News / Africa

S. African Miners' Deaths Test ANC's Popularity

A group of protestors holds placards as a large crowd follows retired judge Ian Farlam and his team as they inspect the area where the bodies of mine workers were found after the shootings at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana near Rustenburg, South Africa, October 1, 2012.
A group of protestors holds placards as a large crowd follows retired judge Ian Farlam and his team as they inspect the area where the bodies of mine workers were found after the shootings at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana near Rustenburg, South Africa, October 1, 2012.
Anita Powell
South Africa was stunned by the images of police killing 34 striking miners earlier this year, an act of police-inflicted carnage not seen since the apartheid days.  But four months after the strike and shooting at the Marikana platinum mine, the event has changed South African workers' perceptions about the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party.

As South Africa's ruling party meets this week to hash out leadership and policy issues, there is growing discontent among a group considered vital to their base: the workers.

The ANC's image was dented on August 16, when police fired into a crowd of striking miners at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana.  After the dust settled, 34 of the wildcat strikers were dead.  Police said they fired in self-defense; an investigation is ongoing.

The killings angered many South African workers, especially in the mining sector, and many say they can't keep supporting the party that promised them equality and freedom in the post-apartheid era.

Perhaps miner Tholakele Dlunga said it best in November when he stood up in front of a crowd in Johannesburg and spoke emotionally about the events surrounding the strike at the Lonmin mine.

In the end, the workers at the Lonmin platinum mine got a settlement close to the raise they were seeking.

But if Dlunga, who goes by the name Bhele, is any indication, they lost their faith.

The police, he said through an interpreter, don't understand we are workers and we are fighting for our right to an increase.  

Bhele said the shooting changed his politics. We will not vote for the ANC, he said, because the ANC killed our people.  We are not sure that we will even vote.

South Africa remains a country riven by inequality. The average white household makes nearly six times what an average black household makes, according to recently released census figures.
 
This, says the ANC Youth League, highlights the message they have been pushing: that political freedom without economic emancipation is meaningless.

Youth League spokeswoman Khusela Sangoni-Khawe says the league is reaching out to young workers.  The league is pushing for a bolder program of land redistribution and nationalization of some mining operations, which it says should level the playing field.

Sangoni-Khawe also says the ANC's poor leadership has contributed to the loss of faith.

 "We may have lost the confidence of the people as the ANC, because it no longer became about the people, but it rather became about individuals at any other level seeking to rather position themselves and what it is they can gain from leading in those structures rather than leading them properly," said Sangoni-Khawe.  "So we will be keen, and it is something we are doing, where we are engaging workers in those particular sectors."

Analyst Steven Friedman, director of the Center for the Study of Democracy, says no one should worry about workers' change of allegiance.

"That's not concerning, we live in a democracy," Friedman noted.  "If people don't want to vote for the ANC, they're perfectly entitled to vote for someone else, and in fact that's what they did.  There was a municipal election in Marikana, and the ANC lost to the independent candidate."

The ANC's hold on the country as a whole will be tested in the next national elections, set for 2014.

You May Like

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs