/ 19 August 2022

Social pact needed for Marikana renewal – Adam Habib

Vice-chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand
Vice-chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand, Adam Habib, outside the university's Great Hall (Waldo Swiegers/Gallo)

Sibanye-Stillwater held its third annual Marikana Commemoration Lecture on Thursday to  honour the memories of those affected by the Marikana massacre, reflect on the legacy of the tragedy, and on the journey of renewal and healing.

This year marks a decade since the death of 34 miners and 10 others who were killed in Marikana during a wage strike.  

The keynote speaker at the virtual commemoration was Professor Adam Habib, former Wits University vice-chancellor, who is the director of the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.  

Habib said the only way to achieve renewal and healing at Marikana was via a social pact.  

Before he delivered his core message, Habib said it was pointless to play the blame game about what went wrong at Marikana, as this would not avoid a repeat of the tragedy. 

Although there was, he said, much blame that could go around.  

“We can blame the mining industry that has gone on for more than a century, enriching some and displacing so many. We can also blame the government whose cadre deployment measures from patronage appointments have crippled municipal service delivery and enabled corruption on a large scale. 

“The effects of this have been devastating. Not only has it led to a police force that is largely ineffective but one that is prone to extreme acts of violence in managing protests. The consequences were deadly and tragic for the communities of Marikana who were on the receiving end of municipal incompetence and police violence. 

“We can also blame the state of our unions who were meant to represent workers but spend so much of their time fighting each other for access to resources,” Habib said. 

Delving into the wrong would not heal the divide of the past, he said. Instead, there needed to be a social pact, but such would not emerge through a lekgotla at national level, “as this has been the modus operandi of the presidency over the last few years and is bound to fail”. 

He said that the social pact needed to emerge from the citizenry “because social pacts are built on the implicit foundations of trust by citizens that their circumstances will change by allowing certain interventions”. 

For renewal in Marikana, the social pact would require the local government, in particular, to “take seriously the appointment of capable people and the delivery of social services”. 

It would also require the national government to ring-fence investment in the region and in the local community. Finally, it would require unions to be focused less on fighting each other and more on representing their members, he said. 

“All of this is about building a local social pact. And it is multiple versions of these social pacts around South Africa that will return trust in the citizenry and enable the broader national social pact on which South Africa’s development can be built. It is truly a daunting task, but imagine building this agenda from the ashes of Marikana? Can there be a more fitting tribute to the miners who perished on that fateful day on 16 August 2012?” Habib said. 

Also speaking at the event, Sibanye-Stillwater group chief executive officer Neal Froneman agreed with Habib, saying he supported a social and socio-economic pact. 

“A social pact, at its heart, is a voluntary collaboration of entities in delivering social advancement and value. A socio-economic pact transforms the desire of collaboration into shared value. In a socio-economic pact we, as business, are the economic partners and responsible [for] economic value creation that benefits all stakeholders; [this] must be our primary purpose. It is in this socio-economic pact that I believe we, as society, as citizens of this country, can deliver an outcome that can lead us from underperforming as a nation,” Froneman said. 

He said the mining giant had committed to “take on” the “responsibility and all legacies” of the Marikana tragedy, even though it did not own the mine when the massacre took place. 

Sibanye-Stillwater was founded in 2012 and acquired Lonmin’s Marikana operation in 2019. 

“We unreservedly acknowledge that the history of mining practices has damaged the fabric of society in the interests of a few,” said Froneman.  

“But, I firmly believe that we have learned not only since the last decade, but for a number of decades now, that mining must be conducted in a way that builds social and economic capital for all stakeholders. Companies, and especially mining companies, have the capacity to drive change, to achieve social justice and create enduring value.” 

Anathi Madubela is an Adamela Trust business reporter at the M&G.