I felt sick to my stomach as I watched news footage of mine workers armed with machetes, spears and knobkerries being gunned down whilst storming police officers armed with shotguns and automatic weapons in Marikana, North West. I remember scrolling through my Twitter feed earlier in the day and seeing photos from Ügen Vos (Beeld, The Citizen) of protesters wielding weapons, thinking to myself that it looked like a declaration of war. Little did I know. If you don’t know what I am on about just google Lonmin. Criticism flowed freely on Friday. Everyone had their own opinion on who was to blame. Prof Jonathan Jansen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Free State commented that the pictures looked eerily similar to Sharpeville. If you’ve seen the footage of the shooting you will agree that the police weapons were fired out of fear. Put yourself in the shoes of those officers. It’s easy to condemn the shooting but I am sure they feared for their own lives. Either way, with the build-up to the shooting (remember that people were killed on both sides even before Thursday afternoon) the stage was set for disaster. Now let’s look at the unions. Why do union members bring weapons to a strike? What happens when the mine can’t deliver on the increase demanded by the union? In this case the unions lost control and it cost approximately 40 people their lives. What about the mine itself? How bad are the working conditions? How far do you have to push an individual before he takes up arms to get his point across?
Perhaps this is but an indication of a failing government, a government that doesn’t listen to its citizens, a government that doesn’t lead by example, a government that isn’t interested in educating its citizens. Every couple of weeks we read of more discarded textbooks in Limpopo. At the same time as the stand-off between the miners and police, TUT (Tswane University of Technology) is covered in the black smoke from burning tyres. The gripe: amongst others, catering services in residences and a lack of financial aid for students. The result: a shutdown of three TUT campuses. The cost: education. The culture in this country has become one of “we demand” instead of let’s make a plan, let’s work together. And who can blame us? It’s the way we’ve been taught by our leaders through empty promises and hand-outs around election time. Complaining isn’t going to solve a damn thing and this is not what this editorial is about. I am concerned and you should be too. We need to stop bickering about trivial matters and start taking the wheel of this country through accountable leadership. Its starts right here on campus with you because, like it or not, you are tomorrow’s leaders and we will inherit the rot taking place right now.
Carel Willemse Editor-in-Chief @Ed_in_Chief