Thursday September 13
This morning we rose as usual to the sounds of the women preparing our breakfast and our baths. Today, however, we were all feeling a deep sense of sadness to be leaving Makupo village. Gradually all the people of the village converged on the hostel as we loaded up our van. Then, as the women lined up to sing for us, we began our long goodbyes with each and every person. The women ran beside the vehicle as we pulled away, dancing and singing all the way from our hostel to the main road. We quietly reflected on all that we had experienced and learned at Makupo village as we headed to the airport.
Our flight to Johannesburg was a short one and when we landed, we had only a few hours of rest before a meeting that night. At the dinner buffet, we were overwhelmed with the amount of food to choose from, and once again thought of Makupo and the villagers who may go up to a month without meat of any kind.
After dinner, we met with a number of trade unionists from the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) and the National Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU). Although we were tired and the only room we could get for a meeting was cramped and noisy, we were thirsting to hear from these comrades (the common term trade unionists use with each other). In particular, we wanted to hear about their current struggles, especially in the wake of the recent Marikana Massacre where 34 miners were shot to death during a strike at the Lonmin platinum mine near Johannesburg. These comrades talked of the strong alliance between the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist party, and that despite tensions with the ANC government around Marikana, etc. the alliance is strong. In a capitalist country based on the mining industry, the debate around class relations is sharpened during a crisis like Marikana.