President Jacob Zuma was applauded when he announced a process to discuss an out-of-court settlement for compensation over Marikana. As the state now prepares to take the issue to court, it's clear it does not care about the Marikana victims and in the process it's happy to mislead the public. By GREG NICOLSON.
The Zuma government has always been ambivalent about Marikana. Largely, it has been defensive and dismissive of the mineworkers’ plight. While the massacre affected hundreds of dependents of the deceased, Marikana symbolises all that’s wrong with the current South Africa. For some it’s a question mark; for others it’s a full stop, the end of a failed attempt at democracy.
For the families who lost loved ones – miners, security guards, police – the pain cannot be measured. Compensation, however, can. When poor workers are killed, their dependents get poorer, the loss of love is multiplied by the loss of a breadwinner. So far, the main financial assistance offered to Marikana’s widows has been the offer to take jobs at Lonmin to replace their dead husbands. So they continue to suffer, but now they suffer away from their families, in the mines where their loved ones were killed.
We applauded when President Jacob Zuma announced a process to discuss compensation claims and avoid drawn-out court cases. While acknowledging the tragedy, when it comes to Marikana the President and his colleagues have either fallen back on process, that the Marikana commission was ongoing or that its recommendations are still being effected, or fallen into the narrative that views the mineworkers as a violent threat, which suggests they deserved to die. It is hard to emphasise just how important compensation is to the families of those who died in Marikana. Zuma’s September announcement that “government is exploring initiating an alternative dispute resolution process to expedite the processing of all claims arising from the tragic incidents of August 2012” was a welcome step towards achieving some justice for families who have so far seen none. The alternative would be years in court, years more of the gruesome details seen in the Marikana commission.
But this is President Jacob Zuma.
Under pressure from the public and opposition parties, he announced an alternative process to look into out-of-court settlements for the compensation cases, which have been lodged by the dependents of 37 killed mineworkers and 275 injured and arrested miners.
Months later, nothing has been done.
While the state is now moving to oppose the cases in court, on Sunday, Kathleen Hardy, an attorney for the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI), representing over 300 dependents of 37 people killed, said they have not received word from the state on how the settlement discussions might proceed.
Since Zuma’s September announcement there has not been a single meeting or letter discussing the way forward.
This is despite the statement from the presidency, which said, “A judge, assisted by experts, will be asked to lead this process in order to reinforce its independence. Government will engage with the legal representatives of claimants, and encourage them to use this process. To the extent that some do not lend their co-operation, or it is not possible to resolve claims through mediation, government will seek to do so through the court process. But it is hoped that the aim of achieving swift compensation for bona fide claims will be shared by all who genuinely seek to assist those who have suffered.”
Hardy on Sunday said, “Our clients would like to finalise this as soon as possible. Obviously there’s disappointment.” The state clearly is not concerned with the mediation process, but it has taken some action. Hardy said while the document was late, the state has filed a notice of exception to the families’ compensation claims, arguing that they do not prove a cause of action and are vague and embarrassing.
Lawyers for the 275 injured and arrested mineworkers also received a notice of exception regarding their civil compensation claims. “In the premises, the particulars of the claim do not disclose a cause of action, alternatively are vague and embarrassing,” reads the state’s case. “The first defendant [the president] would be prejudiced if required to plead the particulars of claim. The joinder of the first defendant is vexatious,” continued the paper from the state attorney.
The injured and arrested mineworkers have filed two suits naming both Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa in their claims asking for millions of rand for each mineworker. The families have filed a case for compensation based on the loss of the financial support of the deceased, grief and emotional shock, the medical expenses of psychological and psychiatric treatment, the loss of family life and parental care.
The state’s move to oppose the claims and failure to engage with the parties pushing for compensation is a vast move away from the presidency’s public positions. In October it said, “Government is aware of the anxiety of the families and will engage with the legal representatives of claimants in due course to take this process forward.” It continued, “Government is still seized with preparations toward developing the alternative dispute resolution process announced by President Jacob Zuma last month in addressing the consequences of the Marikana tragedy.” In November, Ramaphosa said the establishment of the alternative dispute mechanism was ongoing.
According to City Press, Presidency spokesperson, Bongani Majola, said he would not contradict the earlier statements, nor comment on the issue while it is before the courts. When Zuma or police Minister, Nkosinathi Nhleko, release statements on Marikana, they speak of putting an end to the pain the tragedy has caused. Their comments mean nothing. At best Marikana is an embarrassment for the president; at worst it draws parallels to the apartheid government.
Forty months after the massacre, the suffering is only greater. But after the non-events of the last three months, it is now clear the state does not care and in the process it’s happy to mislead the public in a most disturbing way. DM
Photo: Nkaneng, Marikana, 15 September 2012 (Greg Marinovich)