Monday, January 24, 2022

Marikana: When profit and apartheid inspired tactics are at war with labour

PRETORIA: The Marikana Commission of Inquiry wrapped up its business on Friday following closing arguments by all parties affected in the tragedy which claimed 44 lives two years ago when the competing interests of profit and labour led to bloodshed.

A total of 34 striking miners at Lonmin Plc platinum miner were killed by police ostensibly to protect themselves during a battle for a pay hike of R12 500 on 16 August 2012. Two police officers were also killed along with eight other people during the worst police massacre in post-apartheid South Africa. Lonmin employs some 28 000 mineworkers with 10 000 of those being contract workers from neighbouring countries such as Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland.

Retired judge Ian Farlam who is the Commission chairman, will be studying thousands of pages of record evidence presented before him by lawyers representing the victims and their families, employer Lonmin, the South African Police Service, the then Minister of Police Nathi Mtetwa and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa who was a director at Lonmin at the time of the incident and the rival unions at Marikana ÔÇô the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Miners and Construction workers Union (Amcu).

Police have come under fire from lawyers who accused them of killing striking miners acting on the orders f the politically connected Ramaphosa. Advocate Dali Mpofu has asked Farlam to make a recommendation that says: Pprosecute Ramaphosa. Police deny the charge and argue that there were no orders or political meddling in their operation.

Police say all what they did was defending themselves from a marauding crowd of about 3000 bloodthirsty miners armed with machetes, knobkerries using a magic spell to make them invisible. Lawyers have poured scorn over this claim though. Lawyers for victims and their families are asking the Commission to make a recommendation that victims be compensated and those found to have derelict duty be prosecuted. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who himself has taken personal blame for his role, said the tragedy that has occurred at Marikana has to be accepted as a “collective failure”.

Lonmin itself came under fire in the past two weeks for failing to protect its workers from harm during the violent standoff. The company said it was not ready to deal with the scale of the violent protest which it said was an unprotected strike which was purely criminal. Lawyers want Lonmin held both criminally and civilly liable for the tragedy. Farlam is expected to submit his findings and recommendations of the Commission when unofficial cost is put at between R300 and R400 million to President Jacob Zuma by March next year. Legally Zuma has to make the findings public but he is not obliged t act on the recommendations.

“A finding by this Commission that police are not responsible for killing striking miners will undermine the administration of justice and the rule of law. It would be completely unacceptable to the people of South Africa if the police are to say they should not be blamed for killing striking miners,” said renowned anti-apartheid activist advocate George Bizos during his submission. Bizos said the Marikana tragedy reminded him of the the 1960 Sharpville Massacre.

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