Marking Five Years Since the Marikana Massacre, 16 August 2017 –

Marking Five Years Since the Marikana Massacre, 16 August 2017


Lonmin’s event on 15 August 2017 to unveil its plans for commemorating and learning from the Marikana Massacre was an impressive affair that was addressed by the company’s CEO, Mr Ben Magara who explained that with five years having elapsed since the “sad event” of Marikana, it was now time to celebrate the lives of the deceased and to make the Marikana tragedy a catalyst for change. The focus of the event was the unveiling of plans to construct a “GREEN BLANKET” MEMORIAL SITE encompassing the Wonderkop and two adjacent small koppies. The plans are creative and interesting and would provide for a place to be visited by a global audience that has wrestled with an occurrence that seemed inconceivable in a country that had shown the world how to solve problems through processes of dialogue and negotiation. The ‘garden of remembrance’ with its benches for reflection bear a close resemblance to the Memorial of the Rwandan Genocide in Kigali. While the mining company at the heart of the tragedy of August 2012 is moving on, the views, concerns and lives of the widows themselves, have seen some limited improvement. Many of their concerns have, however, not yet been fully addressed by either the company or the state.

The concerns of the widows were submitted in a collectively-developed written statement that was read onto the record of the Farlam Commission. The Farlam Commission Report, however, makes no reference to this submission in which the widows explain how they have perceived the truth of what happened at Marikana in August 2012 and what would remedy the disastrous actions in which both the state and the mining company were complicit. In their succinct submission, the widows appear to get to the truth of what occurred when they state,

Together, we have come to our own understanding and conclusions about the death of our loved ones. First, we are clear that the following are responsible for the deaths of our loved ones: * Lonmin as a company which ignored the appeals of their employees for a dialogue;
*  The state / government officials who failed in their duty to manage a peaceful and fair resolution of the labour dispute;

* Collusion between the state and Lonmin which resulted in the labelling of the strike as a criminal endeavour, rather than a legitimate labour dispute. Their flawed joint decision to end the strike “by any means necessary” was fatally flawed. Lonmin and the state, in the view of the widows, share responsibility and accountability for the needless deaths and violence that has caused the widows and their families massive harm and pain; and

* The SA Police and their leadership that completely misread the situation and the necessary response it required. Instead they resorted to a devastating plan that was completely inappropriate for the resolution of a labour dispute. No police official, not even those implicated in the apparently summary execution of surrendering miners at Koppie No 2, has been prosecuted.

Lonmin has to date initiated several measures intended to address the situation of the widows:

  • It has set up an educational trust with a founding contribution of R10 million and it is providing for the education and accommodation of 157 children of the deceased mine workers;
  • It has offered employment to one alternative family member at Lonmin’s Rustenburg site to help families damaged by the loss of income resulting from the death of the breadwinner; and
  • It assisted with paying for the funerals of the deceased.

While the widows have welcomed these measures, they have stated that “these steps do not alone provide sufficient and necessary reparation for the harm we have suffered and are still suffering.” To date, the state’s promise of compensation has not yet been fulfilled.

As people gather at Constitution Hill this week for the AFRICA IS NOT FOR SALE Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal to End Corporate Impunity, (15 – 18 August 2017), we remember that Lonmin chose not to appear before the Business Hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1998. Lonmin has much to account for in terms of gross violations of human rights in both apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa.

Hennie van Vuuren highlights in his recent book, Apartheid Guns and Money (p 370) that “The struggle of the Marikana mineworkers was against a 110-year-old corporation which for almost 90 years of its existence was known as the London and Rhodesian Mining and Land Company (Lonrho). The company was directed by Tiny Rowland who used his unfettered access to African heads of state and “his reassuring penchant for clandestine diplomacy” to aid largescale transfer pricing, effectively a massive underpayment of taxes, a practice that Mr Edward Heath described as the “unpleasant and unacceptable face of capitalism”. Rowland was described as a consummate insider-trader who enjoyed access to powerful networks across the world and who seamlessly conflated business and politics in a manner that has become ordinary in most countries today, despite its deeply corrosive effect on public life. South Africa currently continues to struggle with this phenomenon that has been characterised as the capture of the state by corporate and private interests, a practice that removes resources from the essential developmental agenda needed to transform the lives of the marjority of South Africans.

Today five years after the fateful Marikana Massacre, the state-corporate nexus and the impacts and consequences of this nexus, appear as strong as ever and the widows remain excluded from the state’s promised measures of repair.

Issed by Khulumani Suppor Group National Director: Contact nummber: 082 268 0223

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