Gold Strike, Relating To Cry,
“Gold mining union plans one-day Free State strike”
An article dated March 17, 2000
NUM, or South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers, is organizing a one-day strike at Free State gold mines. They are protesting the poverty and job losses from the mines. NUM is the country’s biggest mining union with 50,000 members, and on March 22 the strike would affect five gold companies; AngloGold Ltd., Gold Fields Ltd., Harmony Gold Co., Avgold and African Rainbow Minerals. NUM spokesman Ikaneng Matlala didn’t say, however, how many members of the union would participate on the strike, but did say “All the gold mines in the Free State gold fields are going to embark on a strike.”
The protest is against the gold mines because of the huge job losses in the last fifteen years. In 1987, gold, being the backbone of the economy, employed 530,000 miners. After the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africa’s economy was open to foreign competition, and the gold industry had to be restructured. The gold price has been decreasing as well, and today only 200,000 miners are employed.
This current event relates to Alan Paton’s, Cry, the Beloved Country, because mining supported Johannesburg, and references were made to the mining industry throughout the book. Many characters voiced their opinion that it was the black men that economically supported the white men in South Africa, and they were diseased and injured by it. That they worked for cheap, were exposed to dangers, and then when they needed medical attention the non-European hospitals were less than inadequate. John Kumalo gave speeches on strikes against the gold mines. Gold was found in a new area, Odenaalrust, and the white men wanted to change the name because it was too hard to pronounce. The novel had realism to it because it was somewhat of a historical account of the times, as was The Grapes of Wrath with the dustbowl and droughts. This article shows how the gold mines still cause disputes and struggles much as they did in the 1940’s.