BBC TV: From Sharpeville To Marikana

Politicsweb.co.za

Paul Trewhela

BBC television screened a major documentary in Britain on Wednesday night, “South Africa: The massacre that changed a nation”, with a quite exceptional political reach across more than 50 years: from the massacre at Sharpeville in 1960 to the massacre at Marikana last year.

That grim framework from one massacre by armed police to another – from the apartheid state under the rule of the National Party to present-day South Africa, after nearly 20 years of ANC government – from black-and-white to colour, in documentary footage  – received a thread of continuity from its presenter, a former British cabinet minister whose parents had been banned activists of the long defunct Liberal Party of South Africa in Pretoria, where he grew up.

Peter Hain – chairman in 1969 and 1970 of the Stop the Tour campaign in Britain against cricket and rugby matches played against teams from apartheid South Africa, and today a veteran Labour Party MP, with a constituency in a former mining area in Wales – travelled across South Africa’s social, racial and geographical spectrum. He interviewed high and low, from President Jacob Zuma in green official gardens to the mother of a slain Marikana miner, destitute on a hilltop in the Eastern Cape.

Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke affectionately recalled bars of chocolate which Hain’s mother, Adelaine, had brought him every day while he was a youngster awaiting trial, before serving his ten-year term on Robben Island – the site of another interview, with Nelson Mandela’s Rivonia Trial co-accused, Ahmed Kathrada.

A survivor of the shootings at Marikana on 16 August last year was counterposed with a senior executive of Lonmin, and both counterposed with Julius Malema giving forth about poverty and nationalisation on his own luxurious green lawn.

“My husband was killed by the ANC”, said the widow of a Marikana miner.

“The media exaggerates”, said President Zuma, as he explained (and explained away) his Nkandla estate, professing ignorance of its actual costs. The difficulty at Marikana, regrettable as it was, had been “provoked.” (As a journalist explained: the president’s new Secrecy Law, more terrible than anything under apartheid, was his solution to the nuisance caused to him by others).

“White monopoly capital” collaborating with the ANC state, said Julius Malema, adding that the government had no clear idea about how to “resolve the two economies”, of those in the abyss and those enjoying the good life in Sandton.

“It looked like the ANC turned its guns on its own people,” reflected Peter Hain, who 48 years ago as a 15-year-old delivered the memorial address which his parents were barred from giving themselves, after their family friend John Harris was hanged in Pretoria Central prison for the Johannesburg station bomb of the previous July, which killed an old woman and maimed many others. His parents’ friend, Jill Wentzel, author of The Liberal Slideaway and veteran champion of the Black Sash, sitting in the same courtroom, recalled the grim face of the hanging judge on the day of sentencing.

Ferial Haffajee, editor of City Press, spoke of corruption, while Ronnie Kasrils – ex-minister in both Nelson Mandela’s and Thabo Mbeki’s governments, and former head of military intelligence in Umhonto we Sizwe in exile – spoke of a “comprador class” of black tenderpreneurs which had become attached to the structures of white-owned capital, resulting, he said, in “crisis.”

Guided by associate producer Sue Cullinan, the programme provided as sharp and accurate a survey of South Africa’s great historic conflicts and their only very limited resolution as any likely to be seen.

But between the denialism of the President (looking and sounding very uncomfortable) and the demagogic mirage of a statist heaven asserted by a very comfortable Mr Malema, there was no leadership.

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South Africa: The Massacre That Changed a Nation, BBC Two, Review

Telegraph

I had assumed that South Africa: the Massacre That Changed a Nation (BBC Two) would be a documentary telling the story of what happened at the Marikana platinum mine, the largest in the world, near Johannesburg, last August. Thirty-four miners were shot dead by police as they protested over poor pay. The shootings were all the more shocking for having taken place in the full view of television news, as if nothing overly untoward was occurring.

But Labour MP Peter Hain’s outstanding film (part of the BBC’s excellent This World strand) offered much more than just a dab of background to go with a reminder of what took place. Hain, who was brought up in Pretoria and became a staunch anti-apartheid protester once his parents were hounded out of South Africa and moved to the UK, portrayed the Marikana massacre as the fruition of social and economic bad seeds sown when the ANC first came to power.

Hain and film-maker John Thynne had put the legwork in – from trekking up mountain paths to interview family members of miners who’d been killed, to buttonholing the CEO of Lonmin, the British company that runs the mine. From all this he assembled a picture of a South Africa that 20 years after the end of apartheid is still ruinously divided – but along lines of wealth and power now, instead of just race.

What really impressed was that for once the celebrity name in front of the camera had used his contacts and clout to bring the film something it otherwise couldn’t have had. Here, that meant everything from evidence that the massacre was pre-arranged to an interview with President Jacob Zuma. As Zuma smiled and squirmed in the face of an impressive Hain cross-examination, it struck you that whatever new dawn the end of apartheid was meant to bring, this surely wasn’t it.

Read More

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South Africa: a crisis for business over social reform

Guardian

I was recently in South Africa to make a film for the BBC, and everyone thought the horrific police massacre of striking miners – 34 killed and 78 injured – at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine last August was a watershed for the country. It seemed to symbolise the unresolved legacy of apartheid: a wealthy white-owned corporation pitted against its poor black workers. Lonmin took me underground to observe its awesomely impressive hi-tech operation. More than 30,000 are employed in a complex of mine shafts and smelters stretching across 250 sq km, producing nearly a quarter of all the world’s platinum, and part of a mining industry that contributes a vital fifth of South Africa’s economic output.

Yet in the shadow of the mine, most of its migrant workers live in Wonderkop, a sprawling shanty settlement of 40,000 people with no running water, no proper electricity, no sewage – families in unspeakable poverty. I saw even more destitute circumstances 700 miles south near Mandela’s birthplace in the Transkei, home to the widow of one murdered strikers, their extended family income suddenly destroyed. It was hard to see how two decades of democracy had made any improvement to their living standards.

Under apartheid, government and big business were run exclusively by the white minority. When white rule finally came to an end, the fear was that white businesses and investors would flee. Instead a deal was struck. Mandela’s extraordinary leadership and insistence on reconciliation ensured a peaceful transition toward a stable multiracial democracy. Big business was reassured and stayed. A black majority now ran the government but the white minority still ran the economy. This deal could not have been otherwise or the emergence of the joyous “rainbow nation” would never have occurred.

But it is a deal now in crisis. Companies like Lonmin have brought black South Africans into their management – they recently appointed a black African CEO, Ben Magara. A new black business elite has been empowered– even creating some black billionaires. In return the ANC-aligned trade unions have tried to ensure strike-free production, with some of their leaders also part of the new enriched black elite.

The arrangement met the requirements of global investor confidence, but left most workers on low wages and, at Marikana, their ANC-aligned National Union of Mineworkers – a pillar of the anti-apartheid struggle – lost rank and file credibility to a breakaway union. Negotiations collapsed and violence soon followed, the ANC appearing to turn its guns on its own people with dreadful echoes of apartheid.

Marikana has become an emblem of what ANC critics say is a cosy deal with white-run business at the expense of South Africa’s poor – triggering grassroots disaffection worsened by local and national ANC leader corruption. Simply co-opting a black elite into the same unequal, white controlled economy is not sustainable. But can necessary economic reform to give all a much greater stake be achieved without jeopardising competitive realities and global investor confidence?

Many of South Africa’s fundamentals are still strong: a constitutional democracy, an independent judiciary and above all a strong and vocal civil society. It has a wealthy economy, with a transparent, well regulated legal and financial structure, accounting for fully a fifth of total GDP for Africa – with a population of 50 million in a continent of 1 billion. Now a member of the Brazil-Russia-India-China Brics nations, it is ideally placed to be the gateway for fast rising African economic growth.

The ANC has brought electricity, housing, water and sanitation to millions. Nevertheless a growing population, swelled by some three million immigrants from Mali to Zimbabwe, means the demand for basic services seems insatiable. There are horrendous levels of black unemployment, worsened by apartheid’s deliberate policy of ensuring blacks had no skills. Despite the ANC doubling the numbers at school, teachers who take great pride in high standards then despair when their bright, well qualified pupils cannot get either appropriate, or any, jobs.

Carefully thought-out ANC pro-poor economic policies, with a lot of money spent on development plans, are intended to make a difference, but there is a chronic lack of government capacity and delivery – further hindered by political and administrative corruption.

The economy has hardly changed from its old role: to deliver for just 9% of the population – except that this now includes a new black element. There seem to be only two options: the one is to develop a new social compact where privilege and reward is renegotiated in favour of a more equal dispensation. The other is to face a revolution of rising expectations and frustration where South Africa could once again become as ungovernable as it was during the dog years of apartheid.

These are stark choices – but some within the ANC are seriously rethinking the model they inherited. Charismatic national trade union leader Zwelinzima Vavi has talked about the country’s “Lula” moment. There is plenty of evidence, not only that Brazil has done a great deal to narrow the gap between rich and poor nations, but also that South Africa’s economic thinkers are preparing to use some of the same strategies.

The ANC’s Strategic Intervention in the Minerals Sector (Sims) report, adopted at its December policy conference, looks at some of Brazil’s financial planning, like borrowing from the insurance/pensions sector and using state-owned enterprises to promote social development – which the private sector does not automatically do.

The ANC is trying out something crucial to those who want an alternative to the predominant global neoliberal economic model. But simultaneously maintaining essential international investor confidence and promoting social justice is difficult enough in a society like Britain, let alone South Africa with an apartheid legacy which remains a gigantic millstone around the country’s neck.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/22/south-africa-crisis-business

South Africa: a crisis for business over social reform

Guardian

I was recently in South Africa to make a film for the BBC, and everyone thought the horrific police massacre of striking miners – 34 killed and 78 injured – at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine last August was a watershed for the country. It seemed to symbolise the unresolved legacy of apartheid: a wealthy white-owned corporation pitted against its poor black workers. Lonmin took me underground to observe its awesomely impressive hi-tech operation.  More than 30,000 are employed in a complex of mine shafts and smelters stretching across 250 sq km, producing nearly a quarter of all the world’s platinum, and part of a mining industry that contributes a vital fifth of South Africa’s economic output.

Yet in the shadow of the mine, most of its migrant workers live in Wonderkop, a sprawling shanty settlement of 40,000 people with no running water, no proper electricity, no sewage – families in unspeakable poverty. I saw even more destitute circumstances 700 miles south near Mandela’s birthplace in the Transkei, home to the widow of one murdered strikers, their extended family income suddenly destroyed.   It was hard to see how two decades of democracy had made any improvement to their living standards.

Under apartheid, government and big business were run exclusively by the white minority. When white rule finally came to an end, the fear was that white businesses and investors would flee. Instead a deal was struck. Mandela’s extraordinary leadership and insistence on reconciliation ensured a peaceful transition toward a stable multiracial democracy. Big business was reassured and stayed. A black majority now ran the government but the white minority still ran the economy. This deal could not have been otherwise or the emergence of the joyous “rainbow nation” would never have occurred.

But it is a deal now in crisis. Companies like Lonmin have brought black South Africans into their management – they recently appointed a black African CEO, Ben Magara. A new black business elite has been empowered– even creating some black billionaires. In return the ANC-aligned trade unions have tried to ensure strike-free production, with some of their leaders also part of the new enriched black elite.

The arrangement met the requirements of global investor confidence, but left most workers on low wages and, at Marikana, their ANC-aligned National Union of Mineworkers – a pillar of the anti-apartheid struggle – lost rank and file credibility to a breakaway union. Negotiations collapsed and violence soon followed, the ANC appearing to turn its guns on its own people with dreadful echoes of apartheid.

Marikana has become an emblem of what ANC critics say is a cosy deal with white-run business at the expense of South Africa’s poor –  triggering grassroots disaffection worsened by local and national ANC leader corruption. Simply co-opting a black elite into the same unequal, white controlled economy is not sustainable. But can necessary economic reform to give all a much greater stake be achieved without jeopardising competitive realities and global investor confidence?

Many of South Africa’s fundamentals are still strong: a constitutional democracy, an independent judiciary and above all a strong and vocal civil society. It has a wealthy economy, with a transparent, well regulated legal and financial structure, accounting for fully a fifth of total GDP for Africa – with a population of 50 million in a continent of 1 billion. Now a member of the Brazil-Russia-India-China Brics nations, it is ideally placed to be the gateway for fast rising African economic growth.

The ANC has brought electricity, housing, water and sanitation to millions. Nevertheless a growing population, swelled by some three million immigrants from Mali to Zimbabwe, means the demand for basic services seems insatiable. There are horrendous levels of black unemployment, worsened by apartheid’s deliberate policy of ensuring blacks had no skills. Despite the ANC doubling the numbers at school, teachers who take great pride in high standards then despair when their bright, well qualified pupils cannot get either appropriate, or any, jobs.

Carefully thought-out ANC pro-poor economic policies, with a lot of money spent on development plans, are intended to make a difference, but there is a chronic lack of government capacity and delivery – further hindered by political and administrative corruption.

The economy has hardly changed from its old role: to deliver for just 9% of the population – except that this now includes a new black element. There seem to be only two options: the one is to develop a new social compact where privilege and reward is renegotiated in favour of a more equal dispensation. The other is to face a revolution of rising expectations and frustration where South Africa could once again become as ungovernable as it was during the dog years of apartheid.

These are stark choices – but some within the ANC are seriously rethinking the model they inherited. Charismatic national trade union leader Zwelinzima Vavi has talked about the country’s “Lula” moment. There is plenty of evidence, not only that Brazil has done a great deal to narrow the gap between rich and poor nations, but also that South Africa’s economic thinkers are preparing to use some of the same strategies.

The ANC’s Strategic Intervention in the Minerals Sector (Sims) report, adopted at its December policy conference, looks at some of Brazil’s financial planning, like borrowing from the insurance/pensions sector and using state-owned enterprises to promote social development – which the private sector does not automatically do .

The ANC is trying out something crucial to those who want an alternative to the predominant global neoliberal economic model. But simultaneously maintaining essential international investor confidence and promoting social justice is difficult enough in a society like Britain, let alone South Africa with an apartheid legacy which remains a gigantic millstone around the country’s neck.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/22/south-africa-crisis-business

Marikana mine massacre casts long shadow

BBC

South Africa changed irrevocably when apartheid was abolished and the African National Congress came to power. But in an emotional return to the country of his youth, the British MP and former government minister Peter Hain came face to face with the bitter legacy of last year’s shootings at the Marikana mine.

It was a moving homecoming.

I returned to my old school where in Pretoria, in my day in the early 1960s, apartheid decreed it was for whites only. This time, I witnessed blacks and whites, friends and students together.

I interviewed an old comrade of my anti-apartheid parents in the Supreme Courtroom, where Nelson Mandela had been on trial for his life in 1964 and where that same year a close family friend had been sentenced to death.

The emotional turmoil of those grim apartheid years coming flooding back.

I met Dikgang Moseneke who told me how, as a frightened 15-year-old on a treason charge, my mother Adelaine had comforted him by bringing him a bar of his cherished chocolate every day – until he was sentenced to 10 years on Robben Island.

He is now South Africa’s acclaimed Deputy Chief Justice.

I was thrilled to witness multi-racial cricket played at Cape Town’s international arena, Newlands, Table Mountain majestic behind.

After my parents were forced to leave in 1966 for exile in Britain, I led protests in the UK to disrupt all-white South African rugby and cricket tours.

Then I could only hope and believe that this would bring about change – here at Newlands was the proof, visible all around me.

After Nelson Mandela walked to freedom from 27 years in prison, later to lead his country, he began a process of joyous transformation from evil and bitterness.

South Africa today is an amazing and beautiful country to visit, with an infectious spirit of energy and liberation.

But I was dismayed to find rampant corruption – and bitter resentment directed towards the African National Congress which freed the country but whose leaders are now widely accused, by their own supporters, of self-enrichment.

And one word came up time and again: “Marikana”.

Last August’s terrible police massacre of striking black miners – killing 34 and injuring 78 – symbolises a crisis facing the country.

At Lonmin’s Marikana Platinum mine north-west of Johannesburg, I heard shocking stories of cold-blooded executions and torture – reminiscent of some of the worst atrocities of apartheid.

Lawyers representing families of the dead and injured told me, on the margins of an official Commission of Inquiry, that the massacre seemed pre-planned. This is denied by the police and Lonmin.

At least under the country’s vibrant multi-racial democracy the truth will come out whereas under apartheid, barbarity was invariably covered up.

But it was still shocking to hear a white police ballistics expert confirm to the inquiry that the machine guns used against the defenceless miners were “weapons of war”.

It was equally chilling to read a letter sent on 13 August 2012 – three days before the massacre – from Lonmin to the Minister of Mines, asking for the full force of the state to be brought to bear on the strikers.

I put this to the CEO of Lonmin, Simon Scott, who denied it was an appeal for violence.

The Marikana Commission will have to decide whether the killings were premeditated.

But no wonder the widows and their lawyers saw events as sinister, not simply tragic.

Walking amid rows of macabre white crosses to mark the dead, I concluded that Marikana was indeed a turning point, as former ANC government minister and struggle leader Ronnie Kasrils told me.

“I believe it’s an actual watershed which the ruling party needs to understand. I feel that we have lost our way to quite a degree,” he said.

“South Africa’s got to re-think its economic position. If we can’t find a way to deal with the needs of the workers of this country we are… facing [a] crisis.”

Not only was it horrific, but the clash between the London Stock Exchange-listed company and its poor black workers suggests that – although democracy came with human rights entrenched for all – the inequalities of apartheid are unchanged.

A new, black elite has been co-opted into the white business establishment – a few even becoming billionaires.

Lonmin has just appointed a black African Chief Executive, Ben Magara. But the fundamentals of an economy run for a 9% white minority seem unreformed.

The ANC government of President Zuma has a mountain to climb – apartheid bequeathed to Mandela and his followers a harsh inheritance.

Insatiable demand for new housing means nobody could have expected enough homes to be built – though fully three million have been.

Nobody could have imagined that education could have been totally transformed from serving whites only – though the number of black children at school has doubled.

Millions have also received running water and electricity under the ANC.

Yet so much more could have been achieved if corruption hadn’t become almost institutionalised, blocking proper delivery of vital services.

And this, I discovered, is what is breeding daily and country-wide community protests, in which two million people were involved last year.

Frustration recently erupted into violence at Marikana and in the stunning wine-producing valleys of the Western Cape where I also travelled.

But despite everything, I am optimistic. This is still a country with enormous natural resources, good infrastructure and long established administrative mechanisms.

Whatever the failings of its local and national leaders, most ANC policies remain admirable.

The spirit of Mandela remains strong despite his grave frailty. There is a fine constitution entrenching freedoms. Importantly, there is a vociferous parliamentary opposition and independent pressure groups demanding civil liberties, transparency and honest government.

And above all for me personally, the rainbow nation is still an inspirational star compared with the depravity and brutality of apartheid.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22217676