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Published 7th February 2014

Vol 55 No 3


South Africa’s volunteer force

Image courtesy of Panos Pictures
Image courtesy of Panos Pictures

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Frustrated by delays in setting up an African standby force, Pretoria and its allies are pushing ahead with a smaller, rapid reaction force

The cannons roared and the guns blazed as diplomats and politicians arrived for the African Union summit in Addis Abba on 24-31 January. The raging conflict and wanton killing in Central African Republic and South Sudan could not have provided a worse backdrop for the summiteers or clearer proof of their organisation’s inability to pre-empt conflict or intervene effectively when the fighting starts. As the records of the United Nations and European Union show, the AU is far from alone in such failures. It also points to the magnitude of the AU’s ambitions: to build a standby military force for the region to be sent into action by an authoritative continental security council and to commission teams of independent experts to raise governance standards through peer review.

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BLUE LINES
THE INSIDE VIEW

The death of at least eight miners after a fire and rock fall at a Harmony Gold mine near Johannesburg on 5 February threw proceedings at this week's Mining Indaba into stark relief. The 8,000 delegates who flocked to Cape Town for the meeting found South Africa's mining industry in political chaos.

The deaths at Harmony Gold, the worst for five years, reinforced the divisions over wages, profits and operating conditions in the industry. Frans Baleni, Secretary General of the Natio...

The death of at least eight miners after a fire and rock fall at a Harmony Gold mine near Johannesburg on 5 February threw proceedings at this week's Mining Indaba into stark relief. The 8,000 delegates who flocked to Cape Town for the meeting found South Africa's mining industry in political chaos.

The deaths at Harmony Gold, the worst for five years, reinforced the divisions over wages, profits and operating conditions in the industry. Frans Baleni, Secretary General of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), called for a detailed investigation and sanctions against any company officials found negligent. Analysts at the Indaba fretted about the costs of lost production. Mining houses also worry about South Africa's insistence that more ore should be processed before export, to boost employment and add more local value.

On the Indaba's opening day on 3 February, about 100,000 mineworkers downed tools at the Lonmin, AngloAmerican Platinum and Impala Platinum mines, demanding pay increases to reflect increasing production. The strikes are led by the radical Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, now the officially recognised union in the platinum sector having displaced the more moderate NUM, which backs President Jacob Zuma and is aligned to the governing African National Congress. The radical National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa backs the platinum strike and is calling out its members. Last month, NUMSA announced that it was ending support for the ANC, preferring to found a workers' party to represent unionists.

For all three sides – radical trades unionists, the ANC and the mine owners – the platinum workers' strike will be a critical test of strength.

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Tripling trade

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Civil society under threat

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Big plans for 2014

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A deal under duress

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Peace process slows down

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Scandals to dominate polls

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Danger, road works ahead

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Pointers

Seats for dissidents

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