Crosses mark the site of the 2012 Marikana massacre. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Crosses mark the site of the 2012 Marikana massacre. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

The socioeconomic conditions that spurred Lonmin mineworkers to embark on a strike that led to the bloody Marikana massacre seven years ago have not changed, according to those affected by the incident. 

Some of them are now expected to approach the courts in an effort to overturn the findings of the Marikana commission of inquiry, which was criticised for exonerating political leaders accused of having played a role in the events leading to the massacre.

On August 16 2012 armed police gunned down 34 protesting Lonmin mineworkers who were demanding better wages and living conditions. Another 10 people, including security guards, were killed in the preceding week.

Lonmin mineworker Xolani Nzuza, who was one of the worker representatives during the protests, told Business Day ahead of Friday’s anniversary: “Akhonto itshintshileyo, andifunikuxoka [Nothing has changed, I don’t want to lie]. Maybe things are going to get better under the new management. But I think it’s safe to say we don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Lonmin was acquired by platinum miner Sibanye-Stillwater earlier in 2019.  This week the company said it will build houses for the families of the 44 people who died in Marikana.

Sibanye-Stillwater spokesperson James Wellsted told Business Day that they were engaging with the families and other stakeholders on the matter. He said it was not fair that only eight houses had been built for the families since 2012. “We are looking at how we can rectify that situation,” said Wellsted.

Last year, the government offered families of the slain Marikana mineworkers a R100m settlement for loss of support and emotional shock.

On Thursday, attorney Andries Nkome, who represents mineworkers who were injured and those arrested during the massacre, said they had received instructions to review the findings of the Marikana commission of inquiry, chaired by retired judge Ian Gordon Farlam.

Cyril Ramaphosa, who was Lonmin’s nonexecutive director, described the protests as “dastardly criminal” in an e-mail to colleague Albert Jamieson dated August 15 2012. Ramaphosa, who became president in 2018, called for “concomitant action” to be taken against the mineworkers.

Nkome said: “Our view is that the police acted the way they did as a result of communication made by Ramaphosa.”

Officials who were exonerated by the commission included former police minister Nathi Mthethwa, who now serves as sports, arts & culture minister, and erstwhile mineral resources minister Susan Shabangu.

“The commission did not make findings against these politicians. They should have been held accountable, including Ramaphosa,” said Nkome.

The commission found that Ramaphosa was not the cause of the massacre, adding: “There is no basis for the commission to find even on a prima facie basis that Mr Ramaphosa is guilty of the crimes he is alleged to have committed.”

The commission’s findings, however, have done little to stop opposition political parties from placing Ramaphosa right at the centre of the massacre.

Among other things, the commission recommended that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) investigate a number of incidents at Marikana to determine if there was a basis for prosecution. It also recommended that the NPA investigate murders, attempted murders and assaults that occurred in the days leading up to the massacre.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane said the party would ensure accountability was pursued against the politicians. “The ANC’s culture of zero accountability continues unabated under President Ramaphosa. The conditions that enabled the Marikana massacre to occur still exist today.” 

He described Ramaphosa as a “central figure” in the massacre in a letter he wrote to the president on Thursday.

In the letter he called for August 16 to be declared Marikana Memorial Day in honour of the killed mineworkers, and for Ramaphosa to establish a mining task team comprising government officials, opposition parties, industry experts, unions and representatives of all major mining companies in SA.

Maimane said the task team ought to review the Mining Charter unveiled by mineral resources & energy minister Gwede Mantashe in 2018, to reduce uncertainty and boost investment in the sector.

The task team also needed to promote the industry as a key catalyst for investment and exports, explore new evidence-based, safe and sustainable mining options and end illegal mining.  It also needed to draft proposals on how best to ensure just and meaningful profit sharing exists between mining companies and mineworkers.

Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union president Joseph Mathunjwa, general secretary Jeff Mphahlele and national treasurer Jimmy Gama could not be immediately reached for comment.

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za