Suspend all police implicated in Marikana massacre! – demands Amnesty International

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HUMAN rights group Amnesty International says President Jacob Zuma must suspend all police officers implicated in the Marikana shooting.

Sunday marked exactly three years since 34 miners were gunned down by police during a strike. A commission of inquiry into the tragedy recommended that national police commissioner Riah Phiyega be investigated in terms of her fitness to hold office.

But Amnesty International says all other officers involved should be suspended pending further investigations. Amnesty said ahead of Sunday’s third anniversary of the unlawful and fatal police shootings of 34 striking miners: ‘All members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) implicated in the Marikana killings and subsequent cover-up must be suspended immediately pending the outcome of further investigations.

‘As a first step, President Zuma must initiate the suspension of the National Commissioner of Police, Riah Phiyega. Three years on, not a single member of the SAPS has been suspended or held to account.’

Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa, said: ‘With police authorities closing ranks in the face of strong findings against them in the Farlam Commission report, it is vital that President Zuma shows strong leadership and takes action against those right at the top of the police service.

‘Anything less will result in the continued lack of accountability for the unlawful killings by police on 16 August 2012 at Marikana. The ongoing denial of justice for the victims and their families is unacceptable.’

The police operation on 16 August 2012 was triggered by the decision the night before by senior police officials to forcibly disarm and disperse the strikers despite foreseeing bloodshed. The report of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry (the Farlam Commission), released earlier in June 2015, described this decision as reckless and inexplicable and as the ‘decisive cause’ of the deaths.

Amnesty added: ‘From the beginning, the police systematically attempted to conceal and falsify evidence and to otherwise mislead the Farlam Commission. ‘The report was highly critical of SAPS senior leadership, including the National Commissioner, for giving evasive testimony and for their involvement in the destruction, concealment and fabrication of evidence.

‘One of the Farlam Commission’s recommendations was a judicially-led board of inquiry into the National Commissioner’s fitness to hold office. ‘President Zuma should use his authority to establish this urgently and to suspend the National Commissioner pending the outcome of this inquiry.

‘This should in turn create and pave the way for the suspension of other police officials who are implicated and facilitate other disciplinary and investigation processes as recommended by the Farlam Commission. Many families were affected by the killings on 16 August 2012 and by the unlawful deaths at the hands of the police and the strikers in the preceding days.’

Grief among families of the victims remains palpable and as one family member told Amnesty International: ‘It is so painful when there is so much uncertainty about who will be held accountable when our husbands died like dogs.’

Deprose Muchena added: ‘Three years on, the aftershocks of Marikana can still be felt in the grief of families of all victims, the suffering of those injured and the thirst of ordinary South Africans for accountability. President Jacob Zuma must act now to ensure all of the Farlam Commission report’s key recommendations are implemented. The perpetrators of all the killings which occurred in that terrible week must be brought to justice.’

The police operation in Marikana on 16 August 2012 was intended to disarm, disperse and arrest those taking part in a strike and gathering deemed illegal at Lonmin’s Marikana mine. Thirty-four miners were killed when the police opened fire and more than 70 others sustained serious injuries.

The command decision taken on the night of 15 August to forcibly disarm the protesters was unrelated to any increased threat posed by the protesters at the specific time.

The resulting further decision to deploy large numbers of police units with firearms and live ammunition was not triggered by any threat to life or the intention to protect or save any life. As such these actions were unlawful under South African domestic law obliging police officers to act within a framework of minimum force, and under international law and standards, in particular the obligation to respect and protect life.

The United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms allows for the use of firearms only in defence against imminent threat of death or serious injury and only when less extreme methods are insufficient. Last week the families of the Marikana massacre victims officially filed civil claims and today the injured and arrested miners have followed suit.

Attorney Andries Mkome says the miners want compensation. He said: ‘The lawsuits are for financial compensation for unlawful arrests, detentions and for the injuries they sustained.’ Many gathered at the infamous koppie on Sunday where they paid tribute to those who fought and died for a living wage.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) last Thursday warned government to desist from opposing a high court civil claim lodged against the police ministry for the families of mine workers killed in Marikana three years ago. We demand that the government desist from contesting these claims but to rather speedily provide compensation to the victims’ families,’ Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa told journalists in Johannesburg.

The families of the slain 34 mine workers, who died are demanding compensation from the police ministry and an apology. The claim, supported by Amcu, was lodged in the High Court in Pretoria by the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI)‚ and the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) and Wits Law Clinic. Last Wednesday, Police Minister Nathi Nhleko said he believed that the court action would bring closure ‘to this sad chapter in the history of our country’.

‘We are on record as saying that what happened in Marikana shouldn’t have happened. President Zuma, in recognition of the gravity of the situation, appointed the Farlam Commission which has made its recommendations that we are already in the process of implementing,’ Nhleko said. Mathunjwa added that his union was seeking legal advice to have the outcomes of the Farlam Commission reviewed if necessary. He said: ‘That will be undertaken if we find that it is necessary to do so and support a possible independent inquiry.’

• IndustriALL Global Union is shocked and alarmed at the massive jobs bloodbath unfolding in the mining and metals sector, ostensibly as a result of the plunge in commodity prizes. The global scale of the massive lay-offs and job cuts is unprecedented.

The mining and metals global sector came out of the financial crisis of 2008 to 2012 unscathed. In the midst of the global recession in 2008, induced by the global financial crisis, the mining industry experienced a commodities boom. The boom was largely fuelled by the growth of China and India and created an unprecedented demand for coal, mineral resources and precious stones. Against the background of the financial crises, mining companies outperformed the overall market. Most mining companies came through the crises with robust balance sheets.

Paradoxically, mine workers did not benefit from the boom. Any benefits in mineworkers’ conditions of employment, in mainly wages and salaries, were the results of blood, sweat, tears, toiling through tough and often brutal collective bargaining.

Even with healthy balance sheets the captains of the industry remained oblivious to the needs of its workforce. Instead, they went on a crazy spending spree, rewarding themselves with hefty pay increases and bonuses, made irresponsible investment on risky project pipelines, and flooded the market with unmitigated production targets. Now the chickens have come home to roost.

Boom times could not last forever and the party ended when China and India’s economies began to slow down and even began to contract. Not surprisingly, workers are expected to brace themselves for hard times and take the brunt for the collapsing commodity prices, even though they have had no hand in the unfolding tragedy of job losses and massive lay-offs as these companies embark on massive cost containment measures.

From being touted as the most important asset for mining companies, they are now considered as liabilities and are thrown out to join the mass of the unemployed and thus externalising the social cost to society and the state. It is wicked that at the same time as mineworkers are bearing the brunt of the collapsing commodity prices, the mining companies are paying dividends to their shareholders.

IndustriALL Global Union is calling on the mining industry to act responsibly in these difficult times for mine workers and their families. Our affiliates are reporting disturbing trends that mining companies, in their haste to reduce costs, undermine trade unions by approaching and coercing individual workers to accept voluntary retrenchments.

Some of these mining companies further violate national laws that require consultations with trade unions. In this instance, precarious work and the precariousness of work is increasing.