No Mr Deputy President, we are not responsible for Marikana
On August 16 2012, police outside the Lonmin mine in Marikana shot and killed 34 striking workers. This week Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa told the Marikana commission set up to investigate the tragedy that everyone in South Africa was responsible. “The responsibility has to be collective,” he said. “As a nation we should dip our heads and accept that we did fail the miners of Marikana and their families.” He went on to say: “The tragedy that occurred has to be approached as a collective failure.” He was responding to an attacking line of questioning from advocate Dali Mpofu, the lawyer for the families of some of the dead and injured miners. He said Ramaphosa should be held criminally liable for the killings. At the time Ramaphosa was a non-executive director of Lonmin and chairperson of the Shanduka Group, which owned parts of the mine. Emails presented during the commission showed Ramaphosa exerting pressure on senior government officials – such as mining and police top brass – to force an end to the strike. But should South Africa as a whole own up to the “collective failure”? Prominent researcher and analyst Nomboniso Gasa doesn't think so. She responded to Ramaphosa's comments in a series of tweets on Friday, shortly after the Mail & Guardian published an analysis on the issue. Gasa has previously told the M&G that she is drawn to the power of social media - but that she's not one for brevity. "I was always intrigued by the power attributed to social media, the role it played in the Arab Spring, its power to report things as they happen," she said at her home in Observatory, Johannesburg, on why she joined Twitter. "But I have always wondered about the depth of the platform. I didn't understand how you could communicate substantial issues in 140 characters. I still haven't mastered it. That's why I do the lists." Thaddeus Metz, of the University of the Witwatersrand’s philosophy department, said the only collective failure was that of the government and the companies involved. Those in power should have taken responsibility, he said. “It would have been more appropriate if the deputy president had said he and government were taking responsibility when he was in front of the commission.” Instead, the commission had been an exercise in evading the truth, Metz said. – Additional reporting by Sipho Kings.