Marikana dead to be remembered

African cleansing ceremony at the site of the Marikana killings
African cleansing ceremony at the site of the Marikana killings

The first anniversary of the shooting at Lonmin’s Marikana mine, near Rustenburg in the North West, will be marked during a commemorative rally on Friday.

On August 10 last year, Lonmin rockdrillers embarked on an unprotected strike for a monthly salary of R12,500.

More workers joined the strike and the protesters gathered at a hill near Nkaneng informal settlement carrying weapons, such as pangas, spears, knobkerries, and iron rods.

On August 16 last year, police trying to disperse and disarm them opened fire on the mineworkers, killing 34 of them.

Ten people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed in strike-related violence the preceding week.

Several violent deaths in the area following the Lonmin strike have been blamed on rivalry between the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

The Congress of SA Trade Unions, to which NUM is affiliated, said that there had been “overwhelming concern” in the wake of the Marikana shooting that such killings should never again happen in democratic South Africa.

“Tragically however, one year later, we cannot say that there have been no further deaths,” spokesman Patrick Craven said in a statement on Thursday.

Social problems, poverty and lack of transformation still affected the lives of mining communities.

A framework agreement for a sustainable mining industry, signed by government, employers and most unions, needed to be fulfilled in order to prevent a repetition of the Marikana tragedy, Craven said.

He said the union federation was “bitterly disappointed” at the procedural arguments stalling the work of the Farlam Commission.

President Jacob Zuma appointed the commission to probe circumstances around the August 16 shooting.

On Friday, the Constitutional Court is expected to rule whether the State should pay the legal costs for the miners arrested and injured at Marikana.

In June Dali Mpofu, for the miners, told the commission that due to financial constraints his team could be forced to withdraw from the inquiry.

He previously brought an urgent court application in the High Court in Pretoria several weeks ago seeking funding, but this was dismissed.

The commission has been postponed several times while solutions to the funding problems were sought.

Amnesty International’s Africa spokesman Noel Kututwa said on Thursday that the organisation was concerned that the Farlam Commission was in crisis.

“The long-term consequences for the respect and protection of human rights in South Africa will be severe should the South African authorities fail in taking all necessary steps to achieve accountability for what happened in Marikana on 16 August 2012.”

The SA Communist Party called for the speedy conclusion of the Farlam Commission’s work.

“The SACP hopes that the commission will also attend to the broader systemic, underlying issues around the mining areas and the mining industry.”

The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said it was concerned about continuing violence and killings in the Marikana area.

“The SAHRC recognises the urgent need for an understanding of all of the causes and reasons for these deaths, and what can be done to improve the material conditions of the people of Marikana, and hold those responsible accountable.”

Agang SA leader Mamphela Ramphele said: “As we honour all those who died at Marikana, we must encourage a spirit of reconciliation backed by practical steps so that all concerned parties can work together to finally bring peace to Marikana”.

The CCMA said its offices would observe a minute of silence at noon on Friday as a mark of respect for those killed at Marikana.

The CCMA committed itself to working tirelessly in efforts to prevent a repetition of the events of August 16 last year. It also acknowledged the work of its members in relation to the Marikana labour disputes.

Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution chairman Sipho Pityana said police needed to heed lessons learnt from the Marikana shooting.

“The continued brutality of the police, and their inadequacies in policing protests, shows how urgent it is that reforms are introduced to protect the human rights of everyone who lives in South Africa.”

National police commissioner Riah Phiyega called for peace at Friday’s commemorative events.

“We wish to appeal to everyone who will be in attendance to conduct themselves appropriately and to co-operate with the event organisers, marshals and the police,” she said on Thursday.

“Most importantly, we plead with them to not carry dangerous weapons including knives, knobkerries, firearms or any other dangerous weapons.”

NUM and the African National Congress in the North West signalled on Thursday that they would not be attending the commemorations.

NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said the decision was based on the fact that the events were organised by the Marikana Support Group, rather than deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe’s office.

NUM initially welcomed Amcu’s invitation to its president Senzeni Zokwana to attend the commemoration. Zokwana had been asked to share the stage with Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa in an attempt to ease tensions in the platinum belt.

Lonmin signed an agreement with Amcu this week, recognising it as the company’s majority trade union. The agreement set a threshold of a 30 percent membership for any trade union to be recognised by the company.

Membership of the NUM, which used to be the majority union, has dropped to 20 percent of Lonmin’s workforce.

ANC provincial spokesman Kenny Morolong said: “The commemoration is organised by an illegitimate team called ‘Marikana support group’ — a group which the ANC does not recognise”.

The ANC would only participate in a commemoration organised by government, as agreed with families, Lonmin Platinum and labour unions, he said. – Sapa