18 February 2018

The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on

The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on

Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana

October 13, 2017
8 min read

Marienna Pope-WeidemannMarienna Pope-Weidemann is War on Want's press officer. @MariennaPW

The women of Sikhala Sonke. Photo: Sikhala Sonke
The fatal police shooting of 37 striking workers at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine in August 2012 was the worst recorded instance of police violence in post-apartheid South Africa. Five years on, there have been no prosecutions and no real improvements – no compensation for the families living in grief and dire poverty.
There has also been no apology, although staggeringly Lonmin has created a commercial out of the incident. But as always with the Marikana story, the most important characters were left out.
A few weeks after the massacre there was another death in the community. Amidst a brutal crackdown Paulina Masuhlo, a powerful community leader, died after being shot by police. Paulina’s death helped galvanise the birth of Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana.
As well as demanding criminal prosecution for the killings and compensation for the families, Sikhala Sonke also carries forward the demands those workers died for: a living wage and dignified conditions.

We cry together

It’s anyone’s guess how Lonmin accumulated its impressive collection of corporate social responsibility awards. More than ten years after signing a legal obligation to build 5,500 homes in exchange for mining rights, the world’s third-largest platinum producer has erected just three show homes, while the families of its workers live in shacks without electricity or running water. This despite a staggering $15million loan from the International Finance Corporation solely for the social development of Marikana.
Like many killings in black communities, wherever they occur, the horror is not easily absorbed by white society. It will be a stretch for many in the UK to imagine that a British mining company would rather let employees be shot and killed than pay a fair wage. But is it any more unimaginable than cutting corners to cut costs on the Grenfell tower blocks? Or fighting wars for oil even as our dependence on them threatens millions of lives with climate chaos? It becomes clearer every day that we live in a system fuelled by the unimaginable.
Marikana might be far away, in a country very different from our own, but the struggle at the heart of Sikhala Sonke is one we should be able to identify with: the struggle of those hurt most by a powerful corporation to hold it accountable for its crimes. In Britain too, we are searching for ways to take back control of our lives and country from elite interests that see us as expendable.
The documentary Strike A Rock tells the Marikana women’s story
In August I met and talked with two of Sikhala Sonke’s leading figures, Primrose Sonti and Thumeka Magwangqana. They explained that for five years, the women of Sikhala Sonke have had to ‘fight with two hands’. With one, they fight Lonmin on behalf of their community. With the other, they have had to fight for their place within that community, to be recognised as social justice leaders by a male-dominated union movement.
Sikhala Sonke means ‘we cry together’ and the name speaks to a pain older and deeper than the massacre itself. Far from transcending the yawning inequalities of the apartheid era, South Africa has now become the most unequal country in the world. Though less than 10 percent of the population, white South Africans still control the vast majority of the nation’s wealth.
As well as being highly racialised, this inequality is also highly gendered. A third of women in poor households are survivors of gendered violence and young women are eight times more likely to be affected by HIV/AIDS. They are far more likely to be in low-paid and unpaid work, while in Marikana, the only compensation offered to grieving women is to take up the jobs of their dead in the dark labyrinth of mines, where they live under the constant threat of rape and assault. Look deeper, to where racism and patriarchy intersect, and it is black women who bear the brunt of oppression in modern South Africa and around the world.
The erasure of black women from political struggle began long before Marikana. While much is said of men who had to leave their families to work in mines and cities or resist apartheid, what is less visible is the contribution of women, both to the family and to the cause. Every dead or absent father leaves a mother to carry the family alone: a lifetime of unpaid labour alongside paid work to make ends meet. And while media coverage of the commission into the massacre cast the women of Marikana as grieving widows, that is only where their story began.

Keeping hope alive

In an economic system that sees value only in a wage, this inequality is embedded in the logic of the system. The profoundly political nature of unpaid family and movement support, without which no anti-apartheid movement in South Africa or strike in Marikana would be possible, fades into the background – along with the indispensable role played by women of colour in the movement for global justice.
Black women live each day on the intersection of racial, patriarchal and class oppression. In this much complained about ‘age of identity politics’, which is more broadly recognised amongst progressive circles in the global north, it has become ‘polite’ to concede that women of colour have a powerful role to play in movements for social change – but all too often this is mere lip service, paid in the interests of meeting diversity quotas or meant as ‘compensation’ for their experience, as though a slot on a speaking panel could redress generations of oppression.
But beneath all that is a simple truth: that like all the most painful experiences in life, oppression can be a great teacher. Being born on the intersection is not an enviable position. However, as those of us lucky enough to have learned from brave and brilliant women of colour in social justice work will know, that pain can develop into a profound sensitivity towards unjust applications of power; the sort that sneak up on those without the eyes to see them and collapse our efforts towards equality from the inside. This kind of leadership, too concerned with power over others, stifles the oxygen needed to spark real change from below.
It is from intersections like this that our most powerful stories, inspiring ideas and promising leaders emerge. Recognising that means stepping back to seed spaces for that leadership but it does not mean stepping out. Allies too have a vital role to play and the difference between recognising leadership from those most oppressed and reinforcing oppressive hierarchies by leaving them to all that labour alone, is about whether we are prepared to stay connected and above all, to listen.
Sikhala Sonke describe Lonmin and the ANC government as ‘twins’, both responsible for the situation in Marikana. And now is a vital moment because both are on thinning ice. Lonmin’s share price is at an all-time low and last year, a five-month miners’ strike forced a basic pay rise of 20 percent. Meanwhile the ANC, which has ruled South Africa since apartheid, is losing its majority as the next generation of South Africans feel they have sold out to white economic interests. It is hard to think of a place where this is clearer than Marikana.
Exploited by Lonmin and abandoned by their government, the women of Sikhala Sonke have kept the faith by refusing to abandon each other. It is that solidarity, they say, that keeps hope alive.
War on Want has partnered with Sikhala Sonke to support their work. Click here to find out more and help get the word out by joining our Thunderclap. This marks the start of a renewed campaign supporting Sikhala Sonke here in the UK. The campaign is in memory of Marikana woman Paulinah Masuhlo, who died in September 2012 after being shot by South African police.

07 February 2018


These two posters at our tram stop shelter are most revealing - not on how to be in your 90s and safely catch one of the new trams and get a seat, and hang on to the straps, and stand firmly.

This is what the TRAM COACH tells us inside the shelter:


Next to TRAM COACH are three items in circles and they read, from left to right:

sit tight; grip right; stand strong.

Now let's take them in sequence, based on the fact that you are 95 years of age: sit tight assumes you have a seat to sit on - doesn't always happen on a full tram, and the picture is very unclear; then grip right assumes there are enough straps to hold on to - which there aren't on the new trams shown in the picture - and if you do manage to get a strap to grip onto - and it is too high anyway, and the tram jerks - which happens more often than not, so you can't grip right, what do you do when you fall?; then stand strong assumes you have somewhere level enough on these new trams to stand firmly, but again a jerk and you are flat on your face.

This really presents a major problem, and then try to get on and off these new trams and the platform is higher off the ground than the old trams, and you are old and arthritic and have all sorts of other age-related problems, and no car, and your main means of transport  - to your doctor and other people who help you one way and another is the tram, and taxis are expensive and you are a pensioner - and you have several problems!

And let's not forget how many tram stops - and we are only talking about tram stops at the moment - don't have seating while you wait for your tram, and you have several more problems.

This is what the TRAM COACH tells us outside the shelter:


Try and hold steady while you try and touch on and the tram jerks off  and your hold position is fairly tenuous at best!

What out coach does NOT tell us is that when you get off the tram, apart from falling off because there is such a huge gap between the inside platform and the ground outside,  you must look out very carefully because cars keep roaring through, even though legally they have to stop when the tram stops.

There is absolutely no reason why the government can't fit cameras or cctv to each tram to capture the motorists who are attempting to kill the alighting passengers, and fine them so heavily that they will not make these attempts in the future. They could be allocated demerit points as well so that their licences could be revoked if they exceeded a certain limit.


Michael Kroger, the latest zionist to come out of the closet, is now taking the Greens candidate for the Batman by-election to task because of her support for BDS.

The candidate, Alex Bhathal, has now stated that she doesn't support all of the BDS items, particularly two of them.

There are probably more zionists in 2018 in Australia than there are in Israel, but unlike those in Israel where most are probably Jewish, the vast majority of those in Australia are Christian.

The question is, why??

The answer must assuredly be that they are trying to get the Jewish zionists to move to Israel, thus saving them the problem of their ongoing anti-semitism.

After all, there are only somewhere between 100,000 and 120,000 Jews in Australia, and once Isael has kicked out most of the African refugees there and also the Palestinian Israeli citizens who still live in the so-called officially recognised  "borders" of Israel, there will be more than enough extra places for Australian Jewish zionists.

After all, apart from the Christian zionists like Michael Kroger, there are the fanatical Jewish zionists like the federal member for Israel Michael Danby - who still calls Australia home.

Does Michael Kroger know that there are many Jews in Australia who do not toe the zionist/Israel line and who support BDS?

Many of them also don't fear the political consequences of complete boycotts of Israel as some of the Greens seem to do. The Greens still have a great deal of growing up to do, and they should have trips to South Africa and learn what BDS achieved there in the apartheid years.

Of course Israel apartheid is easier to enforce because of the numbers involved, but with the ongoing genocide of the Palestinians, the Israelis hope to one day have the numbers.

29 January 2018



Jeannette Molly (always called Molly) De Saxe died in Johannesburg on
Saturday 27 January 2018, aged 93. Molly was born in Johannesburg on 18
March 1924 where she lived all her life. For the last 10 years of her
life she had suffered from dementia and was in a nursing home.

She will be remembered with love and affection by her brother Jos
(Mannie) De Saxe, his family and his partner Kendall Lovett in Melbourne.

Our deepest sympathies to her daughter Patty and granddaughter Kate in

Molly had many friends and relations in South Africa and elsewhere who
will remember her for the bright and bubbling personality she had been for so
much of her life.

Sadly missed by her brother Jos.

Molly had one only ever visit to Sydney in June 1994 for two weeks and it was all too short. I took her all over and we saw what we could in that short time.

We had a little dinner party on the night she arrived - my partner Kendall Lovett, his sister Julie Daley, Molly and me. Two sets of brother and sister.

Gary Jaynes gave us the roses for Molly - "ROSES FOR REMEMBRANCE"? It was very kind and thoughtful of him and very much appreciated.

Just Molly and me...................................

................................with our grandmother - our mother's mother Pesa Kuper.....

---------------------------then Barry made three!!


Plus ca change - the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Racism was introduced to Australia on 26 January 1788 and it has been a vote-winner ever since.

It was, after all, the British who were at the forefront of the ntroduction to the world of concentration camps in South Africa during the Anglo-Boer war of 1899-1902.

After the genocide got into full swing during the 19th century, the race card was an easy one to use in every field of endeavour as people needed employment and other services from governments and as is so typical of governments who have set up institutions with race barriers it is generally the underclasses who suffer most.

So, who are the underclasses?

Well, first it was the indigenous population, then it was the Chinese miners, then the Japanese pearl divers, and so we go through every wave of immigrants and asylum seekers and refugees, until we get to - wait for it - the Africans who are mostly black.

Not only are they black, as the media and politicians tell it, they form gangs and do terrible things. Notice how selective they all are when it comes to other groups who do the same or even worse, and so, who gets the blame for everything, despite evidence to the contrary?

Well, who has low ratings and needs to win the next elections?

28 January 2018


How much longer are Australians going to be prepared to put up with the hypocrisy of the politicians whose rantings and ravings get worse and worse every day?

Today, Sunday 28 January 2018, we have the current prime minister raving on about the Holocaust, while his government locks the indigenous people in prisons and areas around the country which are worse than prisons and concentration camps , does the same with asylum seekers who are treated worse than animals - they treat their pets better than the human beings in Papua New Guinea and Nauru - and pontificates abut human rights and what needs to be done in Australia and around the world.

One really needs to carry one's vomit bucket around with one where ever one goes, and to be careful to spill it only on politicians.


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Preston, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
90 years old, political gay activist, hosting two web sites, one personal: http://www.red-jos.net one shared with my partner, 94-year-old Ken Lovett: http://www.josken.net and also this blog. The blog now has an alphabetical index: http://www.red-jos.net/alpha3.htm