On Friday evening, Krishna and I were invited to go to a platinum miners’ strike fundraiser by our fellow hostel guest, Ingrid. Ingrid had travelled from her home in Sweden to Cape Town to help support the work of an NGO dedicated to worker’s rights. She explained to us that the platinum miners had been striking for over five months in protest of their low wages. However, their striking for five months has also meant that these workers have gone without even this low wage for five months. This has left them and their families without any income or food. Therefore, Ingrid said her NGO was holding the fundraiser to help support these miners and their families so they could continue their protest. Krishna and I were eager to hear more about this movement in South Africa and Ingrid’s work, so we were happy to tag along.
The fundraiser was held in a restaurant near our hostel called the Foreign Exchange, or Forex. The price of admission was either a donation of canned goods or fifty rand (about five US dollars). After we met Ingrid’s supervisor and a few of her co-workers, everyone was asked to listen to a panel discussion which features three of the striking miners and also some of the NGO’s experts. We learned that before the strike, the workers were being paid about 600 US dollars a month and they were striking for an increase to 1250 dollars per month. The miners explained they had been told that because they did not have degrees in higher education that they did not deserve higher wages. However, they said that regardless of their level of education, their working conditions were so hazardous, that they deserved this increase. Additionally, they said that they felt that their companies could finance this increase as their CEOs had just given themselves multi-million dollar end of the year bonuses. At the end of the discussion, we wished we had been given more information from the experts regarding the economics of their wage demands. Regardless, we were glad to learn more about the issue, happy to support hungry families, and hoped that the situation would soon be resolved for all involved.
Platinum Miner Answering Questions about the Strike
Fundraiser Guests Listening to the Panel Discussion
The next day, Krishna and I decided to take a trip to the Rhodes Memorial. We knew it was built in recognition of Cecil John Rhodes, a former Cape Colony prime minister and mining mogul, and his contribution to the development of South Africa. Unfortunately, we also knew that Rhodes was a British imperialist and a huge supporter of colonialism and the domination of Africa by the Anglo-Saxon race. However, the memorial itself sits at the bottom of Devil’s Peak in Table Mountain National Park, and we heard it offers an amazing view overlooking all of Cape Town. In fact, we heard many couples travel there to take wedding photos. Therefore we still felt it was worth a trip even if we did not agree with honoring Rhodes’ memory.
At the memorial, we learned that it was built in 1912 from granite from Table Mountain itself and that the forty nine steps of the memorial represent each year of Rhodes’ life. It reminded me of the Parthenon, with its Greek classical design and Doric columns, and had eight magnificent bronze lions. However, the best part was definitely the view over Cape Town. We could see all the way to the beach and across the entire city. After admiring the memorial itself, we had some coffee at the memorial’s restaurant where we could still look out over the scenic vista. Unfortunately, a rain front came in and we were forced to hurry home!
A Bust of Cecil Rhodes
Below is a Poem Written by Rudyard Kipling, who was a Close Friend of Rhodes
The Rhodes Memorial
View from the Memorial's Restaurant Garden
Spectacular View of Cape Town
View of the Ocean from the Memorial