Your browser is not Javascript enable or you have turn it off. We recommend you to activate for better security reason


Drones: a new weapon in the war on workers

Written by: on


by Nick G. (June 2014)

In 2012, Henry Kieser was flying surveillance drones over striking workers at the Lonmin mines in South Africa. The drones supplied intelligence on where strikers were gathering and helped identify leaders and organisers within the crowds.

That intelligence was fed into decisions that led to 34 strikers being shot and killed by security forces, and many more wounded and arrested.

Kieser is the owner of the fascistically-named Desert Wolf company, whose product range increasingly specialises in unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles, or drones.

He was influential in South Africa's COPE political party, founded in 2008 as a breakaway from the ANC. When COPE president Mosiuo Lekota was ANC defence minister, Desert Wolf received a big defence contract.

In June, Kieser unveiled his newest product, the Skunk, a copter-like drone with a lifting capability of 45 Kg from eight powerful electric motors with 16 inch propellers.

The load capacity allows the Skunk to be equipped with 4 high-capacity paint-ball barrels releasing at up to 20 paint-balls per second each, with 80 pepper-balls per second “stopping any crowd in its tracks”. 

Each Skunk can carry 4000 paint, pepper or compressed plastic balls.

A remote operator has full control over each marker. According to a blurb from Desert Wolf, “He can select the RED paint marker and mark the protester who carries dangerous weapons, he can select the BLUE marker to mark the vandalising protestors and if needed the pepper-balls to stop the advancing crowd before they get into a ‘Life threatening situation’. 

“He can also set the releasing frequency of each marker from as low as 1 ball per second up to 20 balls per second. If all markers releases at maximum rate, then you disperse 80 balls per second. This high frequency will only be used in an extreme ‘Life threatening situation’.

Lasers and strobes included
The drone also includes on-board speakers to give orders to crowds, as well as bright strobe lights and "blinding lasers" to disorientate victims. Blinding lasers are prohibited for use in war under the Geneva Convention, but included on the Skunk for use against striking workers. 

The “good” bourgeoisie
Kieser justifies this high tech weapon of suppression as a safe and human alternative to the violence that occurred at Marikana.

“Our aim is to assist in preventing another Marikana. We were there and it should never happen again.”
"Anyone who was at Marikana would rather have this technology than live ammunition," he continued. "People who say it's inhumane compared to 9mm bullets are idiotic."

Taking away the right to strike
What is really idiotic is being driven by commercial greed to develop military-style weaponry to suppress striking workers and people engaged in demonstrations and protests.

James Nichol, a British lawyer representing the families of dead strikers at Marikana, said: "It's absolutely outrageous. Using pepper spray like ammunition to scatter the crowd. People are entitled to be on strike. Who would make the decision? It's absurd."

He added: "What we know about drones is in Pakistan they have killed funeral parties and they have killed wedding parties. Innocent people would be caught up in this. It seems to be the thin end of the wedge.

"One of the lessons of Marikana is that the state should stay out of industrial disputes. If they want people firing back at drones which then crash and hurt innocent people, be it on their heads. It's disgraceful."

Rehad Desai, spokesperson for the Marikana Support Campaign and director of a documentary film, Miners Shot Down, said: "The government are increasingly turning to authoritarian methods instead of dialogue and mediation. It's to be expected that they would adopt such equipment to quell dissent. But the more violent the equipment, the more violent the reaction will be.

"Why would it be more 'humane' to pepper spray people on their way home than to shoot them? I don't see the analogy."

Tim Noonan, a spokesman for the International Trade Union Confederation, told the BBC: "This is a deeply disturbing and repugnant development and we are convinced that any reasonable government will move quickly to stop the deployment of advanced battlefield technology on workers or indeed the public involved in legitimate protests and demonstrations."

Orders already placed
Kiesser is set to make big money.  He already has an order for 25 Skunks from one mining company, which he refused to name.

At 500,000 South African Rand per Skunk, that’s 12,5000,000 Rand (or $A1,250,000) as a starter.
But 25 Skunks from just one mining company?  That’s a lot of “crowd control”.

South Africa's platinum belt is currently deadlocked in a strike which, after five months, is the longest in the history of the country's mines and has pushed many workers and their families into dire poverty and hunger. Maybe those workers will be the first to be on the receiving end of Mr Kieser’s “humanitarian concern”.

Other orders are being finalised from "mines in South Africa, some security companies in South Africa and outside South Africa, some police units outside South Africa and a number of other industrial customers."

Taser drones
Desert Wolf is not alone in thinking up new ways to harass and attack the people.

A Texan company has developed CUPID (Chaotic Unmanned Personal Intercept Drone) to identify and taser individuals from the air.  A regular police hand-held taser delivers a charge of around 50,000 volts, but in a gesture no doubt designed to show the power of love, CUPID will up the ante to 80,000 volts.

People cannot be stopped
The logic of class struggle is inexorable.  

The bourgeoisie exploits the people and the people fight for justice.

The bourgeoisie imposes repressive measures and the people develop resistance. 

The more violent the repression, the more violent the resistance.

The more sophisticated the repression, the more sophisticated the resistance.

Ways will be found to stop the drones.


Print Version - new window Email article


Go back