Marikana three years on: Political posturing vs. the quest for truth and closure
- Ranjeni Munusamy
- South Africa
- 14 Aug 2015 12:07 (South Africa)
President Jacob Zuma’s statement earlier this week that the recommendations of the Farlam Commission of Inquiry were still “receiving attention” basically places the country into another holding pattern on the Marikana killings. While the families of the people killed at Marikana are pursuing civil claims, the process of holding those responsible to account remains non-existent. On Thursday, a special parliamentary debate on Marikana saw government under fire once again for the massacre and calls for compensation for the families. But on the third anniversary of that horrific day when 34 mineworkers were gunned down by the police, there are still no answers, no accountability and no justice. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY.
On two occasions now, President Jacob Zuma has made comments on the Marikana massacre that reveal his take on why the police shot the striking Lonmin mineworkers. “The workers were armed to the teeth‚ they had already killed 10 people. The police were trying to stop them‚” Zuma told Parliament earlier this month. He said it was not “as if the police came and just mowed down people who were innocently sitting”.
In June Zuma told students at the Tshwane University of Technology that “the Marikana miners were shot after killing people”. He said the police had been forced to stop the violence. “They (the miners) had killed people, if you do not know,” Zuma said, warning students not use violence to express themselves. “I might be forced to relook at the Apartheid laws that used violence to suppress people.”
Because government has, up to now, not pronounced itself on the massacre, it is not clear whether this is the official position – that the police fired live ammunition at the workers in retaliation for earlier killings and used state force to “suppress” people. This was certainly not argued at the Farlam Commission as it would have essentially constituted extrajudicial executions. In other words, the state circumvented the justice system and executed people for killing other people.
Perhaps the president is not aware that that is in effect what he is saying.
The problem now is that it is the state that must decide what action to take against itself in implementing the recommendations of the Farlam Commission. For the past three years, the Marikana wound has been left gaping, awaiting the outcome of the commission. Zuma waited three months to release the commission report and has now asked for more time to consider whether to appoint an inquiry into National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega’s fitness for office and to implement Judge Ian Farlam’s recommendations.
At a media briefing on Tuesday, Zuma said the implementation of the report was receiving “top priority”. “I am also in discussion with the ministers whose portfolios are affected by the Marikana report such as Police, Labour, Mineral Resources as well as Justice and Correctional Services. We will provide feedback in due course to the nation on progress being made in the implementation of the recommendations,” Zuma said.
Dragging the matter out further and leaving the families of the victims without closure opened government to another volley of attacks from opposition parties in a charged debate on Marikana in the National Assembly on Thursday.
Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane said “the failure of the president to assign political responsibility for the massacre is indefensible”. Not a single member of the executive or the police has been held to account for the loss of life, Maimane said. “But of greater insult to the families of the victims is that the report concluded that its terms of reference precluded it from making recommendations regarding compensation. Instead of taking a decisive stance in the interest of justice and compassion, the commission simply passed the buck.”
Regarding the civil claims for compensation being lodged by some of the families against the Minister of Police, Maimane said there was “something fundamentally wrong with a system that now leaves these families at the mercy of a legal process, which could take years to conclude, simply to put food on the table”. “The irony is that the Marikana inquiry cost R153 million to reach a set of conclusions that did nothing to provide justice, closure or compensation,” Maimane said.
Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema, as usual, went for the jugular. “Marikana was a murder that was facilitated in clear daylight, and under the political influence and supervision of politicians many of whom continue to enjoy privileges of this House,” Malema said.
“Judging by the speeches of Police Commissioner Phiyega and Minister of Police after the premeditated killing of workers, they certainly were aware of and approved of the mass killing of workers. What this means is that the ANC government, with the influence of business politicians, in particular Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, pre-meditated the killing of mineworkers in Marikana. They engaged in what in law is known as conspiracy to commit murder,” Malema said.
The Congress of the People’s Willie Madisha said he was extremely disappointed with his former comrades. “Apartheid has come back. ANC is a terrible, terrible, terrible organisation… ANC you are terrible,” Madisha said.
The ANC was constrained in the debate as its members could not say anything that would pre-empt the president’s actions.
Chairman of Parliament’s police portfolio committee Francois Beukman said the debate should not be used to score political points and there were no factual findings in the Farlam report against any members of the House. He said the ANC was taking the commission’s report “very seriously” and Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko would brief his committee later this month on the implementation plans. Findings that Phiyega and others misled the commission were being dealt with by the president, Beukman said.
Deputy Mineral Resources Minister Godfrey Oliphant said the cases of the families who lost their loved ones were still in the courts. “We will therefore respect the sub judice rule in this House and await the outcome of the court. Because some people go about promising people a lot of things which they know they can't deliver.”
The Association of Mining and Construction Union (Amcu) has meanwhile said it wants the Farlam Commission report to be reviewed. “In our view Judge Farlam’s report was a disgrace. It was a bloodwash… The mineworkers that fought a heroic struggle were the ones blamed for causing the massacre,” Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa said at a media briefing.
The union is getting legal advice on reviewing the commission’s outcomes and if necessary, would support an independent inquiry into the massacre, Mathunjwa said.
Many people were disappointed with the commission’s report, which not only steered clear of dealing with the issue of compensation but failed to give answers as to why the massacre happened and who was responsible. Farlam left further investigation up to the National Prosecuting Authority and was only definitive in recommending that Phiyega’s fitness to hold office be inquired into for misleading the commission. Culpability for the killings has been left open-ended.
Watch: On Thursday SERI released a video detailing their work with the families of the killed mineworkers from Marikana and the experiences of the widows since 2012.
On Sunday, the community of Marikana will commemorate the third anniversary of the massacre at the same koppie where the strikers had gathered to demand better pay, working and living conditions. The conditions have not changed, the injustices prevail and many families live without closure or a source of income after their breadwinners were killed.
And those who benefit from keeping the miners in sub-human conditions, who planned the operations that led to the killings, who pulled the triggers and who failed to protect the workers’ rights still live and work in comfort, three years on.
There will no doubt be more breast-beating and politically expedient statements this weekend as another year passes without answers or accountability for the killings. What there will never be, it seems, is justice for the people of Marikana. DM
Photo: Miners gesture as they pray during the one-year anniversary commemorations to mark the killings of 34 striking platinum miners shot dead by police outside the Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine in Rustenburg, August 16, 2013. Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko.
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