LONMIN workers on Tuesday gathered at the Marikana koppie near Nkaneng informal settlement to pay tribute to their 34 colleagues who were gunned down by police on 16 August 2012.
Thousands of mine workers gathered around the rocky hill to mark the anniversary of the deadliest protest in South Africa in decades. On this day four years ago, this exact location was the scene of brutal killings that brought the world to a standstill.
On 16 August 2012, police gunned down 34 miners who were striking for a pay rise. Before starting their night vigil on Monday night groups of Lonmin workers said that they would continue to fight for the R12,500 salary demand their colleagues took a bullet for.
Siphiwe Booi, a worker from the mine, said their mission was to make sure that their colleagues didn’t die in vain. Booi said: ‘Conditions have not changed since our colleagues died in 2012. We have not forgotten what happened that day. They died like dogs. When we meet tomorrow we will still push for the R12,500 demand.’
‘It is very painful when we remember that day, especially for us who were there when it happened,’ said mine worker Thabang Khoete. ‘Because some people take it as if it was a game or a fairy tale. Even some use it as a tool to advertise their agendas. For us who were there, it is very painful.’
Mgaxolo Magidwana, a rock driller in 2012, was shot seven times during the massacre, and insisted he would not forgive and would not forget. He said: ‘We haven’t received that R12,500 and this time we would rather have the government kill us or take us to jail.
‘We have always known what happened, they have taken the situation and turned it around on us, that we did something wrong,’ said Magidwana. ‘Until we get what we asked for, we won’t forgive and forget. As long as we live in these shacks where the toilets stink inside our homes, we won’t be satisfied. We would rather die,’ said Magidwana, as he pointed to the shacks close to the koppie.
Representatives of the families of mineworkers who lost their lives during the platinum mine strike in Marikana in 2012 say they are disappointed that four years later not much progress has been made by the government to honour those who lost their lives.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa, the families’ lawyer, advocate Dali Mpofu, and Bishop Jo Seoka told reporters on Tuesday that efforts to get the government to compensate affected families – as well as requests for a memorial to be built with the names of those who died – had fallen on deaf ears.
They have also urged the government to make August 16 an annual public holiday. The group was also concerned that the area around the koppie, where the miners spent most of their days during the strike, had not been fenced in so as to preserve it as a key part of history.
On Tuesday morning thousands of mineworkers, Amcu members and the family representatives held a commemoration event at the Koppie where the 34 miners were shot by police during the platinum mine strike. ”Comrades, this is hard labour that is poorly rewarded,’ Joseph Mathunjwa, president of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, told the crowd on Tuesday.
‘Even though there has been little to show,’ Mathunjwa continued, ‘one positive outcome in the past four years is that this union has been able to change labour relations. A number of the workers have joined Amcu and there is no worker that is earning less than R8,000 – if they were still with NUM, they would still be earning R5,500,’ he claimed.
‘In the past three years these are the strides that were made to enhance the lives of the mineworkers in the platinum sector,’ said Mathunjwa. ‘The Marikana Massacre Amcu Trust Fund has been established in honour of the late miners and will be launched during today’s proceedings, along with the names of those who will direct its operation. While the fund was initiated in 2014, only Amcu has contributed to it with a R2 million donation, with no contribution from the government and Lonmin.’
The group said the fund would be fully operational, with an extensive campaign to raise more money. Another milestone for the miners will be the launch of the Trust Fund Housing Project, which has already seen the family of one worker benefit.
Dali Mpofu said: ‘After tomorrow we will be building up to the fifth commemoration and it would be disgraceful if we get to that event without any movement in terms of looking after the welfare of those who were affected.’
After the Marikana Massacre, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry was instituted to investigate the incident and the circumstances around it. It recommended that there be a probe into suspended National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega’s fitness to hold office. ANC President Zuma suspended Phiyega in October last year, over 14 allegations of misconduct.
In May this year, the inquiry investigating Phiyega’s fitness to hold office heard that she changed a statement prepared by police shortly before addressing the media about the 34 strikers killed. She removed reference to the number of people killed and added that police were forced to use ‘maximum force’ to defend themselves, Lindela Mashigo, a brigadier at the time and responsible for the police’s communications department, told the inquiry.
On August 17, Phiyega dictated to him the changes in the statement to be read to journalists about the previous day’s events. ”Every few years politicians pitch up in Marikana and make countless promises, but never deliver on any of them.’
This is how Gabisile Khanyile, a security guard in Marikana near Rustenburg in the North West, feels about the situation in her town. Khanyile, 25, was born and bred in Marikana and if she can, she’ll stay there for the rest of her life.
‘This is my home. The political parties could do more. They could try more to be with us, like coming to us and asking what we need, but they don’t do that. The only time you get to see them is like right now with the voting. After this they are gone. Maybe we’ll see them again in five years coming to tell us they’ll do this or that for us and they do nothing really. Even where we are living it’s not good.
‘Most of the things in the area need changing, like each and every resource. There is nothing. Sports grounds, libraries, parks, there is nothing around here. Even the ground belongs to the mine.’
The local clinic is a major concern for Khanyile who says that people start queuing outside the building from as early as 4am. The clinic’s doors only open at 8am. ‘A lot of times you leave there without getting any help after being there the whole day.’
l On the same day that the Marikana massacre was being remembered, Amnesty International released a report saying that the platinum mine giant did not meet the legally binding social labour plan to provide sufficient housing for its workers.
According to the human rights group, when they visited the area earlier this year they discovered that the company had not kept to its 14-year delivery promises to build 5,500 houses for its employees.
So far, only three showroom houses were built since the contract was signed in 2006, with an employee number of 13,500. The report, named Smoke and Mirrors: Lonmin’s Failure to Address Housing Conditions at Marikana, says Lonmin is a violation against the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act and the Broad-Based Socio-Economic Empowerment Charter for the South African Mining and Minerals Industry (also known as the Mining Charter).
Amnesty International’s Director Deprose Muchena said: ‘The catastrophic events of August 2012 should have been a decisive wake-up call to Lonmin that it must address these truly appalling living conditions.
‘The company’s failure to improve employees’ housing is baffling and irresponsible in the extreme. Lonmin is aware that direct housing contributed to the unrest four years ago that ultimately led to the death of dozens of miners.’