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NEWS FLASH- Typical of our day to day experiences

Earlier this year we experienced violent industrial action at the local Impala platinum mines in the area known as Freedom Park. Our projects in the squatter camp there were disrupted and our clinic was forced to close for a few weeks. Thankfully peace was restored and everything there is functioning as normal. At the time of the unrest the general concensus was the trouble was caused by rival unions - NUM (national union of mineworkers) and AMCU (association of mineworkers and construction union). According to reports the well established NUM, which strongly supports the ANC government was losing huge numbers to the relatively new AMCU which does not seem to be politically aligned but seems to concentrate on workers grievances. This was vehemently denied by the union officials at that time. Now again violence has broken out at another platinum mine owned by Lonmin company and situated about 20 kms from Freedom Park. And again union rivalry is blamed and again denied by the unions. Apparently most of those on strike belong to AMCU and their demand for an increase from R5 000 to R12 500 per month is supported by AMCU officials whereas NUM officials say the strike is illegal and they cannot support such an outrageous demand.

The strike at Lonmin started last week and within days 10 people were killed. The dead were mostly NUM members but also included two policemen and two Lonmin security guards. Then on Monday instead of going to work the striking miners gathered on a koppie near the mine in defiance of a large contingent of police. We were aware of trouble as we could see the police caspirs on the roads and police helicopters circling overhead although we were able to continue our work in the squatter camp centres. The standoff continued until Thursday when the police moved in to force the striking miners off the hill. It is said (and TV footage supports this) that the miners were armed with pangas, assegais, knobkerries and other weapons. The police used rubber bullets, water canons, and tear gas and the thousands of miners began to move off the hill. What happened next is not clear. Some reports say the miners began to attack the police, other reports say the police panicked and began shooting live ammunition. What is certain is that 34 miners were killed, hundreds wounded and over 250 men arrested. The media are now calling this "the Marikana massacre". The whole country is in a state of shock and the government has announced three days of public mourning.

President Jacob Zuma has set up a judicial commission to establish what actually happened and he himself visited the hospital in Marikana where some of the wounded were being treated. The opposition parties have shown a lot of maturity by not trying to score politically by condemning the ANC led government and adding to the tension. On the other hand, Julius Malema, expelled ANC youth league president did visit and scene on Saturday and was loud in his criticism of the government and of President Zuma in particular and of the Lonmin management.

On the following Monday the Mine company called on the strikers to return to work or face dismissal. This threat fell on deaf ears and the strike continued. No one knew what the next move would be but everybody was praying that the fragile peace would prevail and a negotiated settlement would be reached.

Eventually on the 20th September 2012, after 5 weeks of intense negotiations, the strike at Lonmin has come to an end , leaving 46 people dead, and the rest of the mining industry in disarray. To date the surrounding Amplats mines beside Siza and Mbekisan are still on strike demanding the same wage agreement as Lonmin.

MBEKI SAN ABET GRADUATION JUNE 2012

Kgomotso Selekwe lives in Sunrise Park Near Rustenburg, RSA. Everyday she walks a few kilometres to a nearby squatter camp called Mbekisan, where she conducts literacy and numeracy classes for adults who missed out on primary school. Today she is MC at a celebration to honour a group of 21 adults who have completed ABET level 1 (equivalent of lower primary) and who today will receive their nationally recognised certificates. Today is a happy day for Kgomotso.

Mbeki San is one of five centres run by Tsholofelo Community to provide health, educational and other services for the very poor living in squatter camps in the so called 'platinum basin', where much of the world's platinum is mined. The Mbeki San centre is a fenced area of 50m x 50m, donated by the local people and which now has a créche with 30 children aged 2-3 years (run by teacher Yvonne); another 30 or so aged 4 - 5ears (run by teacher Gadifela) and 26 children aged 5-6 years (run by teacher Moalusi). They use tin shack classrooms 6m x 5m built by a group of volunteers from 'Serve' Ireland. A small kitchen and two long drop latrines complete the créche section. Another two tin shack rooms are used for the adult literacy classes and the skills training and a small vegetable patch struggles to grow cabbage and spinach in spite of chickens, goats and other predators!! The centre is brightly painted and there is a lively hum about the place but today there is also music and singing and noise and laughter as the crowd gathers for the adult celebration. A colourful green and white tent has been erected to provide shade from the winter sun and the VIP table is decked with flowers. Invited guests include George Tolo, chairman of the centre's local committee, Vingy Mosomi, deputy chairperson, Rethabile Senne, Site manager, Kenny Sekosana and Brother Joseph of Tsholofelo Community skills projects, Bonolo M. and Gabriel T. of the Greater Rustenburg Community Foundation.

Last week Mbeki San was a 'no go' area cordoned off by scores of police backed by caspirs, fire brigades, helicopters etc while the local community protested against poor service delivery by the Rustenburg Municipality. There are still traces of fires and barricades and the place was like a battle ground. The problem, apparently, had to do with water and illegal electrical connections. The Municipality was blamed and the local councillor seemed unable to contain the anger and frustration. Anyhow the Mayor eventually did arrive and after talks with the people he was able to appease them and the trouble was over for the time being. Today there is no fighting, just celebration.

After introductions and welcomes, the MC called on one of hr ABET learners, Mrs Mbaolo to speak and she told the audience how she is very happy because she can sign her name and fill up official forms and go to the bank and do her own business. Even though she says she is very old, she is proud to receive her certificates for competence in English and mathematics. She thanked the facilitators who have brought her to this level and congratulated Tsholofelo Community for introducing this adult education programme. This speech was followed by a song "Ga yo mathatha" (no trouble when God is with us) from the learners choir. Then Mmamitse, another recited a poem she had prepared for this great occasion:

Education is the key to success
It is the key to your future
Shine! Education Shine!
Education is power and Education empowers us all
ABET is our second chance for me and for you
Wakeup - my sisters and see the light
Shine ! Education shine !

The poem was punctuated with much hand clapping and whinnies of joyful encouragement.

This was followed by a motivational speech by Olebogang Mokwatsi, a level 2 learner. He spoke about what ABET has meant to him in his life, how it has helped him to get a good job. But more than that, ABET has given him confidence in himself. He used to feel inferior and ignorant, but now he can hold his head up high and speak with anyone without being afraid. He said: "I used to walk around with my head down and dragging my feet. But after coming to ABET, I now have a spring in my step. I want to achieve my ambition which is that some day I will have my own business and employ people to work with me".

Mrs Bonolo of Greater Rustenburg Community Foundation spoke on behalf of the invited guests "One word that I can use today is WOW! This is a great occasion because I see you, the people of Mbeki San, doing something for yourselves. This is real independence. This is real freedom. You are starting now with level 1, but there is nothing stopping you from going as high as you wish. Like Mandela told us ' the longest journey starts with a single step', and you have already taken that first step. Congratulations!".

Kenny Sekosana presented the certificates and reminded the recipients that Tsholofelo means HOPE. He said it is HOPE that we are sharing together today and it is a new beginning for those who missed out on the chance to go to school and learn the basics. Rethabile Senne, the site Manager congratulated those who had passed and he had a word of consolation for those who failed.

George Mogwera, Chairman of the centre committee, gave the vote of thanks. After greeting everyone, he said he wished himself to be a student of Kgomotso Selekwe because he could see from the numbers receiving certificates that she was a great teacher. He said that the local committee was very grateful to Tsholofelo Community and its team and he urged them not to be discouraged by the difficulties that were numerous in and adult centre like this one in a squatter camp. He then excused himself as he had to attend a meeting with the mayor and the MEC of the N.W. in connection with last weeks riots for lack of service delivery. He then shot off in a cloud of dust, while everyone else began the feast of food and drink which had been prepared by Yvonne Modikwane and her team of cooks. It was indeed a great day.