Target: Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan
Goal: Give all South African workers the wages they deserve and end the wave of labor unrest
A deadly strike occurred at the Lonmin-owned Marikana platinum mine in August, when police opened fire on demonstrators. 34 workers were killed, and in the days surrounding, two police officers were murdered by axe. The weeks-long strike ended after the workers were finally granted a 22% wage increase.
This, however, has only been the beginning of a wave of unrest which has begun to spread across South Africa, as more companies experience strikes and protests. Workers at Anglo-American Platinum’s Rustenburg mine have been on strike for three weeks, with violence recently breaking out there as well when 100-150 protesters gathered near one of the mines and engaged in conflict with police. Water cannons, rubber bullets, and tear gas were used in order to break up the crowd. The company later called all strikers in for disciplinary hearings, and those who did not attend were fired. This resulted in about 12,000 workers losing jobs they could not afford to be fired from. The company says that it’s been getting less than 20% attendance and has had to reduce services to only the most essential, however the African National Congress Youth League believes much more could have been done to come to an agreement.
Now, the situation is reaching a boiling point as the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) has declared that it will launch similar wage-related strikes within the next few days. Disputes have thus now gone from the mines and into the public sector, resulting in what will be a national protest. The protest is already scheduled for a potentially indefinite length, with a majority of the 190,000 members partaking in strike efforts. Demand that the government treat the situation seriously and end the violence by ensuring that workers are given what they deserve.
Dear Mr. Gordhan,
The violent mining strikes occurring recently in South Africa over wage-disputes have proven themselves not to be isolated incidents, as the situation is not getting better. Although Lonmin’s workers were able to secure a wage increase, the protests have nevertheless constituted the most violent incident since the end of the apartheid. 12,000 Anglo-American Platinum workers have been fired for demanding higher wages, and now the South African Municipal Workers Union has declared that it will begin a national protest within the week.
It’s clear, with wage disputes now moving fully into the public sector, that South Africa has only just begun to experience a serious wave of labor unrest for which action must be taken immediately. You have said that a public sector wage increase would make it difficult to make good on your promise to reduce the deficit from the 4.6% of GDP forecast for this year, but you must understand that the illegal and violent protests are actively undermining the government deficit cut.
The situation must be reapproached and with a willingness to help all workers. For the good of your people, please do everything within your power to see that these workers receive their dues. Failure to do so will not only perpetuate widespread violence, but will continue to harm local assets and lower South Africa’s reputation among foreign investors.
[Your Name Here]