This article first appeared in the Africa Report. February 2014 Politically it was an audacious attempt by the Democratic Alliance to rebrand itself ahead of elections. In each poll since 1994, the DA has essentially stood for what is good for old suburbia. But this secure constituency is also a low ceiling. South Africa’s electorate is 80% African. To grow, the DA needs more Blacks to vote for them. Many Blacks, however, are wary of white intention and largely still appreciative of the steep moral, social and cultural elevation brought by national liberation. I suppose one could call it BSC – Black self-consciousness. Even if the economic dividends are meagre and even as the ANC subsides in a fire-pool of sleaze, to switch to the “Madam” is a ballot too far.
Thirty-four miners were shot dead by police at a mine outside Rustenburg, South Africa last week. The 3000 rock-drill operators, from a Lonmin owned platinum company, had been gathered on a hill for four days, demanding a wage increase from recalcitrant owners. Heinrich Böhmke, 22 August 2012 (originally in Africa Report) The leaders belonged to Amcu, a militant breakaway from the Cosatu-aligned National Union of Mineworkers. In the days before the massacre, ten people were killed in skirmishes, including two police officers and a NUM shopsteward. Police gave a final ultimatum for the workers, carrying pangas and spears, to disperse. They refused. Television footage showed a group of approaching workers sprayed with automatic weapon fire by police. They fell in heaps upon the ground.
You are a union organiser preparing for a strike at a tyre manufacturer. The employer has unilaterally changed the workers’ shift patterns. Although the total number of hours worked each week remains the same, the difference between the old and new rosters is significant. Workers who never worked weekends must now do Saturday and Sunday shifts every so often. The beneficial, four-day long weekend that came up during the old shift cycle is also gone. The way workers have organised their family and social lives for years is overturned. Church, sport and the long-weekend visits to the rural areas are disrupted. They are angry.