REMEMBERING MARIKANA, FOUR YEARS ON

August 16, 2012, is a day etched in the memory of South Africans. The events of the day sent shock waves across the country and the world over.

Members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) opened fire on a crowd of striking Lonmin mine workers at Marikana in North West Province, leaving 34 mineworkers dead, 78 wounded and more than 250 arrested.

It is an event widely regarded as a turning point in South Africa’s post-apartheid history as a display of never before seen police brutality.

Tensions at Lonmin Plc, the world’s third-largest platinum miner, had been seething for more than a year. In the weeks prior, Lonmin workers had embarked on an unprotected strike over wages. The strike became a turf war between two rival unions — the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and several people were killed in the days leading up to Aug 16.

The Marikana incident led to President Jacob Zuma establishing the Farlam Commission of Inquiry, chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam. The Commission found fault with the police’s “tactical” plan to deal with striking miners at Marikana.

Its recommendations included the demilitarisation of the police service, professionalism and addressing defects in Public Order Policing. A key recommendation was that a board of inquiry into then (and currently suspended) National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega’s fitness to hold office be held.

The Claassen Inquiry was then set up by the president to determine this. The panel is expected to submit recommendations to Zuma in August.

On the eve of the fourth anniversary of the Marikana massacre, the Police Ministry, as a response to the Farlam Commission’s recommendations Monday announced the launch of a transformation task team aimed at ensuring that the police better execute its mandate in line with the Constitution.

On the same day, Amnesty International released a report on mining company Lonmin. Entitled “Smoke and mirrors: Lonmin’s failure to address housing conditions at Marikana”, the report shows Lonmin failed to deliver on a social and labour plan to build houses for employees.

The report exposes how very little has changed for the approximately 20,000 miners working for Lonmin at Marikana, many of whom are still living in squalor in spite of legally binding commitments made by the company to build more houses.

In a letter to Amnesty International on Aug 1 2016, Lonmin admitted that around 13,500 miners “are still in need of formal accommodation”.

The company said it had allocated 100 million Rand (about 7.42 million US dollars) each year for housing since 2012 but added this might be “reconsidered” given “current economic constraints.” It said it was encouraging employees to purchase stand-alone houses and had renovated all of its 2,684 workers’ hostels.

The widows and families of the deceased still await compensation and justice for their loss. The Socio-Economic Rights Institute (Seri) says despite countless engagements and promises from the government, no compensation agreement has been advanced.

The families must now convince the court that they should each be given more than 3.0 million Rand in compensation.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK