Miners' Story Strikes Chord in Our History
Byline: Joe Higgins ANOTHER VOICE
CURRENTLY there are 100,000 mineworkers on strike in South Africa in a movement that is convulsing the most important sector of the economy and society as a whole. South Africa's platinum and gold mines are owned by the biggest mining multinationals in the world.
However, despite the huge profits which they have accumulated over the decades, the mining companies are notorious for the gross exploitation of their workers who are forced to work in dirty and dangerous conditions.
The strike movement represents a struggle for decent wages, afer working conditions and to be accorded a modicum of human dignity in their daily lives.
When the black majority in South Africa was heroically resisting the barbaric Apartheid regime, that struggle was followed worldwide with great sympathy and huge support.
Events like the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 and the heroic uprising of the youth in the township of Soweto in 1976 are regarded as iconic, and also hugely tragic, milestones along the hard road to liberation.
Eighteen years on from the overthrow of white rule and the coming to power of the African National Congress with a massive majority vote, the new struggle that has erupted can prove as decisive as the anti-Apartheid movement in shaping the future of this country of 48 million people with a massive gulf between a small rich elite and the impoverished majority.
Unfortunately, this massive movement for workers' rights is going on with scant reportage in those sections of the media that are most accessible to ordinary people in this country.
The heroic determination of the miners in their struggle, and the brutality with which they have been met, reflects the profound issues at stake for the protagonists on all sides.
The workers' raw anger is driven by the extreme exploitation they endure. The bosses of the big mining conglomerates, on the other hand, in resisting the miners' demands, are defending their huge profits.
Hence, they have met the workers' demands with a callousness strikingly reminiscent of how the Dublin employers, led by William Martin Murphy, in 1913, tried to break their workers' demands for decent wages and an improvement in their poverty stricken living conditions.
The struggle by the mineworkers has been at a high level for months now. The first big company hit was Lonmin, a huge platinum mining company, which saw its workforce go out on strike in a place called Marikana near Rustenburg which is to the north west of Johannesburg. …