to urge Lonmin to speak to them. Xolani took his mobile phone number.

In the Lonmin office, Mathunjwa tried to speak to Mbombo and was told she had left the building. He offered Lonmin a compromise deal on the strikers’ wage demand, but representatives of the company declined to meet him.

At 3.30pm the Amcu leader came back to the koppie and spoke to the strikers with passion, at one point dropping to his knees: “Comrades, the life of a black person in Africa is so cheap … They will kill us, they will finish us and then they will replace us and continue to pay wages that cannot change black people’s lives. That would mean we were defeated and that the capitalists will win. But we have another way. We urge you – brothers, sisters, men – I am kneeling down – coming to you as nothing. Let us stop this bloodshed that the NUM allowed this employer to let flow. We do not want bloodshed!”

As he finished, hundreds of striking miners began to walk down from the koppie. Xolani was at the top and had been watching what looked like preparations for war: firearms being handed out, police vans with racks of coiled barbed wire, three helicopters circling. He called Mambush, who was in a small group at the foot of the koppie, on his phone to warn him.

One of those alongside him was Mzoxolo Magidiwana, known as Mzo, a burly locomotive driver aged 24. He knew Mambush from village football games in the Eastern Cape. He said that Mambush decided to lead the strikers away, saying: “Don’t run. We haven’t done anything wrong.”

Noki’s brother Mbulelo has a moment alone with the coffin before the burial. (Siphiwe Sibeko, Reuters)

Mzo stayed close to Mambush as their group set off on the walk to the nearest shack settlement some 400m across the wasteland. Video of the scene shows hundreds of armed police officers moving around them. As the group approached the settlement, a police van raced across in front of them, uncoiling barbed wire, which blocked their path.

Mambush led them to the left around a small animal enclosure, made of bushes and blackthorn trees. But as they reached the far side, with the settlement in front of them, more police vans blocked their path. There was teargas. A water cannon opened fire. And then bullets, from behind and to their left.

Mzo remembered them running to their right through a small gap between the enclosure and the settlement – straight into yet more bullets, this time from in front of them. He felt three bullets pierce his left side – in the buttock, ribs and elbow. He fell, saw others fall, saw Mambush go down, felt a fourth bullet in his right thigh as he squirmed on the ground. He lay still on his back. He said his legs would not move. The firing had stopped. Then two or three police officers were standing over him.

They started asking him about the sangoma whose sons had performed the traditional rituals for the strikers – who he was, where he was – and when he told them that he didn’t know, he says they shot him again in the right side of his ribs. They asked more questions, and then, he says, one of the officers kicked his legs apart and they shot him twice in the groin. Through the dust he could see Mambush, lying face downwards, the green blanket tangled around one shoulder, his mouth slightly open, dust on his tongue.

From the top of the koppie, Xolani had watched the attack begin. At first he was going to follow Mambush. He remembered hearing the shooting, running into a miner called Liau, saying he could not see Mambush any more and that now they must go in the other direction, where there were a few smaller koppies to hide in. But Liau ignored him and ran towards the settlement. He was shot in the chest – one of 17 men who died there. Xolani went in the opposite direction, tearing off his jacket as he went, in case it identified him as a strike leader and a target.

For 15 minutes, there was no firing. Then two groups of officers closed in on one of the two smaller koppies. Several dozen strikers were now hiding among its rocks and bushes. Police opened an explosion of intense fire – 295 bullets, many aimed from the top of the koppie down at the shapes of men huddling below. Seventeen more men died there. Police in one of the helicopters were lobbing stun grenades at fleeing miners.

As Xolani zig-zagged through the chaos, he pulled out his phone and called the number of the bishop of Pretoria. “Father, they are killing us.”

Green blanket

High over a valley in the Eastern Cape in March this year, 20 of Mambush’s family and friends gathered in a rondavel. They had come to talk to me and Jim Nichol, a veteran campaigning lawyer from London, who travelled to Marikana after the shootings and volunteered to represent the families of the 34 dead men. They talked about Mambush’s funeral, there in the village where he grew up, about how many hundreds came down from Johannesburg in coaches, and how they were joined by the local clan chief and by ward councillors. Even the police had tried to send representatives, but the villagers told them they were not welcome.

Mzo was not there – he stayed in hospital for three months. But Mbulelo was, carrying the coffin, as was Xolani, who was still involved in the strike. It held out for five weeks after the killings before Lonmin finally agreed to negotiate and to pay 7% higher wages. Veronica also came, with Asive. Tucked into her bag, she carried a green blanket stained with blood, which she burned as a kind of sacrament.

Nichol told them the latest from the Farlam inquiry, which not only explored the strike and shooting but also uncovered evidence that, when the killing was done, police officers planted weapons on some of the dead bodies and then set about “reverse engineering” a false story to justify their actions. Counsel for the inquiry accused six senior officers of giving false testimony and found that the police had concealed video and minutes that contradicted their story and fabricated other material to try to support it.

Mambush’s family talked about life in the village and about what has changed since 1994. The ragged old rondavels, which housed the junior school nearby, were torn down and replaced with new brick buildings. The government delivered a new tar road to the village, a new bus to take children to the high school (in his day, Mambush had to walk the 5km there and back) and a new health clinic.

And yet, they said, things have not changed so much. They still live in the three rondavels that formed the heart of their village, most of them sleeping on the ground. They still have no electricity. They cook over wood fires and use paraffin lamps for light. They still have no mains water supply and still drink from the same stream as their cattle. For some reason, they said, the new bus stopped running after less than a year. And the health clinic is too far to reach.

Above all, they said, they still have no real income. Since 1994, they had become better off. They have social grants – modest but nonetheless important state funds for pensioners and the sick. And at school there is a feeding scheme – porridge at the beginning of the day and a proper meal at lunchtime. But the reality is that now, as for decades, they still have to rely on menfolk, like Mambush, to migrate north to work beneath the ground and send home enough to keep them alive. Somewhere along the line, the engine of progress has stalled. – ©?Guardian News & Media 2015

South Africa panders to xenpohobia with migrant round-up and deportations



 Over 3,900 people arrested in xenophobia-related crackdown

May 17, 2015 | Agency Staff

Arrests of illegal immigrants prompts charges that the government is fanning xenophobic sentiment, though authorities deny the operation targeted foreigners

MORE than 3,900 people — including 1,650 illegal immigrants — have been arrested in South Africa during a controversial police crackdown after April’s deadly xenophobic violence, authorities said Sunday. “We are satisfied that we have stabilised the situation and further loss of life has been prevented,” a government statement said.

“Security agencies continue to work around the clock to protect both foreign nationals and South African citizens against any attacks.” The crackdown came after at least seven people were killed as mobs hunted down migrant workers from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and other African countries, forcing hundreds of terrified families to abandon their homes.

Rampant unemployment and poverty are seen as an underlying cause of the violence by South Africans who accused migrants of stealing their jobs.

The arrests of illegal immigrants has prompted charges that the government was fanning xenophobic sentiment, though authorities categorically denied that the operation targeted foreigners. Some 2,260 South Africans have been arrested on a variety of charges since the operation began. “We will, in the next weeks and months, accelerate our efforts to take back public buildings that have been hijacked, either by foreign nationals or by South Africans; rid our townships and villages of drugs … that are destroying the lives of many young people,” the government statement added.

Authorities are also going to continue with expulsions of foreigners. More than 400 Mozambicans were expelled Friday and 427 others in SA illegally are slated to be kicked out in the coming days.

While President Jacob Zuma has denounced the anti-immigrant violence he also promised to step up a crackdown on illegal immigration.

The police operation was strongly criticised during a rally Saturday in an immigrant neighbourhood in Johannesburg. “Its timing, coming in the wake of the violent attacks targeting in particular people of African origin, feeds into the misconceptions that migrants are to blame for all our social and economic ills,” said Zwelinzima Vavi, ex-secretary general of the Congress of South African Trade Unions. Since the end of apartheid, South Africa has attracted millions of migrants fleeing political and economic turmoil in their own countries.

Zimbabweans account for the largest population of migrants in South Africa, with some analysts estimating they make up 23% of the whole workforce.

With a youth unemployment rate of over 50% and a slowing economy, cheap foreign labour is a hot political issue.



Mozambicans protest against xenophobic attack in South Africa in Maputo. 25 April 2015
Mozambicans protested outside the South African embassy in Maputo against xenophobic attacks

South Africa has deported more than 400 Mozambicans, weeks after anti-foreigner violence in Durban and Johannesburg left several people dead.

The move follows a police operation that uncovered hundreds of undocumented migrants.

Many unemployed South Africans accuse foreigners of taking their jobs in a country where the unemployment rate is 24%.

Mozambique’s government said it was surprised by the deportations.

“We expected to hold talks with the South Africans to discuss the problem, but we just saw people being arrested,” said Foreign Minister Oldemiro Baloi.

A wave of xenophobic attacks in April left at least seven people dead, including one Mozambican.

Mobs targeted workers from Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Mozambique and other African countries.

Correspondents say that although South African authorities condemned the violence, they have also sought to address complaints about foreigners working illegally in the country.

Foreign nationals pack up their shops in the small village of Primrose, near Germiston about 15km east of Johannesburg, on 16 April 2015
Many foreign nationals closed their shops after the violence in Johannesburg

Officials have strongly denied that the police operation targeted foreigners.

A government statement on Sunday said that more than 3,900 people, including 1,650 illegal immigrants, had been arrested since April’s clashes.

“We are satisfied that we have stabilised the situation and further loss of life has been prevented,” the statement said.

“Security agencies continue to work around the clock to protect both foreign nationals and South African citizens against any attacks.”

Many of the deported Mozambicans have been housed in tents in a transit centre near the capital Maputo.

When violence erupted, Mozambique set up border camps to cope with the exodus of its citizens.

Police officers advance to enter men's hostel after xenophobic violence in the area overnight forced foreign shop owners to close their shops for fear of attack in Actonville, Johannesburg on 16 April 2015
Riot police tried to prevent the attacks on foreigners in Johannesburg

Jose Macuacua said he had entered South Africa illegally and had lived there for two years selling mobile phone SIM cards.

“The police first asked for my ID, which I didn’t have,” he said, adding that he hadn’t been allowed to gather his belongings before he was taken to a repatriation centre.

Maria da Gloria Mathe said she and her husband had lived in the city of Rustenburg for four years selling clothes.

“We collected what we could in a hurry because the police were standing at the door of our shop,” she said.

South African President Jacob Zuma described last month’s violence as “shocking” and appealed for calm.

Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini was accused of fuelling the attacks by saying that foreigners should “go back to their countries”. However, he said his comments had been distorted.

South Africa – migrants scared of leaving camps because of xenophobia attacks

Mail and Guardian

here have been very limited government-led reintegration efforts after the xenophobic violence, writes Emi Maclean from Médecins Sans Frontières.

The conflict that killed her father pushed Elvira Munezero, a 39-year-old nurse-midwife, to flee Burundi in 2004. She and her husband, Jean Njoragoze, sought refuge in South Africa where she has been working to provide medical care to patients at St Mary’s hospital in Pinetown in KwaZulu-Natal. With a president refusing to step down, Burundi is on a knife-edge again and many of its citizens have left the country in search of safety. But in South Africa, xenophobic violence has sent Burundians fleeing for their lives.

Elvira and her husband and five children are among approximately 887 people in the last remaining camp for displaced people in Chatsworth outside Durban. Following the attacks last month, nearly 8 000 displaced people sought shelter in three camps around Durban. Within a fortnight there were mass repatriations of Zimbabweans, Mozambicans and Malawians – 2 000 left on 39 buses – and later the camps were consolidated into a single camp.


The residents of this camp now consist primarily of Congolese and Burundian refugees and asylum-seekers who cannot safely go back to their home countries. A smaller number of people – approximately 45 from Mozambique, Kenya, Rwanda Tanzania and Zimbabwe – chose not to be repatriated but do not yet feel safe to leave the camp. An additional 100 people live in a shelter in the town, and many others, including Somalis and Ethiopians, remain displaced throughout the city.

Merely looking at the numbers – the official death toll of seven – does not reflect the greater impact of xenophobia in KwaZulu-Natal and elsewhere in South Africa. Hundreds of shops and businesses were looted and destroyed, there were countless non-fatal injuries, migrants embarked on a mass exodus from Durban, and South Africa has been plunged into a deep crisis of faith and trust. It appears that South Africa is eager to swiftly move on from history repeating itself. A flurry of #StopXenophobia hashtags and talk of reintegration are juxtaposed against recent security operations that aim to sweep away the inconvenient reality of migration and the vulnerability of people forced to live on the margins of society, all in the name of crime prevention.

Where were the police?

But Elvira and fellow residents of Chatsworth ask: “Where were the police when the mobs were attacking us? How can we go back to a community where our own neighbours turned against us? We have seen this violence more than once, how can we trust that it won’t return?”

Last week psychologists from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) assessed people in the Chatsworth camp and found that many have symptoms of post-traumatic stress consistent with those of people living in camps in South Sudan and Central African Republic, where people are fleeing active conflicts. Some of those displaced in Durban face multiple and compounded trauma, with this most recent displacement added to others experienced before. The trauma related to repeated insults in their everyday life in South Africa was also striking.

Their fear is real. Government characterises Mozambican Emmanuel Josias Sithole’s killing as purely criminal. Malawian Francois Kandulu’s body was found decapitated at a railway line next to a KwaZulu-Natal displacement camp, classified as an accident or a suicide.

But those people affected by xenophobic violence are not all convinced – more so after Congolese and Ethiopian nationals were killed last week in KwaZulu-Natal. Congolese hairdresser Lumona Ziko was killed outside his home in Pietermaritzburg only four days after he returned from a temporary shelter. Ethiopian shopkeeper Etebo Kebed was gunned inside his shop after receiving threats.

The killings are high water marks, but displaced people narrate a flood of testimonies of the repeated daily discrimination they face in taxis, on street corners, in workplaces and schools, and in accessing public services, from hospitals to police stations.

Since mid-April, MSF has worked with eThekwini authorities to provide medical care, psychosocial care and water and sanitation support for people displaced by xenophobic violence in Durban. MSF provided similar support following the xenophobic violence in 2008.

Camps cannot be a long-term, or even medium-term, solution for people displaced by xenophobic violence. They are an emergency stopgap measure to ensure security, shelter and survival. They must meet international standards, and every effort must be made to ensure that they need not last beyond the emergency phase.

Thus far, however, there have been only very limited government-led reintegration efforts – mostly reaching out to councillors and other local government leaders without involving people who are displaced. Only a few dozen individuals have been transported from camps accompanied by armed police officers. Where such mechanisms must be deployed, it is a sign that communities may not yet be ready to accept retuning foreign nationals.

While the government’s re-integration plan does include extensive community dialogues, there is room for greater inclusiveness. Experiences from 2008 show that from-the-ground-up reintegration efforts bear lasting fruit. In Khayelitsha, in the Western Cape, communities organised themselves to stem the tide of violence in 2008 and welcome the displaced back home. Now, in 2015, there have been proactive efforts to ensure that violence does not return and that foreign nationals feel protected.

Conflicting message

The South African government should allow its words of condemnation to be matched by its action, not contracted. Breaking from its initial sluggish response to the xenophobic violence, governmental actors then spoke forcefully in opposition to the violence. Yet more recently the government launched a recent crackdown netting undocumented foreigners through Operation Fiela-Reclaim, which is sends a conflicting message that is deeply at odds with its role of urging reconciliation, dialogue and reintegration to the public.

Minister Jeff Radebe, who heads inter-ministerial committee on migration, says that Operation Fiela-Reclaim is “an operation to rid our country of illegal weapons, drug dens, prostitution rings and other illegal activities” – but the statistics tell a different story.

The number of arrests from far outstrip the total of the reported arrests (307) made in April in connection with xenophobic violence. Deploying the military, police and home affairs officials with increased strength and resources by last week led to the arrest of 745 undocumented foreigners – more than doubling the population of the Lindela repatriation centre as they await eventual deportation. While government says these arrests aim to crack down on crime and restore order, fewer than 50 people among the total of 889 were arrested for crimes such as assault, murder, illegal weapons possession, or drug-related crimes.

Given that virtually all of those people arrested have been cited for being in South Africa without documents and nothing more, these sweeping operations are an uncommonly militarised response to contravening immigration law. It is hard not to believe that these actions signify a frantic knee-jerk security clampdown.

Such actions send a message that foreigners are a criminal scourge, rather than people fleeing abuses or seeking a better life. This wrongly reinforces an “us versus them” mentality in the minds of ordinary South Africans. In fact, the aggressive arrest, detention and deportations of undocumented foreigners suggest potential to exacerbate xenophobia further.

Xenophobia must not be tolerated – whether it is severe violence or the daily prejudice and occasional killing and targeting of foreign shopkeepers that has become all too familiar in South Africa.

The strong public and political cries for tolerance must not be limited to this moment and we should recognise that mass exodus of foreigners is evidence of our society failing collectively. We need to work harder to root out xenophobia – at the very least we all owe it to the individuals and communities affected in recent weeks – but also foreign nationals who undoubtedly will continue to come to South Africa as migrants, refugees or asylum seekers because their desperate circumstances.

  • Emi MacLean and Sharon Ekambaram work for Médecins Sans Frontières in KwaZulu-Natal

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