South African Municipal Workers Union members. Picture: THE HERALD/MIKE HOLMES
South African Municipal Workers Union members. Picture: THE HERALD/MIKE HOLMES

As we commemorate the sixth anniversary of the Marikana massacre we need to take stock of how we have fared in establishing labour harmony in our country.

Under our democracy the trade union movement is free to engage, and the right to strike is enshrined in the constitution. As such, the scenes that have characterised labour disputes, such as the events that took place in recent weeks in Tshwane involving SA Municipal Workers Union members, must be condemned. The workers’ right to strike must not infringe on other people’s right to go about their daily lives.

The build-up to that fateful day at Marikana was characterised by violence that led to the deaths of 10 people, among them police and security guards. Trade unions have the responsibility to ensure that their members avoid violence and anarchy. Trade union leaders cannot simply distance themselves from violence and anarchy when it occurs – in fact, responsibility should often be placed squarely at their door.  

As we mourn the Marikana dead, let us desist from any form of incitement or violent rhetoric. Political leaders should use the commemoration to remind people that we are a constitutional democracy that respects all labour rights. It is not a day to be used to score cheap political points. The families and widows of the deceased must be helped to heal and find closure.

Business also has an obligation to create a harmonious relationship on the factory floor, coupled with decent conditions of work, including a living wage. Corporate social responsibility must be geared toward ensuring that workers live in decent homes and their children have access to quality healthcare and education. We can pay tribute to those who lost their lives on that fateful day by recommitting to and implementing the above.

Mafika Siphiwe Mgcina

ANC Sedibeng Region