Bobby Godsell says Marikana violence ‘outrageous’

Bobby Godsell, former CEO of Anglogold Ashanti and chairman of Business Unity

The violence at Marikana was “outrageous” and the killers needed to be held accountable, Business Unity SA chairman Bobby Godsell said on Monday.

“In an apartheid South Africa with no (democratic) constitution you can say that violence was regrettable and understandable,” he said during a discussion at the Gordon Institute of Business Science in Johannesburg.

“In a constitutional democracy, (violence) is not understandable. It is completely outrageous.

“People must be held accountable for those murders.”

For South Africa to fix what happened at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana, North West, wage negotiation processes had to change.

“We have to make wage negotiation work. It has to be inclusive. We have to include people in the negotiation process.

“It has to deliver outcomes that people find broadly acceptable.”

A panel consisting of business leaders, economists and political commentators discussed what led to the deaths of 44 people, most of them striking Lonmin employees, in August.

Executive head of joint venture operations at Anglo American Platinum, Vishnu Pillay, said South Africa needed successful communities to prevent the Marikana tragedy.

Pillay said it was clear there was a link between the social problems faced by Lonmin workers and what the workers wanted from management.

The tragedy, he added, taught the mining community that it needed to conduct its business differently.

Pillay said both the mining company and unions had “in some way” failed the mineworkers in Marikana.

On August 16, police fired on a group of protesters near Lonmin’s Marikana mine, killing 34 and wounding 78. Another 10 people were killed in the preceding week, including policemen and two security guards.

SA Chamber of Mines CEO Bheki Sibiya echoed some of Pillay’s views.

“Mining is a microcosm of what happens in South Africa. Because it is a microcosm we find that a lot of problems which are happening around [the country] are happening in the mining industry as well.”

The fact that most of the 260 people who were arrested on August 16 did not work at Lonmin showed the Marikana tragedy was underpinned by social issues.

Sibiya urged all parties involved in Marikana to stop blaming one another.

“Let’s hang our heads in shame and fix the problem.”

Most of the panellists also criticised he inefficiency of the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac), a forum where government, labour, business, and community organisations negotiate.

“I don’t go to Nedlac because it’s a waste of time. I don’t go there because the government officials who were supposed to be making it successful decided not to attend,” Sibiya said.

Chief executive of Pan-African Capital Holdings, Iraj Abedian, pinned the blame on the nation’s failure to practice what it preached.

Abedian said everyone knew the mining sector had not complied with its social responsibility targets, and nothing had been done about it.

The government and society had done little about structural risks in the mining sector.

“In economics if you do not manage the structural risk and you hope that it will go away… it bounces back,” he said. – Sapa