Thousands of South Africans Trapped Under Apartheid Gold Mining Company

2,000 Rescued At South African Mine

2,000 miners were rescued in last night’s rescue operation, leaving behind still hundreds. The bulk of coverage of this perilous situation has somehow seemed to consistently and quite predictably, depending on your expectations of white corporate media, failed to miss the fact that we are talking about thousands of black South Africans trapped underneath a mine owned by a white man, an apartheid company, an apartheid gold mine. The ‘paper of record’, the Times does mention repeatedly the safety concerns ‘raised’ by workers but it repeatedly excludes context. That this is an apartheid situation is impossible for the Times to miss with their virtually limitless investigative resources and the pressure they can obviously bring to bear in coercing individuals, organizations and even institutions to answer tough questions. The Times doesn’t miss the story.

They bury it.

As they and with almost no exceptions, the rest of white run corporate media buried the story of apartheid until Mandela, the African National Congress and other resistance fighters and organizations upped the ante in the 80s til white media couldn’t ignore it any longer. After moving beyond the ignoring phase, they advanced to vilification of the freedom fighters. Until eventually, they were forced to move into the customary Orwellian diversion where the righteousness of the cause of Mandela et al was referenced and written about as self-evident. Papers that not long before backed racist oppression pretended to be on the right side all along. Also in accordance with Western norms white polite society didn’t rock the boat and went along with the charade.

It’s 2007, apartheid is supposedly over and not nearly as much has changed as the ‘paper of record’ and others with headline power and agenda setting influence would have us believe. Like so many highly profitable companies the Harmony gold mining is an operation that exists not in spite of apartheid but solely because of it. An inconvenient detail the NYTimes would rather not upset the sensibilities of it’s typical reader with. But to deny its relevance would be ridiculous. Thousands of blacks trapped under the ground without food or water some of whom may die. Working under unsafe conditions within a white company where they, the workers have unsuccessfully lobbied for a safer work environment. The fact that the company is owned by apartheid whites isn’t the reason the accident happened. Accidents happen. But isn’t it relevant to the story that they are apartheid whites and that the black workforce’s lobby for improvements from the whites has fallen on deaf ears?

Far from emphasizing the unjust foundation upon which the entire story rests, the Times excludes it altogether, again, as in the official apartheid era of record, they indirectly carry water for the forces of injustice by not shining the spotlight on them. Emphasizing the rescue but not the conditions that made rescue necessary to begin with.

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2 Responses to “Thousands of South Africans Trapped Under Apartheid Gold Mining Company”

  1. The Gold Mining company concerned in this case is Harmony GMC. On the contrary, the Gold Mine is not owned by a white man, but by a series of shareholders most of who are American. The single largest shareholder, and chairman of the company is Patrice Motsepe, a black bilionaire businessman. Motsepe has made his fortune but resusitating older mines using vast cost cutting techniques.

    The mine employs some 4500 people and runs with a very tight budget.

    Apartheid was a policy in South Africa, which ended some 17 years ago and is no longer a matter of fact on any mining operation in South Africa. The fact that Elandsrand mine is black owned and managed has nothing to do with the recent poor safety record compared to its impecable record during apartheid.

    Just because white and black miners work there does not mean that the new black owners are practicing racial discrimination (apartheid) by poor maintenance. The maintenance issues are a result of economics, The mine needs to cut back in order to operate profitably, but not at the expense of safety.

    The accident was not intentional

    PM (Mine wrorker at Elandsrand)

  2. First of all, I’m glad that you weren’t injured in the workplace incident.

    Two points.

    I did not mean to imply that the accident was purposeful or intended. My meaning was that the system is rotten and that the rotten roots go back to apartheid. I have seen or read nothing that would lead me to believe this was not an accident.

    Second, although a black billionaire sits at the top of the pyramid at the moment, while that may assuage the guilty sensibilities of some it doesn’t dramatically alter the apartheid equation of worker exploitation along ethnic lines. A look at the entire structure and shareholder distribution vs stakeholder and black worker power distribution bear this out.

    In your comment you distinguished between a ‘white man’ and an ‘American’. The Americans that own Harmony are white men according to last year’s shareholder’s statement. As you stated, it is a fact that Patrice Motsepe is the largest single shareholder in the company but don’t let that fact confuse. Single largest does not necessarily equate with control of the company. This is not one of the cases where it does.

    You use the term black owners quite loosely in your comment. The majority of owners, meaning shareholders are white.

    Pamodzi is the only gold company in South Africa that is black controlled.
    Harmony Mining, a company mining and profiting from the valuable resource of black South African gold mined by black South African workers is controlled by white men today in October of 2007, just as it was controlled by white men in October of 1987.

    Let us be truthful about this.

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