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Inside Story
Why are South Africans angry with Jacob Zuma?
As political tension rises over the shooting of striking miners, we ask if the anger will impact the ANC's standing.
Last Modified: 25 Aug 2012 09:01

Political tension is on the rise in South Africa following the shooting of striking miners by police.

"[It is wrong] to suggest that the problem is simply one of wrong policies by government. It's much more deep-rooted than that. And if we're looking for people to take responsibility, top of the list has to be the mining companies - huge multinational companies, which for decades have treated the mine workers in the most appalling fashion."

- Patrick Craven, a spokesman for COSATU

Jacob Zuma, the South African president, has appointed a commission to investigate the circumstances that led to the deaths of more than 40 people during a wildcat strike at a platinum mine. Thirty-four of the dead were miners shot by police in a single incident.

Zuma says the actions of all parties involved will be examined - including the workers, their unions, the police, mine management and the relevant government authorities.

Some contend that Zuma's own political future hinges in part on successfully navigating this crisis. As, perhaps, does that of his ruling party, the ANC.

The organisation, which has dominated South African politics since the fall of apartheid, will be holding a national congress in December. This is held every five years to elect or re-elect leaders and to define policy.

And already some have expressed anger that the commission has been given four months to produce a report - which means that its findings will only be available after the ANC's national congress.

"The correlation between the social-economic environment and the events of last week cannot be separated. But, equally so, the question must be asked: Why ... the leadership of many of the unions represented on that day was so slow to respond to the crisis?"

- Mmusi Maimaine, a spokesman for the Democratic Alliance

Mining is one of the largest sectors of the South African economy. It is also the sector in which there is the largest income gap between the workers and the executives who profit from the output. South Africa has the largest mineral reserves in the world - worth about $2.5 trillion. Mining accounts for nearly 20 per cent of GDP. And the industry directly employs about 500,000 people - and another half a million indirectly.

The average mine worker earns $500 a month, while Lonmin, the London-based company that owns the platinum mine at the centre of the current wage dispute, posted a profit of $100m last year.

So, why is anger being directed at Jacob Zuma? And what impact is this having on the political standing of the ANC, which he leads and which has governed South Africa for nearly 20 years?

Joining Inside Story, with presenter Mike Hanna, to discuss this are guests: Patrick Craven, a spokesman for the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU); Daniel Hammett, a lecturer on human geography at the University of Sheffield; and Mmusi Maimaine, a spokesman for the opposition Democratic Alliance.

"The underlying tension in South Africa - and more broadly around the world - between the poorer paid manual workers and the rich elites is certainly a source of tension in many areas. And in South Africa we are seeing that played out on a weekly basis almost .... That economic aspect then spills over into being a political aspect."

Daniel Hammett, a lecturer at the University of Sheffield

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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