When R4,000 isn’t R4,000

Until we actually have hard facts instead of supposition and rumour, I’m steering well clear of the whole Lonmin/Marikana issue. However, if like me, you’re searching for those hard facts, it seems that the mainstream media isn’t the place to be looking.
There’s a surprise.

Whichever side you’re on, you surely can’t help but feel some pity for the rock drillers who – as we’ve been told here, here, here, here and here – earn just R4,000 per month. How one can survive, let alone support a family, on that amount is beyond me.

Except that Politicsweb has now alleged that the oft quoted R4,000 per month figure is actually some distance from the true amount earned by the Marikana rock drillers:

It was left, not to a journalist, but to Solidarity deputy general secretary Gideon du Plessis to go and find out the actual figures. In a statement issued on Monday he reported “The adjusted total cost package of a Lonmin rock drill operator is approximately R10 500 a month, excluding bonuses.”

In response to a separate query from Politicsweb Lonmin’s Mark Munroe Executive Vice President of Mining, basically confirmed these amounts. He stated: “Lonmin’s Rock Drill Operators earn in the region of R10,000 per month without bonuses and over R11,000 including bonuses. These levels are in line with those of our competitors and are before the wage hike of some 9% which will come into effect on 1 October 2012.”

If this increase applies to the whole compensation package it would push gross earnings – with and without bonuses – to between R11 000 and R12 000 per month. The net income of rock drill operators may well be considerably less than this – after deductions – but this is the cost to company.

If these figures are correct, it makes it even more bewildering, bizarre and tragic that so many lives were lost in search of what amounts to a R500 per month increase.

As the Politicsweb piece states:

One has to ask why no-one in the world’s media appear seem to have bothered to verify the R4 000 figure… Given the critical nature of this information for any analysis of the strikers demands it seems like a very basic mistake.

Meanwhile, South Africa’s news24.com seems to have evidence (via Al-Jazeera) that police were indeed fired upon before opening fire upon the protestors. The video is worth a watch.

I’ll leave the decisions as to whether R10,000 per month plus bonuses is an acceptable wage or whether the two shots apparently fired at police merited their response up to you. But wouldn’t it be nice if the journalists paid to report facts, actually reported facts?