11 March 2013

At a meeting in Rustenburg on Sunday March 10, the mineworkers’ national strike committee gave its backing to the launch of the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP). Delegates were present from mines in Rustenburg, Limpopo, Gauteng and Northern Cape. The national strike committee was founded in October last year and united the worker-led shaft-based strike committees under a national leadership in the wake of the escalating and spreading struggles of mineworkers following the Marikana massacre.

Original Affiliation Document,
signed 7 March 2013

Six of these committees took the decision to launch WASP at a meeting in Limpopo in December last year, alongside the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM). It is hugely significant that the full authority of the national strike committee has now been thrown behind the call to launch WASP. The launch will take place in Pretoria on March 21.

One of the crucial features of the mining industry disputes of 2012 was the willingness of the mineworkers to reclaim their political independence and take their fate into their own hands. In shaft after shaft workers expelled the NUM (National Union of Mineworkers) that had collaborated with management and tore up the collective bargaining agreements that shackled them. That workers are now organising to build an independent political voice is an outgrowth of this process.

This hard-won independence – through both the development of WASP and the preservation of the national strike committee (as of Sunday the National Workers Committee) – will be jealously guarded by workers. The betrayals of NUM, the ANC and the Cosatu leadership, and their complicity in the Marikana massacre, will not be forgotten. It was clear from Sunday’s meeting just how much workers need a political alternative and will need to rely on their own strength in coming months. Shaft after shaft reported on the attempts by mine management to destroy the independence of the workers, either through dismissals and victimisations or co-option of shop-stewards and the unions that have stepped into the vacuum left by the eviction of NUM.

But nothing can put the genie back in the bottle now. The political independence of the working class is being re-established, led by its heavy battalions – the mineworkers.

Mametlwe Sebei, WASP spokesperson, says: “This is of huge significance. The launch of WASP was initiated by a number of different shaft-based strike committees, but this weekend, the rank-and-file leaders of the mineworkers nationwide have come out in support of WASP. Behind these delegates are hundreds of thousands of mineworkers and millions if you include their families and communities. WASP is sinking deep roots amongst workers and working class communities before it is even formally launched. Over the coming months, we believe that WASP can develop into the mass force necessary to challenge the ANC in the 2014 elections.

Elias Juba, chairperson of the mineworkers national strike committee, says: “We cannot postpone tackling the lack of political representation for the working class and poor in this country any longer. Marikana showed that we, the working class, have been abandoned by the ANC. The ANC is more interested in protecting the profits of the mine bosses at the expense of the living standards of the mineworkers, their families and communities. The launching of a political party is the obvious next step in our struggle. I believe that is why the delegates to the national strike committee gave their unanimous backing to WASP. They know that we have to create our own political voice to take our struggle forward.