In addition to supplying the gold used to manufacture the replica of the ‘One Ring’, that is, the shining ring of death from Lord of Rings fame, Harmony Gold is better known as the third largest gold mining company in South Africa. More to the point of this article, however, in recent weeks Harmony Gold has returned to a position of global infamy through its unlawful lock-out and eviction of Kusasalethu mine workers.
Undaunted by powerful bosses, or tricked into submission by ANC-affiliated unions, the Kusasalethu workers are providing a beacon of light for working-class movements the world over. We are after all talking about a mining company whose chairman, South Africa’s former Business Leader of the Year, Patrice Motsepe, is a man whose sister is married to ANC guru/National Union of Mineworkers founder/Lonmin board member, Cyril Ramaphosa.
Patrice Motsepe is also the chairman of African Rainbow Minerals, a mining group whose CEO is former Lonmin senior executive, Mike Schmidt. Another notable member of the ruling class who is a board member of both African Rainbow Minerals and Harmony Gold is the former president of Mozambique, Joaquim Alberto Chissano.
All corporate leaders whose wealth is derived from brutal exploitation of other humans like to salve their consciences and look good in public; therefore Chissano redresses his profitable oppression by acting as a founder of the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa and offers advisory services to the Bill an Melinda Gates Foundation. What a transformation for the former leader of the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO)!
Harmony Gold board member Mavuso Msimang has a similar commitment to ‘humanitarianism’ and greenwash, formerly acting as the Country Director in Ethiopia and Kenya for CARE International, and deputy chairman of the African Parks Network (where he serves on their board room alongside Cyril Ramaphosa).
Likewise Msimang is a trustee of the Nedbank Green Trust, a philanthropic body managed by WWF South Africa. Note that Nedbank’s former CEO and now board member, Thomas Boardman, is also a board member of African Rainbow Minerals, and to add to his green-capitalist credentials is a board member of WWF South Africa, the Peace Parks Foundation, and chairman of the David Rattray Foundation – serving alongside Cyril Ramaphosa, and operating under the patronage of Prince Charles and the leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party, Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
Corporate harmony is the name of the game: and under capitalism workers who attempt to disrupt the smooth flow of corporate profits always face the wraith of their employers. Harmony Gold is no different in this regard, and it is their workers who are presently suffering for challenging the illegitimacy of their bosses.
Yet the miners challenge to Harmony Gold is totally legitimate, and it is being attacked with such vehemence precisely because Harmony’s owners recognize the immense threat that an organized work-force represents to sustainable exploitation. The lesson to be learned for the rest of us is time old: international solidarity and organization are key.