South Africa is particularly rich in mineral resources and is one of the leading raw material exporters in the world. Rightly so, South Africa can produce all the minerals necessary for her economic independence. Gold, diamonds, platinum, chromium, manganese, uranium, ire ore and coal make up 60 % of it's main exports. The country is also number one globally in exporting platinum, chromium, vandium and manganese. Africa is also the world's largest gold producer. It has enormous gold ore reserves representing 40% of global reserves.
However, 95% of South Africa's gold mines are underground operations. Declining grades of the mines and the increased depth of mining and a shift in the gold price, costs for these operations had begun to rise and as a result production has been steadily falling. The gold mining industry is the largest sector of mining industry. It constitutes around 60% of South Africa's mining labor for.
As of 2007, the South African mining industry employs 493,000 workers
In 2005 the total gold production was 294,671 kg
the total iron ore production was 39.5 Mt
the total chromium production was 7.59 Mt
the total manganese production was 4.61 Mt
the total platinum production was 302, 000 kg
the total coal production was 245 Mt
the total diamond production was 15.8 million karats
Mine workers are under-paid and over-worked. Declining grades of mines and increased depth of mining as lead to an increase in workplace injuries and deaths. Issues of mine safety received increased scrutiny during 2007, in large part due to multiple worker deaths. During 2006, 199 workers were killed during workplace accidents, and 191 have been killed during 2007. Around 200 workers die yearly in South African mines. One incident on October 4 2007 resulted in 3,200 workers being trapped for several hours.
Ultimately, class, racism and capitalism are at the root of most of the problems in South Africa. Capitalism is a society that is divided by class and is dominated by the corporate community and upper class. The working class thus consists of all the people in society who do not own property and therefore have to sell their labor power - the ability to do work- to a boss in order to earn a living.
The interests of the working class are fundamentally opposed to the ruling elite - the corporate community and upper class. The companies must seek ways to make profits, even at the detriment of their employees, the very people who are responsible for creating their wealth.
Disregard for safety precautions aids capital by continually accumulating profit, yet it hurts the working class, specifically miners, who suffer fatal injuries in high numbers. Cuts in wages and refusal to accommodate union demands for wage increases, further harms the working class by lowering their standard of living at the expense of increased revenue for mining companies.
The working class therefore has a direct interest in improving all aspects of the mining industry, whereas capital does not. The solutions lie within the working class since it's success is in its best interest.
Is There an Alternative?
Anarchist-Syndicalist and libertarian communist theory holds that the best people to run an industry are the workers and users of that service. Worker safety is held hostage to profitability and bureaucracy. Rather than private ownership and a monopolization of decision making roles by owners and managers, public ownership of the means of production through a decentralized system of federated workers and neighborhood councils would prove far superior. These councils would act as channels to allow participants to exercise direct democracy and gives ordinary citizens the ability to control their own lives.
Strategy to Get Us There
There are many different tactics that can be utilized to the bring increasing power into the hands of South African miners. Fighting for an increase in wages, shorter working hours and improved working conditions ensure a more efficient and happier workforce, while at the same time, increasing class consciousness and working class militancy. Miners must self-organize to demand these rights and be prepared to take direct action to hit the corporations where it hurts the most, their bank accounts.
Direct actions such as mass rallies and protests with the support of the community and strikes would be ways to achieving these ends. The key is strengthening rank and file organizations of miners and creating mass organizations in neighboring communities that will struggle alongside these worker controlled groups. This is as anarcho-syndicalist theorist Rudolph Rocker notes, as creating "not only the ideas, but also the facts of the future itself"; that these self-managed organizations embody the structure of a future society.
Sala kahle(Stay well in isiZulu)
Monday, January 28, 2008