With the Marikana Commission of Inquiry soon coming to an end, GREG NICOLSON asks some of the miners what their expectations are. To date, they’re not convinced much will change, if anything at all.
Lungisile Madwantsi says it’s too painful to talk about getting shot. It makes things worse. Madwantsi, wearing an Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) T-shirt, leans on a crutch as he enters his one-room home and sits on the bed. He was shot at Scene Two on 16 August 2012. The bullet is still lodged in his head and over two years later he is slowly getting better at walking.
“Maybe the Commission will be right, but the way I see it is nothing will come for justice or truth,” says Madwantsi, who can no longer work underground and says neither Lonmin or the state is helping to pay for the specialist medical care he needs.
Like many other miners, Madwantsi worries that the Marikana Commission of Inquiry is biased and political pressure is being applied to chairman Ian Farlam to protect the state. While there has been no evidence that Farlam has shown undue bias towards any of the parties involved, as the Commission wraps up its work after two years of investigating what happened in Marikana, it faces a trust deficit amongst the mineworkers, many of whom take a bus from Marikana to Centurion each day to follow the proceedings.
Photo: Lungisile Madwantsi, who was shot in the head in Marikana, discusses the Commission from his bed in Marikana. (Greg Nicolson)
“I think the Commission itself is not fair,” says Shadrack Mashamba, sitting in his small home in Marikana. He was one of the mineworkers arrested on 16 August and developed cancer after his incarceration, which he blames on the harsh conditions of his arrest. He is hopeful the Commission will find some people responsible for the killings, but he is not encouraged by its lengthy process. “I don’t get what makes them not to go straight and charge the people that are guilty because in two years time they’ve wasted a lot of government money.”
Mashamba says perhaps they should have just given money to the relatives of those killed.
“I think the struggle continues because I don’t think it’s fair for us,” he adds. “The truth is going to be biased. What we are going to see is many of our guys go to jail but the government people all of them are going to walk free – Calitz, Mpembe, Mbombo and Phiyega,” he says, referring to some of the top police officers involved in the operation.
The disparity in arrests is a point of anger and distrust. While around 270 mineworkers were arrested and initially charged with causing the murder of their colleagues – those charges were dropped – and public violence, illegal gatherings and carrying dangerous weapons – those charges have been dropped too – no police officers have been charged for their part in the killings. This is despite multiple testimonies that some of the killings took place in cold blood and it’s likely at least some of the culprits could have been identified.
Mashamba says after the miners laid charges against the police for the brutal treatment they experienced while incarcerated, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) asked some of the miners to identify the police culprits, which they did. “But even now, not one arrest. We don’t think the Commission is going to work for us.” Mashamba says he has attended primarily to follow the details about the charges that were laid on the arrested mineworkers.
Talking to the striking workers involved in 2012, there’s an obvious strong distrust of the Commission. Often they see their representative Dali Mpofu sparring with Farlam over objections and worry the advocate is being censored. They see police leaders and politicians who appear to be economical with the truth, or in some cases, clearly lie. And they saw Mr X, whose untrustworthy evidence linked so closely to the police’s argument that they believe he is being paid to incriminate the miners.
Marikana is a breeding ground of distrust. Over two years after the massacre and months since Lonmin workers participated in the platinum strike, the longest in the country’s history, there’s little that seems to have changed, despite the area often being in the media. There’s hardly been any development and no significant changes to housing, says Mashamba. He hears gunfire in Marikana every night and says it’s not safe to walk after dark. The mining industry continues to make the rich richer and leave the poor behind, he adds. “The ones that are taking out the production are suffering most.”
“Here? Nothing, nothing at all,” Madwantsi says when asked what’s changed since 2012.
Laurence Mmekwa was born and raised in Marikana and his wife Seipati has lived there since 1988. Seipati started a soup kitchen during the strike when she saw a woman coming from the clinic fall in the street. The woman hadn’t eaten in three days. Hundreds of people started lining up at her house and she used her husband’s pension money, with some sponsorship from the churches, to feed them.
Photo: Laurence and Seipati Mmekwa who started a soup kitchen to help the Marikana community during the five-month platinum strike stand in their yard. (Greg Nicolson)
Things are better since the strike ended but in the long-term there has been little development, the couple say. Migration to the mine leads to overcrowding, high levels of local unemployment, a lack of decent services, and hunger. The state is failing to deal with the problems or even give it any attention. “Maybe as time goes by there will be change,” says Mmekwa. “We are just hoping for a change because really we cannot live for long under the current situation. That’s not the right kind of life that people should live.”
Among the community, the Marikana Massacre is intrinsically tied to the fight for a better life. While they may hope justice is achieved and living conditions eventually improve, no one is confident. DM
Main photo: Shadrack Mashamba sits in his Marikana home. (Greg Nicolson)
‘We were being killed for something we didn’t even know’ in Foreign Policy.