This summer there were a series of wildcat (unlawful) strikes that took place in South Africa at the Marikana mines, over proposed drastic pay cuts. The mining industry is considered the driving force behind the South African economy, being the largest in Africa.
This explains the eagerness of the government to quell the strike, utilising methods which culminated in a massacre of protesters on 16th August, with 47 casualties as a result. What is significant is that this took place on the anniversary of another major miner’s strike 25 years previously, which begs the question of why there are so many tensions in the mining sector.
The mining industry in South Africa has a long history, with its start popularly attributed to the discovery of a large diamond in the banks of the Orange River in Transvaal republic when it was still an independent Boer region. When it became part of the dominion of South Africa in 1910 the British exploited the natural reserves of South Africa even further, as the Republic did post-1961.
This country, much like Sierra Leone, has very rich natural mineral deposits, and today ac- counts for 80% of the world’s platinum reserves and the 3rd largest exportation of coal. However, what caused the Marikana strikes was the recurring theme of exploitation. When under British control most of the wealth went into the empire and little went to the miners. This carries on today, with private corporations and governmental departments taking the place of colonial organs.
It is a land of dichotomies; the 28th richest economy in the world with 25% of the population unemployed and most living on the equivalent of 85 pence a day. It is a vicious cycle of exploitation that spurred the strikes and violent backlash and has the potential for many more to occur as the demand for raw resources increases.