Marikana platinum mine, near Rustenburg, South Africa, employed thousands of workers, composed mostly of migrants working for low wages. Lonmin, a British mining company, owned Marikana. The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) represented most of the workers at Marikana. NUM was one of the two largest unions in the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), an extremely powerful organization and a major player in South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC).
In 1941 the pay disparity between black South African mine workers and white South African workers was R70 to R848, respectively. The African Mine Workers’ Union (AMWU) formed in response to address this issue. By 1946 the 12:1 ratio of pay had not changed, as black workers were paid R87 while white workers were paid R1,106.