The article Marikana is more than just a ‘policing’ matter by Adrian du Plessis (who was the chief negotiator for the Chamber of Mines and is now an independent industrial relations and management consultant) was first published in BDlive on 21 August 2012 and here are some extracts with the kind permission of BDlive.   It is highly recommended that the full article be read by clicking on the links.

“THE tragic killings at Lonmin’s Marikana mine last week have invited comparison with the familiar scenes of township violence before 1994.   As powerful as the imagery of a Boipatong-type massacre might be, it is unlikely to offer explanations and solutions for a cycle of conflict rooted in a longer and equally bleak history of mine violence over the past century, last seen in the violent clashes on the gold and coal mines in the 1980s and early 1990s that left hundreds dead and thousands unemployed.   The events at Marikana are not simply a matter of policing and ‘public order’.”

“The explanations for mine violence are invariably found in the structure of large, hierarchical, labour-intensive operations, which traditionally rely on migrant labour.”

“None of this is to say that the tragic events in Marikana are simply the product of a “perfect storm”: experience has shown that there are multiple interventions at different levels in the management of mine violence that have reduced tensions and restored constructive working relationships.”

  • “First, it is important to understand the dynamics involved, which inevitably exceed the terms of reference of a formal inquiry into the chronology of events.”
  • “Second, there has to be a careful and deliberate attempt to address the underlying issues, with the social partners, . . . .”
  • “Third, time and attention need to be devoted to developing a new industrial relations system on the mines that is appropriate to the changing character of employment, work and reward.”   Levels of collective bargaining need to be appraised to ensure a meaningful and relevant allocation of resources; pay systems need to incentivise individual performance and provide a sense of collective ownership; problem-solving and consultative forums need wide application and vigorous communication and information-sharing processes.
  • “Fourth, particularly in the context of inter-organisational rivalry in the industrial relations system, the principle of an integrative stakeholder structure needs to be developed . . . .”
  • “Finally, the leadership groups among all the parties in the platinum sector, including the affected communities, need to define a common intent for a ‘quantum leap’ in the manner of recruiting, organising and managing people on the mines.”