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Marrying for the mob: What the DA can learn from Numsa

Helen and Mamphele (Photo credit: Times Live)

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% Black. 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 meager and even as the ANC subsides in a fire-pool of sleaze, to switch to the “Madam” is yet a ballot too far. 

Marikana: A lesson in late liberal democracy

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.

Limits to managerial prerogative

You are a union organiser preparing for a strike at a tyre manufacturer.  The dispute concerns shift patterns, which the employer has unilaterally changed.  Although the total number of hours worked each week remains the same, the difference between the old and new shift patterns 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 run their lives for years is overturned.  Church, sport and the long-weekend visits of many to their family in the rural areas are disrupted.    They are angry.