The following is the report of the Dennis Goldberg lecture, submitted by Ms Tembo.
Khulumani Reflections on Dennis Goldberg’s Public Lecture at Wits on Marikana
The aftermath of the Lonmin strike at Marikana has witnessed a plethora of civil society, political and union activity dissecting what could have been done to avoid the strikes and eventual deaths that resulted. As seen in the media, the bulk of the blame was placed on the unions.
Attending the Dennis Goldberg lecture was a breath of fresh air. His presentation was a stark reminder of how important it is to go back to basics and how we easily forget as a nation. We have lost the sense of community encompassed by the “UBUNTU” philosophy. We have forgotten that in essence, the apartheid struggle was about equal rights for all. So then, what can we learn from the apartheid struggle in this post-Marikana South Africa.
Firstly, the apartheid struggle was about equal rights for all as encapsulated in the Freedom Charter. Yet we live in a country where poverty and inequality is entrenched in our society. In a country where we are still grappling with social and economic freedom, we shouldn’t have been surprised that the there was a workers’ revolt at Marikana.
The socio-economic issues at Marikana make for horrifying reading. After 18 years of hard-earned democracy, the lowest paid worker earned R3000 and was responsible for at least 9 dependents. Where were the unions, politicians and civil society when this lack of “decent work” was being perpetrated? Did it have to take a massacre for the nation to understand the extent of the socio-economic plight of workers?
In a country that has a rich history of people coming together and fighting for a cause, its unforgivable we watched this happen. We have become so consumed with our own well-being that we care less about the plight of those around us. We have become obsessed with alliances to parties, ideologies, race and class and have forgotten that there is a still a collective goal that this country hasn’t attained. We have forgotten that people from different backgrounds, race and class can still come together and fight for a common cause as witnessed in the anti-apartheid movement. This brings me to the second point.
The apartheid struggle was not won by a lone figure. The anti-apartheid struggle saw social movements locally and internationally headed by great leaders. Although Mandela was the face of the struggle, there were other comrades, some who eventually lost their lives that provided leadership. In a post-Marikana massacre society, let’s not rely on sole entities such as politicians or unions to fight daily struggles in an effort to overcome socio-economic inequalities. It’s time we all got together through collective action to change our society.
There is a dearth in leadership for socio-economic transformation. This leadership role is not only governments’ responsibility, but societal. It begins with community’s taking ownership of measures being implemented to address the vast inequalities in this country. These battles cannot be won in boardrooms but through communities. This calls for a social movement at grass-roots level to take stock of commitments made to transform the socio-economic conditions. It entails producing selfless leaders who will commit themselves fully to the cause. It needs civil society to be more proactive and not reactive in building capacities. Maybe then we can start seeing true transformation that we fought hard for