South African bishop lobbies Lonmin at London AGMPublished by MAC on 2017-01-31
Source: New Internationalist, Telegraph, Guardian
Can Lonmin wash its hands of Marikana’s blood?
South African Anglican bishop Johannes Seoka joined international solidarity groups in London on 26 January, to demand the UK-listed mining firm Lonmin meet its commitments for compensation to victims of the 2012 massacre, as well as improve worker living conditions.
A Reuters video can be viewed at http://uk.reuters.com/video/2017/01/26/protesters-demand-apology-for-marikana-m?videoId=370999575&videoChannel=78&channelName=Business, and a campaign video at https://www.facebook.com/londonminingnetwork/videos/10154777006570491/
For a background video on the Marikana massacre see Miners shot down: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssPrxvgePsc
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Can Lonmin wash its hands of Marikana’s blood?
By Johannes Seoka
25 January 2016
Did a London-listed mining company with a long colonial history do all it could to stop the killing of 34 of its striking workers in South Africa in 2012? And what has it done since to correct the colonial power dynamics at the core of its business? Bishop Johannes Seoka, a representative of the survivors of the massacre, takes Lonmin to task, nearly five years after Marikana.
In 1909 it was called Lonrho – short for the London and Rhodesia Land and Mine Company Limited. Since then, Lonmin’s history has been closely nestled into the history of British colonialism in Africa. Chaired at different times by British Conservative MPs, controversial tycoons and Lords who had married into the British monarchy, Lonmin has been a dyed-in-the-wool part of the British establishment and its colonial exploitation of Africa for more than a century.
In the company’s early days, the British extraction of wealth from the continent was assumed. Whether via the state, or by London-listed companies, natural resources from across Africa would end up lining the pockets of white London shareholders, with as little run-off to local deal-makers as could be managed. Today, the money trail looks eerily similar.
In spite of Lonmin’s long and colourful history, it remains a little-known name amongst the British public. Even after the 2012 Marikana massacre in South Africa, in which 34 striking mine workers were killed by South African police during a peaceful strike at a Lonmin platinum mine, few know the name of the British company against which those mine workers had little choice but to take strike action.
Though the Marikana killings made international headlines, the stories tended to focus on ‘black-on-black violence’, with the massacre representing the biggest act of state murder in South Africa since the end of Apartheid. Under closer scrutiny, though, Lonmin was and is far from an innocent bystander to the killings. In fact, its actions are those of a company that has been able to maintain the financial relations of colonialism while outsourcing the violence of this exploitation to a supposedly post-colonial state. As in previous times, the company remains listed on the London Stock Exchange, extracting vast sums from South Africa while taking little practical responsibility for the lives of those whose blood – in some cases literally – has made them their fortunes.
And Lonmin are far from alone in this. A recent War on Want report revealed that 101 London-listed companies control over $1 trillion in Africa’s natural resources, influencing government policies in Europe and Africa to ensure the wealth is able to flow freely out of host countries. And while the money is flowing in the same direction it has since the Lonrho days, accountability from the modern extractors of Africa’s wealth remains as absent as ever.
Lonmin’s responsibility for the deaths at Marikana in August 2012 began with the living conditions that their workers gave their lives fighting to improve. The vast majority of Marikana’s 36,000 miners resided – and continue to reside – in informal shack dwellings in the Wonderkop community and the Ngakane settlement, without electricity or running water. Most are not able to maintain even basic levels of nutrition and thus carry out dangerous manual labour on empty stomachs and often with little rest between shifts.
Although their monthly wages have increased from 4,500 rand ($340) in 2012, to roughly 9,500 rand ($716) in 2017, the value of the rand has fallen dramatically against most major global currencies, meaning that the purchasing power of mine workers has hardly shifted since 2012. Necessities like healthy food, decent homes and basic sanitation remain elusive to the company’s massive workforce.
As the miners’ strike played out in the summer of 2012, Lonmin continued to tell its non-striking workers to go underground and keep digging, when it knew or should have known the tensions that this might inflame. While no-one disputes that the police ultimately pulled the triggers, Lonmin certainly laid many of the foundations for the atrocity, in both the long-term and immediate senses. Had basic living conditions been improved and had the company agreed to negotiate with their striking workers, history may have played out very differently on that awful day.
With this year’s Lonmin AGM marking the run-up to the massacre’s fifth anniversary, I have brought to London with me the voices of the widows, children and survivors of the Marikana killings, to give the shareholders, institutional investors and company executives an ultimatum. It is this: pay compensation to survivors, improve living conditions for mine workers and provide living wages for the staff at Marikana. If these demands are not being implemented by 16 August 2017, we will launch an international campaign to support the statement of South African President Jacob Zuma in December 2016, to have Lonmin’s license to operate in our country revoked.
Five years is too long to wait for justice for a crime that should never have been allowed to happen. The lives lost can never be returned, but the ones who live on must not face the same violence and indignities as those whose lives were brought to a premature end in August 2012. It is time for the colonial moneymen in London to make amends for the sins of their profits.
Bishop Johannes Seoka is a retired Diocesan Bishop for Pretoria, Chair of the Bench Marks Foundation in South Africa and an official representative of the survivors of the Marikana massacre.
Lonmin 'regrets' Marikana massacre as protestors call for action
26 January 2017
Mining group Lonmin has expressed its “regret” over the Marikana massacre in South Africa five years ago that left 44 miners dead, but ignored calls for a full apology, as its London AGM was picketed by protestors.
The company, which tapped its shareholders for cash in late 2015 as low platinum prices threatened to push it out of business, said it “acknowledged its past” and claimed it had put “significant commitment and investment” towards compensating victims of the tragedy.
Simmering unrest between workers and management over housing and pay erupted in violence in August 2012, when South African police were called to one of Lonmin’s mines and opened fire on striking workers. Thirty-four people were shot dead on a single day on August 16 in an incident that rocked the mining industry and traumatised South Africa.
Protestors outside Lonmin’s AGM on Thursday held up placards of the dead miners and demanded that it stop dragging its heels and fulfill its promises to help victims’ families, boost pay and improve housing by the fifth anniversary of the massacre.
Bishop Johannes Seoka, who travelled from Marikana to speak at the AGM, told The Telegraph that Lonmin was ultimately responsible for the killings. “Lonmin is guilty as charged. They’re the one that called the police. Police would not have gone to the premises [otherwise]. They initiated this whole action.”
The bishop echoed calls by South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, in December that Lonmin should be stripped of its mining licence as a “last resort” if it fails to act faster.
Ben Magara, who became chief executive in 2013, told shareholders the company was “50pc there” in upgrading housing for its 33,000 workers but said a shanty town next to its plant that is home to a large part of its workforce was on traditional council land and was the responsibility of the government.
Lonmin has set aside nearly £30m over five years to build new houses, and has offered a job to one family member of each of the Marikana victims.
London: South African bishop to lobby mining AGM over 2012 massacre
16 January 2017
A South African Anglican bishop is joining international solidarity groups in London on 26 January, to demand that the UK-listed mining firm meets its commitments for victim compensation and improved worker living conditions before 16 August, the fifth anniversary of the police massacre which killed 34 miners in 2012.
Rt Rev Dr Johannes Seoka will be taking part in the vigil outside the Lonmin AGM in Haberdashers' Hall, W Smithfield, before he goes into the AGM to question the company and their shareholders over the lack of progress on compensation and improvement of working conditions at the Marikana platinum mine in South Africa.
The vigil outside the hall will include a sombre tribute to the 34 mine workers killed by South African police in August 2012, with images of each of the murdered miners and a reading of their names, punctuated by gunshot sound effects.
With 2017 marking the fifth year since the killings of 34 mine workers at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine in South Africa, pressure on the London-listed company is building to implement the social commitments made before and since the massacre.
Critics argue that Lonmin has failed to provide compensation to victims and improve the living standards of mine workers - issues at the core of the labour dispute in which police opened fire on mine workers in 2012. The vast majority of the Marikana workforce still live in informal settlements and lack drinking water, basic sanitation or electricity.
Though charges were laid against several South African police force members and the South African government announced compensation to be paid to victim's families in December 2016, Lonmin has thus far remained largely unaccountable for their actions during August 2012.
Bishop Seoka, of South Africa's Bench Mark Foundation - accompanied by Barbara Mueller and Markus Dufner from the international Plough Back the Fruits network - has come to London to challenge institutional shareholders to commit to divesting from Lonmin, if a list of the organisation's demands are not met by the company before the 16th of August.
These demands include that Lonmin:
- Take steps to implement a living wage for mine workers (12,500 Rand/month, or roughly £750),
- Comprehensively address the housing needs of workers, as 33,000 Lonmin workers live in tin huts without access to electricity, basic sanitation services, or regular drinking water. Lonmin must address the housing needs in consultation with the workers, including subsidised rental accommodation and improved conditions in the informal settlements,
- Compensate the victims of the massacre to allow the widows, orphans and injured survivors a dignified existence. Bench Marks Foundation argues that such compensation be in the region of 20 years' wages that workers would have earned had they not been killed or critically injured exercising their right to organise.
Bishop Johannes Seoka said: "My attendance at Lonmin AGM is to expose the lie that Lonmin has fulfilled its obligations of meeting workers' housing needs, improving their living conditions, or implementing a living wage. Investors have had more than four years to ensure ethical practices are being followed in their investments, but have failed to do so. We will not rest until justice is achieved for the massacred, injured, arrested and the widows and orphans left behind. We call on investors at the Lonmin AGM to take a resolution to compel the company to address the above demands and to set a time limit of August 16th 2017 to comply. Should this not happen, we will call for international solidarity to have Lonmin's mining license revoked, as per President Jacob Zuma's statement in December 2016."
Ntombizolile Mosebetsane, a widow of the massacre, said: "My husband was killed at the Marikana massacre. I am now working in a job at Lonmin cleaning their yard, working outside in the hot sun, windy, breathing that polluted dust blowing around, for the very company that made sure my husband died. I am learning no skills doing this work that will make my life better. Lonmin tells me that this job is a kind offer so that I can earn the money that my husband worked for in their mines, so that I can feed my children."
The protest has been jointly organised by: Marikana Miners Solidarity Group, Plough Back the Fruits, London Mining Network and the Bench Marks Foundation.
It takes place on Thursday 26 January 2017, 9:30am - 10:15am, outside the Lonmin AGM, Haberdashers' Hall, 18 W Smithfield, London EC1A 9HQ
Platinum mining firm tells massacre families: we can't afford to house you
Amid protests on fifth anniversary of Marikana deaths, Loomin says low metal prices mean housebuilding has been slow
27 January 2017
Platinum miner Lonmin has come under attack over its record on conditions for its workers, nearly five years after dozens of people were killed in violence at its Marikana mine in South Africa.
Speaking as protesters displayed placards bearing the names of the dead, the chief executive, Ben Magara, told shareholders at the group’s annual meeting that progress on building homes for 33,000 staff had been “slower than we would have liked”.
But he said rock-bottom platinum prices made it impossible for the company to resolve the housing issue and stay financially sound.
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Thirty-four people were killed near the Marikana mine in August 2012, after workers went on strike, demanding a living wage from Lonmin in a complex dispute that escalated into violence.
The former bishop of Pretoria Johannes Seoka, who was on the phone to one of the victims when the police opened fire, said the company should take more responsibility.
“We’re convinced that what happened is the result of their own reaction to demands of the workers,” he said. “If they had talked with the workers that massacre would not have happened.”
Seoka and Amnesty International called for the company to move faster on building homes for miners, many of whom live in informal communities with no electricity or running water.
Lonmin reached a deal with workers last year for the basic monthly pay of 4,000 rock drill operators to rise by 2018 to nearly 12,500 South African rand (£744), the amount they were demanding in the days leading up to the 2012 massacre.
But one shareholder said she believed miners’ wage demands were “unreasonable”, comparing the sum to her own pension and disability allowance.
“The bulk of my pension goes on utilities,” she said. “They [mine workers] say they don’t have electricity, gas or running water so I don’t understand what they want to spend it on.”
Lonmin said it had taken steps to help the families of the Marikana massacre victims, including offering them jobs, paying for their children’s education and agreeing to improve housing and wages.
Ethics in Lonmin divestment drive
24 January 2017
The Bench Marks Foundation says it will campaign to persuade Lonmin shareholders to divest from the platinum miner, should it not meet the organisation’s housing, wage and compensation demands by the fifth anniversary of the Marikana massacre in August.
The nonprofit organisation, which monitors corporate social responsibility in SA, will also take the unusual step of attending the group’s annual general meeting (AGM) on Thursday in London, where it will address shareholders on its concerns.
The group said on Monday it wanted to compel Lonmin shareholders to commit to divest from the company should it fail to meet the demands made by the foundation.
It will be five years in 2017 since the massacre, which saw 34 miners shot and killed in a strike in which workers were marching for a R12,500 basic monthly wage and better living conditions. Foundation chairman Bishop Jo Seoka, who is planning to attend the Lonmin AGM on behalf of the foundation, said that the organisation would "not rest until justice is achieved for the massacred, arrested and the widows and orphans [who have been] left behind".
Some of the foundation’s demands include a living wage of R12,500 per month for mine workers, tackling the housing needs of 33,000 workers who it says still live in informal settlements and a compensation for the widows, orphans and injured survivors.
The foundation said although Lonmin had employed many of the widows of the killed miners and offered school support for children, it was not enough.
Should Lonmin not meet the demands, the foundation said it would call for international solidarity to have Lonmin’s mining licence revoked. In December, President Jacob Zuma threatened to revoke Lonmin’s mining licence for failing to comply with its own housing targets.
Lonmin CEO Ben Magara said on Friday the company had met the foundation to find ways of solving the housing issue.
Lonmin spokeswoman Wendy Tlou said the company was open about the challenges it was facing. Tlou said Magara would meet the foundation again on Tuesday to continue their discussions.
"We need to understand the role the NGOs play in keeping companies like ours in check and after five years of the Marikana tragedy, we expect stakeholders want to know, and if it was up to us we would have done a lot more.
"We are a reaching out to Bench Marks to say, let’s work together where you are stronger and have better relationships," Tlou said.
The company had committed to spend R500m in the next five years to improve workers’ living conditions, she added.