YESTERDAY, South Africa marked the anniversary of one of the darkest moments in its history – when police officials opened fire on striking Lonmin mineworkers, killing 34 of them.
The Marikana community gathered to commemorate those massacred striking miners, so brutally gunned down on August 16th 2012.
This year the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) has criticised the continuing lack of justice for the families of every mineworker killed – eight years ago during the Marikana Massacre.
The workers were demanding higher wage increases.
SERI said that, since 2012, only nine police officers had been prosecuted – for the deaths of just three striking mineworkers and two police officers. The organisation also complained that the National Prosecuting Authority had failed to hold anyone accountable for the deaths of the 34 mineworkers, blaming this on a lack of political will to deliver justice.
The institute’s senior attorney Zamatungwa Khumalo said: ‘We need accountability, we need somebody to be held responsible for what happened eight years ago. And what is even worse now is that we have a generation of children who were born and children who are still in school and still experience the effect of police brutality.’
The institute also questioned why government had still not released the report by a panel of experts on policing and crowd management that was completed two years ago. The report had formed part of the Farlam Commission’s recommendations.
Instead, the institute said that excessive use of force and brutality by the police persisted, citing incidents during the lockdown as an example of the unreformed policing system.
Further Marikana shooting victims have since died, while others are still surprised that they survived the 2012 massacre – which took place eight years ago during a wage-related strike at the Marikana platinum mine in Rustenburg.
Since then, more workers have died as a result of the shooting. This is according to lawyer Andries Nkhome, representing the 279 mineworkers who were either injured or unlawfully arrested during the strike. Nkhome said that at least four mineworkers who were due to receive compensation from the government for the injuries they sustained have since died.
‘None of those who suffered injuries have been paid thus far, and we have had a few pass away. There are some people who died, in our view, as a result of the trauma they suffered at the scene,’ Nkhome continued. ‘In time, we will end up having fewer of the people we represent alive.’
Ten other people, including security guards and police officers, were killed in the days before or after the incident which came to be known as the Marikana Massacre.
Speaking to SowetanLIVE’s sister publication TimesLIVE on Friday, ahead of the commemoration, Nkhome said that only some of those who were arrested had been compensated by the government.
‘The expectation was that we would have first settled the injured because they are the ones who require medical attention. Thereafter, we would we go to the ones who were arrested unlawfully,’ he said.
In the meantime, Nkhome said, many of his clients continued to live with pain and suffering. Sometimes they call in the middle of the night and say, ‘I cannot believe I am still alive.’
Nkhome says of his conversations with one Lonmin mineworker who survived the August 2012 massacre. ‘There is, for example, Mzoxolo Magidiwana, who was shot nine times at close range. He is still alive though he complains about pains and anguish.
‘Sometimes he calls in the middle of the night and says, “I cannot believe I’m still alive”,’ Nkhome said. ‘We also have Lungisile Madwansi, who has a bullet lodged in his body. He is alive and hasn’t received a cent from the state. The best that we can do is just encourage them to hang in there.
‘Let’s hope the state turns its heart around and things are settled and they can have their consultations with doctors that will make sure their lives are better. Obviously we know those lives cannot be returned to what they used to be before they were shot.’
Nkhome said too that though it had been a long wait for his clients, they were not surprised it was taking this long. ‘The state has always been dragging its feet.
‘After the massacre, the state tried to put the blame on the shoulders of our clients, the injured and arrested. Fortunately, we were able to get into the fray and paint a proper picture in relation to what happened,’ he said.
Nkhome went on to say that they were proceeding with an application to review the decision of the then-director of public prosecutions, Shaun Abrahams, to criminally charge the mineworkers.
‘Once we win that battle, we will move on to making an application of review of the recommendations made by judge Ian Farlam,’ he added. Farlam had chaired the inquiry into the Marikana killings, and completed the report in 2018.
- Meanwhile, children of miners killed are still waiting for justice to be served, eight years on.
Children of the mineworkers who were slain by police in what has become known as the Marikana massacre, have lost faith that those responsible for the death of their fathers will be held accountable.
The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa held a webinar on Thursday to commemorate the eighth anniversary of the Marikana massacre. On 16 August 2012, police opened fire on striking mineworkers at the then Lonmin Platinum’s Marikana operations in the North West.
34 miners were killed. To date, no arrests have been made in connection with the mass shooting.
SERI invited the children of two of the massacred mineworkers, who both detailed their loss of trust in ever seeing justice being served for their fathers who were taken away from them at a young age.
Nowili Nungu, who was 13-years-old when her father was killed, recounted the difficulties she and her family went through after the massacre.
‘It was a shattering moment to hear that we lost our beloved fathers,’ Nungu said.
‘Life after losing them was so difficult. To have a single parent was not nice.’
Nungu recalled the financial difficulties after losing a father who was the breadwinner in the house. Christmases were no longer about celebrations, but rather a decision to put food on the table over clothing or presents.
At the time, Nungu often thought about quitting school and finding a job to help her mother out. She would often cry when seeing friends interact with their fathers.
Almost eight years after her dad died, Nungu said that justice had not been served.
‘I expected to see someone jailed, someone convicted for taking my father’s life.
‘The government of South Africa has shown me that they promote murder; no one was held accountable and it all happened under their noses.’
Sebolai Liau said he was 14-years-old when his father was ‘brutally killed by police’.
‘Life after that has never been easy and the fact that no one was ever held accountable really irritates me.’
Liau said his life had been miserable since losing his father and perpetual thoughts of the people responsible for killing his father being able to continue with life unabated, made his ‘heart bleed’.
He added that it was sad and disheartening that no one had ever been held accountable.
‘I’m very disappointed in the South African government for being reluctant to deal with the matter, reluctant to hold those accountable,’ Liau said. ‘I’m crying for justice to be served.’
Axolile Nyotwala of the Social Justice Coalition said the culture of impunity which was seen in the Marikana massacre saga continued in South Africa and had also been experienced during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Notywala said government had failed; failed to fulfil promises, failed at governing, which forced the state to govern through police and other law enforcement.
- Historian Professor Noor Nieftagodien believes two things must be done to bring justice to the people of South Africa. He was speaking at the second annual Marikana Memorial Lecture in Sandton north of Johannesburg last Friday.
He said that those behind the Marikana massacre must be brought to book, and that civil society needs to mobilise a movement that will challenge the fundamental inequality of the country.
He warned: ‘It took less than a month during this Covid-19 crisis … to realise that the underlying crisis is not being addressed by the political and economic elites; unemployment, inequality, housing, and land, Gender Based Violence, the problems in education and health,’ he said.
‘Hunger, millions of children go hungry every day. There is food insecurity, and of course deep-seated corruption. What Covid-19 has done is amplify all these problems.’
He added: ‘However, the 2012 Marikana tragedy has smashed the illusion that poor black people’s lives matter in post-apartheid South Africa.’