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Thanks to Lonmin's exploitative practices (paying just $500/month for extremely dangerous rock-drilling), its cooptation of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), and the African National Congress government's perpetual willingness to send in murderous forces of law and order to defend capital against labour, communities and environment, an estimated 34 of the men in the photo below are now dead and another 78 are injured. (Last week, ten other mineworkers, two police and two security guards were killed in circumstances that aren't yet clear.)


There are a great many details about the background context and the incident, though much more information is needed, particularly to understand why the undisciplined police opened fire with automatic weapons for at least three minutes. No police offers report being wounded in this one-sided massacre, so claims that 'the miners shot first' aren't credible, at this stage of what is publicly known.

No journalists so far have seemed to notice the Washington fingerprints on these corpses. Along with other major Lonmin partners and shareholders, the World Bank and its International Finance Corporation - always ready to promote disastrous extractive-industry projects - bear responsibility. In purely financial terms, they've done well; notwithstanding a little disruption to the share price and bad PR for the company, their interest repayments on a reported $100 million loan made in 2007 (due to expire in 2014), their profits and their dividend flow on at least $15 million in equity investments (and as much as $50 million, as full details are not available) will be protected. After all, Lonmin had ordered the striking mineworkers back on the job yesterday on threat of being fired, and since they have the official (now unpopular minority) sweetheart union on board against the majority of the workforce, telling the workers they couldn't have higher wages, those labourers who do now return will get paid the standard pittance. The platinum price rises quickly when there are supply interruptions of this sort, so in sales terms, they will not lose out on the down days. The Bank loan and investment were allegedly to address the huge socio-environmental damages done by this mining operation... and thus the World Bank gets repaid because workers' wages have been so low, and the communities nearby remain horrific slums.
* Details are here: http://www.ifc.org/ifcext/spiwebsite1.nsf/0/f79e1c278b21ebc2852576ba000e2919?opendocument
* South Africa's most dishonest, greenwashing bank, Nedbank, awarded Lonmin and the World Bank its top prize in the socio-economic category of the Green Mining Awards (sic), a few years ago: http://www.gbn.co.za/articles/dailynews/139.html
* The World Bank was especially delighted with Lonmin's 'gender equity' work: http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTGENDER/Resources/NewsletterPage6.pdf?cid=PREM_GAPNewsEN_A_E
* Another World Bank role was whitewashing the historic capture of land by white settlers, for Lonmin "has established community resettlement policies which comply with the World Bank Operation Directives on Resettlement of Indigenous Peoples and Cultural Property. There were no resettlements of communities and no grievances lodged relating to resettlements. In terms of the Restitution of Land Rights Act 22 of 1994, the Company is in the process of addressing several land claims lodged against it before 2011. The resolution of these claims is being managed within the legislative framework of the regional Land Claims Commission and Land Claims Court."
* The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) reports: The mine has had a troubled history with the communities and its workers. A stakeholder perception survey commissioned by Lonmin in 2005 shortly after it acquired the mine and before IFC's investment showed that most respondents regarded the mine with "negativity combined with mistrust, suspicion and in some cases hatred." In fact, the conflict between the unions, which is thought to have sparked the violence this week, was visible even seven years ago. The survey reported a history of mistrust between all three unions. Participants reported union favoritism and discrimination at the mine and urged Lonmin to "treat people equally, regardless of race, job level or union affiliation."Despite criticism from communities and NGOs that industrial mining projects often result in serious human rights violations and little economic development, the IFC continues to justify its investments as a "key source of jobs, economic opportunities, investments, revenues to government, energy and other benefits for local economies." In documents disclosed on the Lonmin deal, IFC asserted that, "This investment is expected to have beneficial results for the workforce and surrounding communities." Indeed, IFC documents state that Lonmin "supports the protection of human life and dignity within their sphere of influence by subscribing to the principles laid down in the United Nation's Declaration of Human Rights." And yet despite attesting to a close working relationship with the South African police force on matters of security, a statement made yesterday by Lonmin chairman Roger Phillimore characterized the violence as "clearly a public order rather than a labor relations associated matter."... In addition to seeking a full investigation into the violence and what led to it, CIEL has called on World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim, to revisit the Bank's investment in this project in light of recent events, specifically, and its approach to lending in the extractive industries more generally. - http://ciel.org/Law_Communities/Lonmin_17Aug2012.html -

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What is the broader context? Lonmin's 'accumulation by dispossession' as simplest historical/contemporary explanation, and also most variegated: A British prime minister, Edward Heath, observed in 1973 that a businessman, a truly horrible savage called “Tiny” Rowland, represented “the unpleasant and unacceptable face of capitalism.” The description was fitting because Rowland was a perambulating piece of filth who had indulged in bribery, tax-dodging, and the general range of ingenious whizz-kid schemes designed to make viciously unscrupulous people rich and keep them that way. - http://www.counterpunch.org/2008/10/03/the-unacceptable-face-of-capitalism/

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Flashpoints:
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Earlier on Thursday, Lonmin said in a statement that striking workers would be fired if they did not appear at their shifts on Friday.

- "Today is unfortunately D-day," police spokesman Dennis Adriao was quoted as saying.
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2012/08/2012816141649568598.html

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Video
(eTV) of massacre: http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/16/video-of-miners-shot-by-south-african-police/

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Rudimentary class analysis (from a surprising source): http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/16/video-of-miners-shot-by-south-african-police/

Ms. Polgreen, The Times’s Johannesburg bureau chief, reports that “the strike has pitted the country’s largest mine workers union, which is closely allied with the governing A.N.C., against a radical upstart union demanding sharp increases in pay and faster action to improve the grim living and working standards for miners.” The conflict between the traditional union, the National Union of Mineworkers, and the newer and more radical union, the Association of Mine Workers and Construction Union, contributed to violence around the strike earlier this week. Ten people died, including two police officers and three security officers.

Lydia Polgreen @lpolgreen From the miners I spoke to there was a deep sense that NUM has simply become part of the power elite.

 

16 Aug 12 In the clash between NUM and AMCU are we seeing South Africa's future? Complacent power tied to biz interests vs impatient upstarts?