Opinionista Cees de Rover 14 August 2020

Marikana – the long wait for truth, justice and compensation

Sunday 16 August 2020 marks the eighth anniversary of what has become known as the Marikana massacre. It’s time for the government to properly address this sad chapter in South Africa’s history.

As an expert witness for the police during the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, and later as a member of the panel of experts, I have had ample opportunity to familiarise myself with what happened at Marikana on those fateful days in August 2012. 

Eight years have passed, and so much time and effort has been spent in the quest for truth, restoration and justice. It saddens me to say that today there is disappointingly little to show for it. We have had some truth, but no restoration or justice whatsoever.

From the outset it was clear that the Commission of Inquiry and the subsequent panel of experts were not given the power, or authority, to ensure that their findings led to changes being made where they were required. Both the commission and the panel were endowed with a responsibility to make recommendations only. The government, however, has consistently shown its aptitude for ignoring good advice.

The recommendations of the commission were wide-ranging and addressed the functioning of different services, institutions and officials. In the end, it seemed the entire focus was directed at the SAPS and its failures in public order policing.

Whilst I have no issue with this, I do take issue with the fact that in the lead up to, and during the events at Marikana, the government and responsible ministers did not provide the policy and strategic guidance to SAPS it so desperately needed (or failed to declare having done so when asked by the commission). 

They failed in their duty of care, or at least failed to recognise, in my view, that SAPS singularly lacked bargaining chips to successfully negotiate with the strikers in what was essentially a labour dispute. 

Nevertheless, SAPS tried to negotiate. In doing so, it failed to recognise that it was going from being a neutral intermediary to becoming a party in the conflict between mineworkers and Lonmin. It was SAPS who relayed the message that Lonmin management were not coming to the koppie to speak with the strikers.

As I write this, I realise that this narrative is now on repeat for its eighth year in a row. Things have gone from shameful to more than embarrassing. I cannot find words to explain or justify eight years to the families of those who lost their loved ones at Marikana, and are still waiting for justice and compensation.

The report of the panel of experts, with its annexure documents, has been with the minister of police for more than two years. That is unacceptable given what is at stake. Also, it is hard for the former members of the panel of experts, who I believe have been thorough in their work, to accept. Our chairperson, Judge David Ntshangase, will never know the outcome of his work. He passed away on 8 November 2018.

The successful implementation of the panel’s recommendations requires an implementation strategy with a clear timeline and quantifiable results. This process must be led by people with solid and pertinent professional knowledge and experience – people of unimpeachable integrity – and with an ability to cooperate with SAPS to see this process through to its conclusion.

The transformation task team, once envisaged to be responsible for this process of implementation, has been disbanded by the minister of police. Stacked with SAPS officials and led by a priest, it was perhaps never the best team for the job, anyway. So I applaud that decision.

However, I now look to the minister of police for leadership and to finally move this file forward. And in doing so, to resolve that, while we will never forget Marikana, we will not lament for a ninth consecutive year that nothing has been done. DM

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