The government, unions and labor analysts agree that labor relations in the country have largely stabilized since the deadly Marikana strike 10 years ago.

FILE: Lonmin miners in Marikana sing ahead of the anniversary at Lonmin’s Marikana mine where 34 striking platinum workers were shot dead by police on August 16, 2012. Photo: Gia Nicolaides/Eyewitness News

MARIKANA – Government, unions and labor analysts agree that labor relations in the country have largely stabilized since the deadly Marikana strike 10 years ago.

August 10 marks the tenth anniversary of the second day of unprotected action that saw thousands of miners descend on the Wonderkop, the great rock, or kopi as it is known in South Africa, which is now a monument to a disaster that will forever reflect the collapse of centralized collective bargaining.

To this day ten years ago, several miners had already been injured in shootings or killed as intimidation of workers who showed up for duty was the order of the day.

Since then, there have been changes in labor rules, mainly driven by the judiciary through several rulings in disputes that have left many feeling that violent, deadly strikes on the scale of Marikana are behind us.

The usual uproar in the South African labor market, which means workers are fighting for better wages and conditions.

Among other weapon options, they carried a nabkerer, a short stick with a hump at the top.

This is no longer a prominent feature of strikes in the country, and the Department of Employment and Labour’s Chief Industrial Relations Officer Thembinkosi Mhalifi explains why.

“We have also published a code of good practice for industrial action which shows what is acceptable and what is not acceptable and the idea was that this code would be brought to all the CCMA companies and we could take them to the workshop,” said Mkhalifi. .

Adjustments have also been made regarding who can call a strike. ​Although the provision has since been challenged in the courts, ironically Amcu sided with the Marikana miners in 2012 and has grown in size as a result.

“After Marikana, we amended the law to take into account the right to strike, to limit the right to strike a little bit to ensure a secret ballot before a strike,” said Mkhalifi.

However, some of the most fundamental changes have occurred in the judicial system.

A 2018 Constitutional Court ruling ruled in favor of the right of minority unions to engage in collective bargaining, stressing that they should not be limited to threshold agreements struck by bosses and major unions.

Mining labor analyst Mamokgeti Malapyane expands on this: “I thought the decision in the recent Numsa trial was so clear that the judge didn’t emphasize it anymore because it seems the union leaders have forgotten that the role of the unions is to to serve the membership, so it should no longer be seen that unions serve the whims, interests, desires and ambitions of leaders who want to rise to higher positions or do more to stay in power forever, but ultimately it is the interests of the workers.”

The biggest achievement for the miners, who were forced to live with the wounds of a strike and massacre by police in Marikana a decade ago, has been higher wages, with job stability and peace paramount for many.

However, their ambition to earn more than R12,500 was only realized after the historic five-month strike in the platinum sector in 2014.

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