White capital: Corporate social responsibility and the limits of transformation in South Africa12 Apr 2018
Since the 2012 Marikana killings there has been a boom in scholarship about labour relations in the South African mining sector, focused primarily on the ability of workers to organise and the role of state violence in policing strikes. Quality of life issues in mining communities are usually explored only insofar as they affect these labour relations. This article argues that this focus is incomplete, because it ignores the way that services and infrastructure in mining communities affect local residents who have no formal links to the mine. Local residents engage in resistance to the mine’s operations quite separately from labour activists. Scholarship that treats these local residents simply as a potential labour force subject to stabilisation overlooks their political agency. Indeed, local residents and labour groups come into conflict with one another, and with the state, even as all three groups come into conflict with the mine. The article situates the 2012 violence within an ongoing multi-party conflict over the post-apartheid social settlement. It finds that the logic of transformation, with its emphasis on companies’ contributions to social welfare, places white-owned mining companies in a position of political authority, and strengthens their position against demands for reform.