Vavi: Marikana a Wake-Up Call
The shooting at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana in the North West must be a wake-up call for everyone, Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said on Wednesday.
"The shocking levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality lie at the heart of the increasingly violent protests we are seeing in both workplaces and communities," Vavi said in a speech prepared for delivery in the Eastern Cape.
"It is creating what until recently Cosatu has called ticking bombs. After the events at Marikana on 16 August 2012 we now must talk of exploding bombs."
He said people must wait for the judicial commission of inquiry to investigate and reveal what happened on the day when 34 miners were shot dead.
Vavi was talking at the Daily Dispatch and the University of Fort Hare dialogues on Wednesday.
On August 16, police fired on a group of protesting workers from Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana, North West, killing 34 and wounding 78. Another 10 people were killed earlier that week, including two policemen and two security guards.
Vavi said Cosatu was concerned about the police's "skiet en donner" response.
"We must specifically demand answers to allegations that workers were shot in the back while running away, contradicting the police statement they faced an armed, frontal attack.
"We need to know why the police made no attempt to meet the workers before the violence erupted and try to reason with them," he said.
At the same time striking workers needed to move away from taking dangerous weapons such as pangas and spears to demonstrations.
Vavi said superstitions and elements of backwardness on the part of workers also needed to be addressed.
Before the shooting protesting Lonmin mineworkers had reportedly taken muti from a renowned traditional healer that they believed made them invincible.
Miners who survived the shooting said they were made to believe that if they used muti by a traditional healer known as Nzabe in the Eastern Cape, bullets would not harm them.
Vavi said trade unions could not avoid examining what lessons Marikana held for them.
"[We must] ask what we ourselves could have done better to avert such a tragedy," he said.
Vavi bemoaned the formation of splinter unions and politicians that promoted them.
"They undermine the need for unity and strength. 'United we stand, divided we fall' is not empty rhetoric, but the key to transforming workers' lives, and building a better world," he said.
However, Cosatu and its affiliates had to reassess whether they were operating in the best way to defend workers and stop breakaway unions, Vavi said.