Marikana: Not the place for political grandstanding
- Lebo Keswa
- 25 Aug 2014 (South Africa)
Last week, as the country remembered the tragedy of Marikana, it was clear to me that this was something that all of us wanted to forget. It is a sad blot in the history of post-Apartheid South Africa that mineworkers who were merely demanding a living wage died at the hands of police of a democratic state. Our thoughts must go to the families who are now without breadwinners, children who will now grow up without their fathers.
The commission that is looking into the tragedy must now finish its work so that the nation can find closure. It is sad, however, that such a commission has lately been reduced to political football, especially by the EFF. Sadly, the EFF, outside of the assumptions underlying the tragedy of Marikana and their red overall gimmicks, don't seem to have much of a political programme.
It was therefore tragic but not surprising to see how hard Advocate Mpofu tried to make mud stick on Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. The clearly conflicted Mpofu, who a mere two minutes ago was the EFF’s premier candidate for Gauteng, tried to be an impartial representative of the widows of Marikana, but soon the slip was showing as he tried hard to pin a murder accusation on Ramaphosa and allowed his political hatred of Ramaphosa to get the better of him.
What is worse is that his opportunism did not even let him wait for the commission to finish its work before he tried to score some favour from the Deputy President... at least according to Ramaphosa's version; something that was truly embarrassing for Mpofu when it came to light in the proceedings.
That said, let us examine the enthusiasm to pin fault solely on Ramaphosa.
A group of mines occupy a koppie and ten people die. Ramaphosa makes calls and calls for appropriate action to deal with a situation that was clearly out of control. Police are called in; there is confrontation and 34 more people are killed. This short story raises the question of lawlessness in our society as well as the issue of police ineptness in dealing with conflict situation, and so the fault can be said to be on both sides, if we are level-headed about this. But at what point can Cyril Ramaphosa be accused of murder? He himself admits that more could have been done to prevent the tragedy, but it is simple political opportunism to make the link between his request for intervention for the restoration of order with the manner in which police intervened.
Did he suggest to police to shoot and kill the miners?
Did he suggest to the police to use live ammunition?
The answer to all these questions is no. It is important that what happened in Marikana, no matter how painful it is to those who lost loved ones, does not blind us to what is at play here. No citizen should have a right to wield and use dangerous weapons against the police or fellow citizens; similarly, no police must think it is right to shoot protestors with live ammunition. The truth as, it is emerging, is that some among the miners thought that they were invincible, owing to having taken muti, and so in their bravado provoked and charged towards the police without worrying about the consequences.
This fact must not be brushed aside in apportioning blame about this terrible tragedy. It is clear that there are many factors that led to the tragic day on the koppie. One hopes that in arriving at its conclusion, the commission will take those factors into account, including the lethargy of transformation in the mining industry in general and at Lonmin in particular. It is for this reason that we should all find it repulsive that anyone should use this tragedy to score political capital. I for one found Ramaphosa’s testimony to be one full of dignity and a willingness to take responsibility. Such a humble posture, however, was not reciprocated by advocate Dali Mpofu, who failed to take off his red beret just for one minute, even to respect the very miners he purportedly represented. His conduct against Rampahosa was appalling; at the same time he was exposed as one who would do anything to advance his career, even if it meant fraternising on the sidelines with someone he believes literally murdered his clients.
We wait with bated breath for the commission to come to a conclusion, so that all of us can find closure. It is important that in doing so it ignores all political grandstanding, though: for the sake of the future of our country, and proper closure for the families of the deceased. DM
Keswa is a Marketing Executive and Businesswoman based in Gauteng...she writes in her personal capacity. Twitter @lebokeswa