Statement on the strikes and violence in South Africa.

We start the New Year still bearing the memory of the suffering caused by the tragedy at Marikana which cost the lives of 40 miners, two security guards and two policemen. These followed widespread strikes in the mining, transport and agricultural sectors.  These too were often accompanied by violence by and against the strikers, as well as threats of retrenchments of thousands of miners and agricultural workers.

The strikes have been followed by manifestations of dissatisfaction with local authorities over service delivery, in particular the violent protests in Sasolburg. What can be done to stop such appalling violence, unnecessary death, fearsome intimidation and heart wrenching misery?

Likewise we deplore the looting and burning of shops and businesses owned by local and foreign nationals as well as stallholders. Among the victims of violence we are particularly concerned about orphans, vulnerable children, the sick and elderly who are deprived of food, shelter and medication.

Therefore we call for:

  1. Dialogue as the way to approach and resolve all disputes;
  2. An end to corruption beginning at the top of government, civil society and commerce.
  3. Drastic action to remedy the scandal of wage disparity which sees workers earning pittances while top executives earn obscene amounts by comparison. Basing our stand on Catholic Social Teaching, we insist that God’s intention in creating us and commissioning us to develop the goods of the earth, was that these would be for the common good of all i.e. a decent human life for every man , woman and child.
  4. A culture of democracy in all our institutions marked by acceptance and tolerance of differences. This would eliminate intimidation and violence against those who have different views.
  5.  Retraining of our police on how to manage strikes and protests so that they do not become occasions of further violence including that by and against the police.
  6. The prohibition of the carrying of weapons of any kind during protests or strike action.

We make these demands in all humility but with the firm intention of helping to bring about a different culture in which due respect will be given to the basic inalienable dignity and right of each and every human being.

We offer our deep sympathy and condolences to all those who have lost their loved ones in the violence, and that those who have lost loved ones who were breadwinners will be cared for by community members, by Government Departments, and by all organisations which can assist in this very important task and need in an ongoing way. We pray that those who have died will rest in peace.

May God bless our efforts as we work together for healing, peace, hope, stability, and a just future for our mining, agricultural and urban poor communities, and for the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society.

SACBC at the recent Plenary Session held 23-30th January 2013 Pretoria.

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