The complicated legacy of the Marikana Massacre

MARIKANA - Seven years ago, a three-week strike became increasingly violent and culminated in a week of bloodshed and tragedy.

The week preceding the clash on 16 August between protesting Lonmin mine-workers and police, 10 people were killed. 

READ: New Marikana research vindicates miners

Investigations found the major-general who was responsible for overall command of the SAPS operation to have been remiss in his conduct when dealing with the incident of August 13, 2012, which led to the deaths of two police officers and three strikers. 

He allegedly ignored the advice of experienced public order police officers on dealing with the crowd control situation and contravened the SAPS standing order number 262 relating to crowd control.

The SAPS officers’ deaths are believed to have motivated police officers to use deadly force against the protestors, by the author of ‘The Sound of Gunfire’, David Bruce.

The actions of SAPS officers including ordering 4,000 rounds of live ammunition and requesting mortuary vans on the night before the massacre supported the theory that tragedy was inevitable.

On the afternoon of Thursday, 16 August police unfurled barbed wire blocking the path of protestors descending from the koppie where they had made camp and fired teargas, water cannons, and then live ammunition at them.

34 people were killed in the massacre and 78 others were seriously injured.

The Farlam Commission of Inquiry that probed events found that SAPS top brass was responsible for the tragic turn of events.

READ: Seven years post-Marikana, mineworkers' lives not changed: Amcu

Nine police officers were investigated and charged with various offences including murder and attempted murder following the massacre.

According to Nomzamo Zondo, director at the Litigation at the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI), the police believe they are not to blame for the incident and rather everyone else must carry the blame, including the dead and their families.

Additionally, the ISS report found that a statement by former police commissioner Riah Phiyega, which revised events, served as a template which SAPS members used to close ranks and mislead the public.

Former Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa was found by the commission there was not enough evidence to find wrongdoing.

Then-deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was accused of encouraging increased policing at the time.

Ramaphosa apologised for his actions before the Marikana massacre.

A day before the massacre, he allegedly sent emails to mine management describing the events around the strike as dastardly criminal acts.

Ramaphosa called his language “unfortunate”.

Since the massacre, Lonmin mine has held remembrance ceremonies for the slain mine-workers and resolved to improve working conditions for their employees.

This has not always translated into tangible results.

Two years ago, Lonmin built accommodation for its workers in Marikana but residents have been complaining of shoddy workmanship, with cracks in walls and roofs caving in.

President of Amcu Joseph Mathunjwa said in an interview with eNCA, the situation for mineworkers has not significantly changed.

Judge Ian Farlam stated seven years later, the recommendations of the report have not been adequately implemented.

Farlam said, “one of the recommendations which we made, government accepted all our recommendations, was that a special panel of investigators be appointed by the DPP presided over by a senior state advocate to investigate the matter <to> give evidence, so prosecutions can be implemented.” 

“Most of the evidence we got from the individuals shooters was inadmissible in terms of the regulations, what they told us couldn’t be used against them in evidence.”

The panel was appointed but was plagued with issues including lack of funding. 

Farlam contended if progress has taken place, there has not been enough communication regarding this important public matter. 


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