After a two-year halt of gatherings to mark the anniversary of the 16 August 2012 shooting due to the Covid-19 pandemic, those who survived the shooting as well as mine union officials and politicians gathered for the 10th commemoration in North West province. (Paul Botes/M&G)
Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa said on Tuesday the families of those who died when police shot dead 34 striking Lonmin workers in Marikana 10 years ago would not heal until President Cyril Ramaphosa accounted for his role in the massacre.
“Justice for Marikana will only be served if we see Ramaphosa behind bars,” Mathunjwa said.
After a two-year halt of gatherings to mark the anniversary of the 16 August 2012 shooting due to the Covid-19 pandemic, those who survived the shooting as well as mine union officials and politicians gathered for the 10th commemoration in North West province.
In song, the mineworkers stomped their feet at the infamous koppie in Marikana where their 34 colleagues were gunned down. Prior to that, four miners, two police officers and two security guards were also killed from 12 to 14 August 2012.
Ramaphosa was then a non-executive director of Lonmin. An email he wrote to a company executive at the time referred to the violence which accompanied the protest as “plainly dastardly criminal” and that there must be “concomitant action” to address it.
Labour unions say Ramaphosa thus incited the police shooting that followed. He, in turn, has argued that his communication and emails did not constitute actionable incitement or wrongful conduct.
“What happened ten years ago at this koppie should have never happened,” Mathunjwa said on Tuesday. “When one talks about injustice, we talk about what happened here. It is far too easy to get away with crime and defeat justice in our country.”
Mzoxolo Magidiwana, who survived the 2012 shooting, said it was important for the koppie when it occurred to be declared a monument.
“We welcome the decision of the landowner who has seen the importance of preserving the koppie and the land surrounding it. 16 August 2012 was an important date in our lives and our kids need to know why when they are older about the day that changed our lives forever,” said Magidiwana.
One South Africa Movement leader Mmusi Maimane accused Ramaphosa’s government of overlooking the need for justice.
“Our people work hard underground in the mines but their wealth is taken elsewhere. The history of mining will forever be remembered. We call upon Ramaphosa to declare the Marikana massacre a commemorative day,” said Maimane.
In a statement, the government said it was working with mining company Sibanye-Stillwater — which bought Lonmin in 2019 — and other stakeholders to initiate a Marikana renewal plan that would see the revitalising of the mining sector, compensation for families, new schools and housing, a memorial site at the koppie and holding those responsible for the deaths accountable.
Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele said the Marikana tragedy was a turning point in the history of a democratic South Africa and should never be repeated.
“The massacre exposed the gaps in our country’s socioeconomic order and provided an opportunity for introspection. Since that unfortunate incident, the government has been working tirelessly to ensure all the recommendations made by the Farlam commission are implemented,” he said.
“We use this day to also reflect on the progress we have made in improving the South African Police Service (SAPS). We also reflect on the progress that has been made in improving the conditions of the mineworkers.”
The government has encouraged Sibanye-Stillwater to employ some of the widows and relatives of the deceased miners. With regard to compensation, more than R176-million has been paid to claimants, and the outstanding matters that are before the courts are expected to be finalised by the end of August 2022.