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.

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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

 

My South Africa, riven by self-interest

Telegraph

The head teacher at one of the many new schools built by Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress held out his hands in anguish. “I don’t have enough textbooks, and the president is spending all our money [£23 million] on his personal palace?”

A loyal ANC voter, he feels betrayed. As do millions of others – but not with the fact that the government of South African President Jacob Zuma hasn’t solved all the country’s problems. The head teacher knew only too well that the awful legacy of apartheid – mass poverty, homelessness and, above all, the deliberate policy by ruling whites to ensure blacks had no skills – could never be overturned in 19 years of democracy. That wasn’t his gripe. He was proud that the ANC had doubled the number of children at school and was now spending more per head on education than almost any other country in the world.

What pained him most was that ANC leaders now seemed to be preoccupied with corruptly enriching themselves at the taxpayers’ expense, not sticking true to Mandela’s values. “They are looting the country,” ANC members told me time and again as I travelled around this amazing and beautiful country.

For me, it was a moving homecoming, going back to my old school in Pretoria to see it transformed into a vibrant symbol of the country’s rainbow multi-racialism; in my day in the early 1960s, apartheid decreed it was strictly whites-only.

I met Dikgang Moseneke, South Africa’s deputy chief justice, in his chambers in the Constitutional Court that guards perhaps the most impressive constitution in the world. He emotionally recalled how, as a 15-year-old, he had been bolstered by the supportive presence in court of my anti-apartheid activist mother, Adelaine, who daily brought him a favourite bar of chocolate before he was despatched to Robben Island for 10 years’ imprisonment.

Standing on the hallowed turf of the world’s most beautiful cricket ground, Newlands, with Table Mountain dreamily lording it above, were cricketers, black and white, warming up before a top match. This is what I had fought for in physically stopping whites-only South African cricket and rugby teams touring Britain from the late 1960s.

The country remains joyously transformed from dark and evil apartheid times. And yet the persistent, embittered sense of betrayal goes well beyond what I know only too well from my own 12 years as a British government minister: seemingly inevitable voter disappointment and disaffection with all parties in all governments.

On Robben Island, I talked with Ahmed Kathrada, one of the eight ANC leaders imprisoned there for 18 years with Nelson Mandela, and perhaps the closest to him. Kathrada’s sense of let-down was palpable, as was that of Ronnie Kasrils, the hard-man intelligence chief of the ANC in its liberation decades and a minister until Zuma took over.

Lawson Naidoo, who ran the ANC’s office in London until the change, complained that new ANC legislation would give the state “far greater powers than even the apartheid government took upon itself, so the ability of the state to classify information is now actually greater than it was under the old legislation”.

Naidoo added: “The real concern is that given the escalating levels of corruption and maladministration that we have seen over many years now, this legislation will be used to cover up and suppress information about mismanagement and corruption, whether it be at national, provincial or at local government level.”

And as a card-carrying party member, he concluded sadly: “The ANC that is there today is an ANC that I no longer recognise.”

When I interviewed President Zuma, he airily dismissed all these criticisms. On chairs set up on the lawn in front of his state residence overlooking Pretoria – a fine old period piece now called Mahlambandlopfu (“washing the elephant”) – he blamed “negative” media reporting.

Last August’s massacre of striking black miners at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine outside Rustenberg for many symbolised all that is wrong with Zuma’s South Africa today: “a watershed for the ANC”, Ronnie Kasrils told me bluntly. Filming at Marikana, I was told by lawyers representing families of the dead miners that the massacre was pre-planned. I saw chilling testimony that 22 of the dead were apparently executed in cold blood (away from the initial clash in front of the media, which had left 12 dead) out of a total of 34 fatalities, with 78 injured. Guns were planted on some of the corpses. I met witnesses who claimed to have been intimidated and even tortured by the police. This was all as bad as anything unleashed by the apartheid police.

Although a new black elite has done well, black workers have not benefited as much as they should have done from the country’s growth and stability since democracy came in 1994. This has to change, especially since South Africa is ranked high in both the UN’s measure of attractiveness for foreign direct investment and the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, with strong financial institutions, banks and stock market, and a good corporate governance and regulatory framework.

For the ANC, the political challenges today are momentous. Can it make government a Mandela-like “cause” once again, or has the sheer wear and tear of governing coupled with an “our-time-to-eat” temptation to self-enrich made that impossible?

Mandela’s ANC inspired the world, and although there has since been a collapse in values and integrity by self-interested party leaders locally and nationally, there remain many decent, dedicated and principled ANC members, and its policies are still based upon the original values of the founders.

Cyril Ramaphosa’s recent election as deputy president is potentially hugely significant: a former miners’ leader who remains a struggle hero despite his billionaire status and business credibility. Immensely able, he was Mandela’s personally favoured successor back in the 1990s.

Perhaps we all expected too much of the ANC – for it to be different when, despite its deep moral and constitutionalist traditions, it is just as vulnerable to human frailty as political parties the world over (including Britain) – and with immensely more social inequalities than most to grapple with.

There is furthermore a tendency to see post-apartheid South Africa in black and white terms: either as “Mandela’s miracle” or as going down the pan. It is neither – and never was. I remain optimistic about its future.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/southafrica/10007483/Peter-Hain-My-South-Africa-riven-by-self-interest.html