Home Editors choice #MarikanaMassacre: We must never forget!

#MarikanaMassacre: We must never forget!


Akhona Valashiya

16th August 2019 marks the 7th anniversary of the Marikana Massacre where 34 miners were killed in a protracted wage strike at the then Lonmin (now Sibanye-Stillwaters) mine in the Marikana area, close to Rustenburg in the North West.

The Marikana massacre, was the deadliest use of force by South African security forces against civilians since 1976.

Since that fateful day in 2012, 16th August has been marked as the anniversary of the commemoration of the Marikana Massacre.

The tragedy, which started as a wildcat strike at a mine owned by Lonmin, garnered international attention following a series of violent incidents between the South African Police Service, Lonmin security and members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on the one side and strikers themselves on the other.

Rock drill operators from the Lonmin platinum mine were protesting against low wages and demanding an increase of up to R12,500, triple the amount they were getting at the mine.

ANC National Spokesperson Pule Mabe said in a statement that Marikana will remain a blight in the history of democratic South Africa.

“The ANC stands with every mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter who lost a loved one during that period, we shall endeavour never to forget their memories,” the statement read.

The ANC says South Africans can take solace in that since the tragic events of that period in 2012, industrial relations in the mining sector have improved.

“All of us. Worker, employer, and state authorities should take heart that we have learnt a harsh lesson from Marikana, ensuring that South Africa should never again have a repeat of the tragedy,” said Mabe.

The first incidents of violence were reported to have started on 11 August after National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) leaders opened fire on NUM members who were on strike. Reports indicated that it was widely believed that two strikers died that day however, it later turned out that two strikers were seriously wounded, but not killed, in the shooting by NUM members.

During the period from Sunday 12 August to Tuesday 14 August, 10 people were killed including 6 mine workers, 2 Lonmin security guards and 2 SAPS members. Three of the mine workers, and the two SAPS members, were killed in a clash between strikers and SAPS members on the afternoon of 13 August.

Five people are believed to have been killed by strikers. In response to the Lonmin strikers, there was a wave of wildcat strikes across the South African mining sector.

The killings took place at two locations, roughly 500 metres away from each other, with 17 people fatally wounded at each of these locations. The vast majority of those killed were killed by fire from the R5 assault rifle used by the South African Police Service (SAPS). The official figure for strikers injured during the shooting is 78.

Among the miners killed, was Mgacineni “Mambush” Noki, who was known as ‘the man in the green blanket’, Bongani Nqongophele, Janaveke Raphael, Van Wyk Sagalala, security guard Matlhomola Mabelane, Andries Ntshenyeho, Xolani Nduzuzu, Telang Mohai, Thabile Mpumza, Stelega Gadlela, Thabiso Thelejane, Thabiso Mosebetsane, Jackson Lehupa and many others.

The Marikana Commission of Inquiry was set up to investigate the massacre of miners at Marikana. The commission’s first seating was on 1 October 2012, its final sitting was on 14 November 2014, and its report was submitted by President Jacob Zuma on 31 March 2015.

The report cleared the key political figures who were accused of having a hand in the events leading to the massacre, including President Cyril Ramaphosa who at the time of the massacre was a non-executive director at Lomnin, former Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, former Mineral Resource Minister Susan Shabangu and the National Police Commissioner Ria Phiyega.

It also found that Lonmin had failed to engage with workers and the trade unions operating in that sector, NUM and AMCU, were found not to have had full control of its members who embarked on the unprotected strike. Families of the miners slain and injured are still seeking reparations.

According to Department of Tourism Management Lecturer at the Tshwane University of Technology, Unathi Henama, Marikana is an example of untapped dark tourism potential.

“I would’ve hoped that by now a fully-fledged museum with an interpretation centre would be created to curate the history of the Marikana Massacre,” said Henama.

He says a monument or museum in Marikana is just as important as Freedom Park and Hector Pieterson Museum.

“The main purpose of the museum is to teach people about the past so that it does not repeat itself,” said Henama.

The South African Communist Party (SACP) also released a statement in commemoration of the seventh anniversary of the Rustenburg platinum belt and Marikana tragedy.

In the statement, the SACP calls on workers and trade unions to unite with each other and together wage the common struggle against economic exploitation by capitalist bosses.

“The SACP send its message of sincere solidarity to the families of the workers who were killed before, during and after that tragic day, 16 August 2012,” said SACP National Spokesperson, Alex Mohubetswane Mashilo.

The party also calls on the criminal justice system to ensure that all the perpetrators are brought to book.

“It must not be possible in a democratic South Africa to have people killed and no one held to account,” said Mohubetswane Mashilo.

But the effects of the massacre have not just touched South Africa, they have reached other countries abroad who use this day to remember the fallen 34 killed during the Lonmin wage strike.

The Pan-Afrikan Society Community Forum, Marikana Solidarity Collective, Decolonising Environmentalism and London Mining Network are holding a Solidarity vigil at South Africa House, Trafalgar Square, London on Friday 16th August 2019

The vigil is to mark the 7th anniversary of Marikana Massacre and to observe a minute’s silence to remember the 34 miners killed in Lonmin mine in Marikana. People are urged to bring their voices and yellow flowers, there will be a reading out of the names of those who died.


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