Columns 31.3.2014 09:01 am

Bread and butter politics

Hendri Pelser

Hendri Pelser

Imagine not having been paid since January 23. Imagine pawning a television set to buy a loaf bread. Imagine going to a loan shark just to pay for your children’s school fees.

The platinum sector strike is now in its third month. Miners – and their families – are suffering. Rustenburg and the surrounding business areas are turning into ghost towns as pawn shops overflow.

Why on earth would you put yourself and your family through such an ordeal in order to get a monthly wage of R12 500?

This after platinum mines have expressly said that R12 500 a month is simply not affordable. It does not make economic sense; it is impossible. Logic, it seems, is in short supply in the North West.

But logic is not at the heart of this on-going labour dispute. There is something else bubbling below the surface, forcing miners to gamble with their family’s lives and future.

On Saturday the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) received a raucous welcome at the launch of its provincial manifesto in Mahikeng.

Sapa reports the crowd sang: “Julius Malema, pray for us. Shower is giving us problems”.

A gold star if you can guess who the “shower” is.

Malema and his cronies have promised the nationalisation of mines and the now almost  mystical R12 500 monthly wage if they win the elections.

Now, anyone with a bit of sense knows that the EFF is not the government in waiting and that the commander in chief will not be sitting in Tuynhuys come May 8. Sense and logic, however, are not part of the equation.

Bread and butter politics demand that lofty promises are exchanged for votes.

In fact, the EFF – largely comprised of former ANC cadres – is doing exactly what its alma mater taught them to do: win the hearts and minds of the poor; get the votes; make sure your stock portfolio is jacked.

Last week Majola Majara, a striking 13-year Lonmin veteran, told The Citizen: “As you can see, hunger is killing me,” while eating dry, un-buttered brown bread.

He is a father of two. His family is suffering. Why would he not want to return to work?

“Mineworkers have been under-paid for a long time, despite the risks and hard work they have to endure underground,” he said.

Okay, so mining is somewhat harder than snoozing in Parliament during the Second Reading debate on the Division of Revenue Bill.

But surely Majara understands that after 13 years his salary cannot simply double overnight?

Does he not understand that the platinum price has gone from over $1 800 an ounce to

$1 400 in the last two-and-a-half years?

Even if he did, he does not care: “R12 500 is what we are fighting for – and we will continue with the struggle for decent salaries that our brothers died for in Marikana in 2012,” he said.

The miners demand restitution. Brothers were killed.

Nothing has happened since.

Majara believes this government has failed him and his fellow miners.

Bread and butter politics is all he cares about.

* Hendri Pelser is he Deputy Editor of The Citizen. Follow him on Twitter @HendriPelser

 

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