Khulumani congratulates SERI on its receipt of the 2013 Reconciliation Prize for its work in representing the families of the victims of the Marikana Massacre at the Marikana Commission –

Widows of Marikana miners at the Marikana Commission of Enquiry in September 2013 Widows of Marikana miners at the Marikana Commission of Enquiry in September 2013 Photo:

The Marikana Commission of Inquiry that was established “to investigate matters arising out of the tragic incidents at the Lonmin Mine in Marikana, in the North West Province” in August 2012 which led to the deaths of approximately 44 people, with more than 70 persons being injured, and approximately 250 people being arrested” currently continues its work towards the stated objectives of Truth, Restoration and Justice.

While most South Africans would concur with the comments of Dr Fanie du Toit, Director of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, at the award ceremony held in Cape Town last night, that the Marikana Massacre was “a military-style operation with overwhelming force where live ammunition was shot at South African citizens and killed them en masse”, it is not yet evident the extent to which the stated outcomes of the Marikana Commission for truth, restoration and justice, will be achieved.

The uncovering of truth has been a continuing long and painful process of working to unravel the narratives that have been presented to the Commission by police officials who have on the whole been very defensive. Evidence leader, Advocate Geoff Budlender asserted at today’s hearing commented that “There was a massive and fundamental flaw in the planning and execution of the police operation on 16/08/201.”

The focuses on restoration and justice have not been a feature of the process at all to date while these are crucial to the achievement of reconciliation.

Khulumani has raised concern that the mistakes of the TRC may be being repeated with the Marikana Commission. When Khulumani became engaged in providing support to the Marikana widows, it was against the background of its experience of how judicial processes can render women in particular voiceless and invisible.

The Khulumani project on ‘Giving voice and visibility to women at the Marikana Commission”, sought to address this reality and led to the production of the book, Justice, Redress and Restitution: Voices of the Marikana Widows. The sale of this book is contributing to a fund for the use of the widows as they work to piece back together their lives.

The book can be purchased from Khulumani’s website:

For Khulumani, the achievement of reconciliation would require the transformation of the relationship between oppressors (here represented by the police and those in whose name they acted) and the oppressed, the mine workers who stood up for the right to a living wage to support their families and themselves. 

These relationships have not been transformed in South Africa and as Professor Adam Habib has stated, the revolution has been suspended with a culture of domination persisting as the new oppressors have turned back to using ‘the old repressive bureaucratic state apparatus” for continued oppression of workers on whose labour they depend for their profits.

The vision of a transformation of the relationship between today’s oppressors and oppressed with the outcome of an authentic reconciliation remains very unlikely in the current context of the Marikana Commission.

Paolo Freire has explained that “it is – paradoxical though it may seem – precisely in the response of the oppressed to the violence of their oppressors that a gesture of love may be found” because “the act of rebellion by the oppressed can initiate love”. 

While the stands for justice made by the Marikana miners provided just such an opportunity for a transformation of the relationship between the mine owners and their workers, there has been no reciprocal response from the mine owners towards their workers. Reconciliation has not been an outcome of the TRC. Nor is it likely to be an outcome of the proceedings of the Marikana Commission. What is evident is the addiction of the oppressors to being in control with its accompanying tendency of making everything and everyone ‘in-animate’.



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