THE Lonmin miners from Marikana in South Africa are demanding R12 500 per month as minimum wage which is ironically the price of an ounce of the platinum they mine. It is also close to the regulated minimum wage in countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States.
Intuitively, therefore, I would say this should be affordable, more so if one considers that most of known global platinum resources are in South Africa; the miners’ home country.
The other reserves are also reported to be in Zimbabwe. Both countries are independent, and it is a matter of sitting down together and deciding the output from the mines that gives both countries a good but affordable price for their product and hence good returns in royalties, corporate taxes and employee salaries. The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries has done the same with its oil. De Beers did the same with diamonds for years until Zimbabwe’s diamond fields came on the scene.
The story at Lonmin is similar to that of Anjin in Chiadzwa where workers have been on strike demanding better wages recently. Six of the leading nine producers of diamonds are Sadc countries. Why then are Sadc nations reduced to victims of so-called market forces? That is what Sadc should be there for. We should be harmonising our output to ensure a decent return on this non-renewable resource.
The “pile them high and sell them cheap” approach is not a strategy for non-renewable resources. It is only a betrayal of future generations. The so-called imperialists should not be blamed for the tragedy at Marikana. The blame lies squarely with us.
The commission established by South African President Jacob Zuma should also inquire as to whether the miners’ demands are reasonable request, and what governments must do to ensure a decent wage for our miners. South Africa has the dubious distinction of having a very high Gini index which measures income inequality, alongside Brazil and Zimbabwe.