CONSPICUOUSLY absent at a rally last Saturday to commemorate slain miners on the second anniversary of the Marikana massacre were the African National Congress (ANC) and local North West (NW) government officials.
Rally organisers rebuffed both the ANC and local government officials, who did not receive invitations to the event.
The event was to commemorate the 34 people, mostly striking mineworkers, who were shot dead by police in clashes at Lonmin’s platinum mine on August 16 2012.
On the second anniversary of the Marikana massacre, AMCU members dressed in green union T-shirts arrived in buses and sang union songs, mocking the police. ‘Police are dogs’ they sang in Xhosa, as some pointed fingers at the police.
Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) president Joseph Mathunjwa arrived to a rousing welcome at the Nkaneng informal settlement in Wonderkop, near Marikana in North West, where a crowd of about 12,000 rose and sang the AMCU leader’s praises at a commemoration rally for those massacred.
Those attending included Dali Mpofu, the advocate representing the families of the slain mineworkers at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry, Democratic Alliance MP Mmusi Maimane, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema, Anglican Bishop Johannes Seoka and Congress of the People leader Mosiuoa Lekota.
AMCU leader Mathunjwa told the crowd he wasn’t a hero for he failed to convince mineworkers to disperse on 16 August 2012.
‘I regard myself as a failure. I failed to save the lives of our fellow mineworkers,’ he added. Mathunjwa said 16 August was a day in which no one was prepared to talk to him, except for mineworkers.
‘The government, the police and Lonmin shut their doors on me, they were not prepared to talk to me.’ He said mineworkers leaders pleaded with him to leave promising that they would never attack the police and would wait for Lonmin management to come to them at the koppie with a response to their demands.
Rock drill operators at Lonmin refused to be represented by the National Union of Mineworkers, a dominant trade union at the time, and spearheaded a wildcat strike demanding a basic monthly salary of R12,500.
Workers armed with homemade spears, knobkerries and pangas gathered at the koppie in Nkaneng informal settlement and refused to descend until Lonmin management answered their demands.
Police opened fire on them and forty-four people were killed during the strike, 34 mineworkers on 16 August 2012. More than 70 people were wounded and over 250 arrested. Ten including two policemen and two Lonmin security guards were killed in the preceding week.
The subsequent commission of inquiry, chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, is investigating the deaths of these 44 people.
Mathunjwa said following the recent five month-long strike in the platinum sector, most of the mineworkers would be paid R12,500 by the end of the three year wage agreement. ‘We will never betray the spirits of our slain brothers,’ he said.
A trust fund has been established to help the families of slain Marikana mineworkers, the AMCU leader announced at last Saturday’s rally. ”AMCU donated R2m to start the fund which will help to build houses for widows and families of slain mineworkers,’ union leader Joseph Mathunjwa said holding a dummy cheque. This is to teach the government how to lead.’
He said AMCU would also donate R12,500 to each widow of the dead mineworkers. ‘Your husbands and children died for R12,500.’
The crowd of about 12,000 responded by clapping hands, ululating and whistling. Some of the widows who were seated on the stage, bowed their heads and cried when the announcement was made.
He said the trust fund would be the only account where donations could be made for families of slain mineworkers. There will be no other account. Anyone doing anything on behalf of Marikana families must come to us. We want the families to benefit from their blood,’ he said.
EFF’s Malema told the crowd that the party would build houses for the widows of the slain miners.
‘We are going to deliver. We want to teach the ANC government how to take care the poorer,’ he said to applause.
Malema said the EFF would also pay their school fees and buy uniforms for their children. ‘We are a caring organisation.’
He accused the ANC-led government of killing defenceless mineworkers. ‘They took away breadwinners. We want a government that brings breadwinners, not that takes them away.”
Malema said the widows and families have to experience living without breadwinners. It is more painful for the families this year than the first year. It has kicked in now that their breadwinners are no more.’
‘The Government has failed the people of Marikana’, said Lekota on the sidelines of the rally. I am disappointed, the government failed our people. We know who were the commanders of the police and who issued guns to the police on August 16 2012,’.’
Lekota said government officials should have called the police commander and found out instead of establishing a commission. The money should have been used to build houses and reconstruct their lives. Lonmin should have engaged with government on how to improve the salary of these workers.’
He said the living conditions of mineworkers had deteriorated in the past two years. ‘It is worse.’
‘Why did the government shoot the people?’ he asked. If it was the apartheid government we can understand, but this a government elected by the people.
‘This is not the freedom we went into exile for. This is a completely different government. It responded by force when the people made demands.’
Lekota said South Africans should reflect on the leadership of the country.
Maimane said nothing had changed in Marikana two years after the shootings. ‘The living conditions of mineworkers have not changed two years later,’ he said on arrival at Nkaneng. ‘Two years later we still have a migrant labour system. The mining industry has not transformed.’
Maimane spoke of the conflict of interest involving mining houses and politicians. ‘Politicians have shares in mines and, as such, fail to hold them accountable.’ He said mineworkers were killed ‘demanding a better wage to better their lives’.
Mpofu told reporters he hoped the public would judge what happened during that unrest after the commission had completed its work. No officials from the ANC attended the Marikana rally held in Wonderkop on Saturday, the ruling party said.
Its spokesperson Zizi Kodwa, said: ‘The ANC was not invited by organisers to the Marikana anniversary today and did not attend the one-year commemoration last year’.
‘We solemnly remember the 44 people who lost their lives in the 10 days leading up to and including 16 August 2012,’ said Kodwa.
He said the Farlam Commission of Inquiry, established by President Jacob Zuma, should conclude with its investigation into the shooting.
President Jacob Zuma released a statement saying this was a day of reflection. ‘We need to recommit ourselves to ensuring that violence is never again used to solve problems of any kind in our country,’ he said.
The organisers did not invite local North West government officials to the commemoration rally either.
Premier Supra Mahumapelo’s spokesperson for the NW local community officials, Sam Mokaila, said the provincial government had not received an invitation to the event. ‘Had we received an invite, we would have attended it,’ he said.